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Author Aprilynne Pike creates an anti-heroine to root for
"Glitter" is written by Aprilynne Pike. - photo by Tara Creel
One day while watching one of her favorite series on TV, author Aprilynne Pike felt a little dissatisfied with how the characters were developing and the story was turning out.

"As all writers do, I started thinking about how I could make it better and then came the thought of what I really wanted to do," Pike said. "I wanted to write a book about girls in pretty dresses."

"Glitter" (Random House Books for Young Readers, $17.99, ages 14 and up), Pike's latest release, has plenty of girls in pretty dresses. After all, the characters are living in the palace of Versailles, which is now a pocket sovereignty, which means it's ruled independently from France, and all of the palace's occupants live like it's the 1800s. That includes eating, dressing and behaving like the royalty of France did hundreds of years ago.

Outside of the palace, it's the near future and citizens of France are living with all the modern conveniences and issues you would expect in this century.

"Glitter," although some may think so, is not a dystopian story.

"The difference between this and dystopian is they live in a really wonderful place, not a horrible future," Pike said. "Its a cool place with some bad apples."

One of those bad apples is the king, Justin, who is also the CEO of the global company that owns Versailles. He inherited the company from his father, who took over for his father before him. He's not even 20 and rules his company and subjects in a way that would make any dictator proud.

"Writing Justin is really fun because every time he's faced with a choice, he does whatever he wants and whatever he thinks will benefit him. He doesn't care about anyone else. That's what makes him a good CEO," Pike said. "There's this authorly glee in having a character make a bad decision just because they can. Justin is a character you'd never want to meet on the street but in the end, he's so fun to write."

Justin's choices are the reason the main character, Danica, is trying to leave the palace so desperately. When Danica and her mother catch Justin committing a murder, Danica's mother uses the opportunity to push her daughter up the social ladder, convincing the king to take Danica as his wife.

The engagement proves to Danica that being on top of society isn't worth spending time with a dangerous man like Justin. There is a huge problem though. Versailles doesn't use French currency. They have their own monetary system of credits. The only person who can help Danica escape from the palace will only do it for a huge sum of French money.

In the end, Danica makes a deal with a devil and agrees to sell a highly addictive drug called Glitter, in the form of a sparkly cosmetic, to all the members of court. While sales are going well and she has hope to escape before her impending nuptials, things start to spiral out of control.

"She dips her toe in this pond of ink and thinks she won't get it on the rest of her life, but it gets everywhere and the problems with it get everywhere," Pike said. "Everything associated with the bad guys rubs off on her whole life."

Even with her life turning into one big, inky mess, Danica keeps making choices that make the reader cringe. Writing a character like Danica was part of the appeal of this story for Pike.

"Sometimes, I think as a writer you just want the challenge of something," she said. "The only way to do this story was to have an anti-heroine."

An anti-heroine is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities. Danica doesn't make choices out of courage or bravery. They usually stem from selfish motives, but her past heavily influences those decisions.

"She's been beaten down by her mother for her whole life and been told the sum of her worth is what she looks like and what she can get for her family," Pike said. "It's like asking an abused woman, 'Why didn't you leave?' Danica is under her mother's thumb for so long that she ends up lashing out in a very desperate way."

The story isn't all about abuse, murder and drug dealing. Fans of Pike's best-selling "Wings" series will find familiarity in the diverse characters and relationships, the author's humor and the kissing scenes. What they won't find is a love triangle.

"My hope is that the reader doesn't come out of this thinking this really nasty king is hot," Pike said. "I actually made him worse so that he didn't become the hero. He's not the hero and it's not a love triangle. He's the bad guy and he's supposed to be the bad guy."

With all the bad guys and bad decisions, "Glitter" is an edgy, dark story about a corrupt world and characters with questionable morals. But it is everything Pike imagined it to be.

"I knew this story was going to be dark," she said, "but in the end, there's still that girl in a pretty dress."

"Glitter" contains multiple scenes of violence, some mildly graphic. There are moderate make-out scenes, but no graphic sexual content. There is no swearing.