Monday, January 20, 2014

Guest review: Vampires

Tana Bach is 17, looking forward to her senior year, and recovering from the most recent break-up with her exasperating on-again/off-again boyfriend, Aidan. She’s been invited to an end-of-summer party, but she’s not sure she wants to go, because she is sure Aidan will be there--awkward. And, if she goes, she will have to go alone because Pauline, her best friend, is away at drama camp. She determines Aidan shouldn’t keep her from seeing the rest of her friends and decides to attend....

Very early the next morning, Tana wakes up in the bathtub. She has no memory of how she got there, and the details of the party are sketchy--she remembers that Aidan was there and that for most of the night she was miserable. She leaves the bathroom, trying to be quiet so as not disturb anyone still sleeping...and then realizes that the people lying around aren’t sleeping: There is blood everywhere, and all of her friends are dead. From the wounds, and the amount of blood, she concludes that it must have been a vampire attack. As she creeps through the house trying to find her purse, she discovers Aidan. He is tied to a bed and, while he is still alive, he has been bitten. On the other side of the room is a vampire, shackled to the wall. He has been positioned just out of reach of Aidan and in direct line with the windows, which will allow in the light from the rapidly approaching sunrise.

The choice Tana makes sets her on the road to Coldtown, a government facility set up to contain the vampire outbreak from the general population...but once you enter Coldtown, you can never leave...

In The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black creates a believable world in which a vampire infestation has gotten out of control and the government has created quarantine areas complete with government bureaucracies (and complacent government workers), where innocents struggle to get out, wannabes try to get in, and cameras capture the “action” 24 hours a day for broadcast on web and television screens. It is a chilling look at how our culture could react to a medical pandemic. Within this situation she has placed interesting and relatable characters on a ticking-clock quest. The plot explores issues of character under dire circumstances and how we, as individuals and as a culture, define who or what is a “monster.”

The author is clearly familiar with vampire lore, and plays with the conventions without breaking them. While she romanticizes the vampires, she never minimizes the horror of what it means for the “undead” to prey on the living (nor does she minimize the living’s fascination with, and desire to become, the undead). The Coldest Girl in Coldtown will appeal to those interested in vampire novels, paranormal romances, or anyone who enjoys the macabre!

Reviewed by Daryl M., reference librarian


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