It’s not very often that I read a book labeled as YA. I dislike the drama and love triangles that seem to be a requirement of them. But a Goodreads friend of mine read this book and loved it so much that I became intrigued. I snatched it up when it was offered for review, after she swore up and down that I wouldn’t find any of the high school drama that makes me want to claw my eyes out. (FYI, she was right.)
I’m really starting to wonder if I just don’t like reading YA’s with girls as the main characters. It didn’t seem to bother me when I was younger and reading about girls in Christopher Pike’s books, but it does now. However, the few I’ve read with a boy as the main character didn’t have the drama that irritates me so much. Maybe I just need to stick to boy protagonists if I’m in the mood for YA?
I thought this book had a really fun premise. The author has taken a lot of the classic figures, like Van Helsing, Dracula, Mina Harker, and Frankenstein, and woven a new story around them. When I first realized that the author had borrowed characters I wasn’t quite sure how I felt. Especially about Frankenstein! (I don’t why, but he was kind of overkill for me.) But I eventually adjusted to it and even came to appreciate the fact this might be a gateway book for younger readers to seek out the original stories if they were curious enough. It’s a fun way to get them interested in the characters.
I liked that Jamie seemed like a teenage boy. Sometimes I felt he came off a little younger than his age, but it didn’t bother me much because I know teenagers can mature differently. He was occasionally sulky and moody, and it took a while for him to realize that fighting vampires wasn’t a game.
“I got hurt today. Not as badly as you, I know, but I got burned. And it made me realize something, you know? It made me realize that this isn’t a game, or a film, where the good guys win in the end and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. It’s real life, and it’s messy, and it’s complicated, and I’m scared, and I just don’t know what to—“
I liked that he made mistakes—although it was a little odd that he was so good at fighting after only a couple days of training. He has real fears and strives to ignore them while he rescues his mother. I think that he’ll be easy for a lot of younger teenage boys to relate to.
I felt bad that Jamie was thrust into a world where he already had a bad name for himself. It was through no fault of his own, it was because of his family’s history with the department. I liked that he wasn’t easily accepted because it made him question and argue in ways that I don’t think he would have otherwise. I was glad he wouldn’t easily shut up and do what he was told, because at times I almost thought some of the “good” guys were worse than the vampires.
The gore and violence shown were a big surprise to me. I knew that there would be fights, but I didn’t expect them to be shown with such detail and relish. Good guys and bad guys alike were killed and the fight scenes were bloody. The vampires were not cute and cuddly creatures. They were just like humans in the sense that they all made personal decisions about their behavior and how they lived, but they all housed a barely controlled hunger deep inside. The bad vampires were genuinely bad. They killed and caused pain, and they did it just for fun. Even the vampire Larissa, who is more than meets the eye, is shown to possess a rather callous disregard for life.
I don’t bring up the violence as a complaint. I actually enjoyed that feature a lot. I just wanted to give a head’s up to anyone who doesn’t enjoy books like that. I also, personally, wouldn’t have a problem letting a Tween or young Teen boy or girl read this. I think they’d like the gore. But you may feel differently, so be aware of the violence level in this book!
While I did like a lot of things about this story—especially Larissa—I tend to look for different things in most of the books I read. I prefer a lot more depth to the characters. Here, the characters felt almost like you were watching them in a movie. You never really got into their head, but you enjoyed watching them kick some vampire butt. I feel more forgiving in this than I would in an adult book because most kids aren’t looking for complex layers and hidden depths. I remember the YA books I read when I was younger and they were written the same way. So I can’t criticize the author for writing to his audience, but I can’t exactly say it rocked my world either.
Also, I didn’t enjoy the flashbacks. I understood (and appreciated) their purpose, but I think there had to have been a smoother way to accomplish it. At times the flashbacks slowed the momentum of the story to a crawl and made it feel clunky. I had absolutely no investment in the people that we saw in the flashbacks so it was hard to care while reading about them.
I think this will be a big hit with a lot of young male readers, but I also think it’s interesting enough that it will grab a wider readership than that. If you’re intrigued and glad to hear about genuinely vicious vampires then I recommend you pick this book up and give it a shot.
“Why did you spare me?” he asked.
She smiled again. “I didn’t feel like killing you,” she replied.
“That’s not really sparing me, is it? That’s just not feeling like it.”
“Not to me.”