Eighth grader Vlad Tod is unique or one-of-kind among vampires. Like Star Trek's Mr. Spock he is half human. Only his guardian Aunt Nelly and human sidekick, Henry, know the truth. Because his aunt is a hospital registered nurse, liquid nourishment is not a problem. However, keeping his secret while wanting to fit in result in tension and complications with his classmates. Being misunderstood is not conducive for a budding social life. What on the school cafeteria menu can a vampire eat? "I'm not a monster. I'm just me."
If that wasn't enough, Vlad discovers his life is in danger. A previously unknown, mysterious vampire uncle named Otis shows up and explains the basis of the threat, " ' Your father was an outlaw...He left Elysia [vampire world] for the love of your mother. Revealing vampiric heritage to humans is forbidden, let alone engaging in a romance with one. Those who do are hunted down, and their lives are taken for their crimes.' " Vlad's biracial existence cannot be tolerated. After a climactic last few chapters battling the vampire council led by D'Ablo, Uncle Otis, Henry, Aunt Nelly and Vlad barely escape with their lives.
Young readers will easily identify and develop empathy for the main character and his plight. If there would be a complaint with the book, it would be its 182 pages are too few. Whether vampires, werewolves, self-confident swashbuckling heroes, or empowered superheroes, kids have and will always be attracted to books that allow them to escape either their troublesome environment or compensate for their typical, real or perceived inadequacies and inferiorities.
I was pleasantly surprised with the sparseness of gore and violence and absence of any sexuality. How refreshing to read a simple, wholesome, suspenseful, and positive contemporary vampire novel! For librarians and educators, the selection challenge for "horror" or any popular genre is trying to mine the scarce, literary gems from the tons of poorly written, trashy, prurient and bloody pulp. The Horror Writers Association's annual "Bram Stoker Award" finalists and winners available on their website and Locus magazine/website do help one pick the good from the bad.
Yes, this coming-of-age story does continue. In fact, the chronicles are actually a "coming-of-grade" five book series: Ninth Grade Slays (2008), Tenth Grade Bleeds (2009), Eleventh Grade Burns (2010), and just-published Twelfth Grade Kills (2010). Who know what is in store for Meredith, the potential girlfriend, bullies Bill and Tom, principal Snelgrove, and everyone else at Bathory High? .
Rest assured YA readers will NOT wait until they reach or equal Vlad's "real" age or grade to read the rest of the novels. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian