So, I was kind of expecting to be blown away with this one. Sarah Rees Brennan’s other book, Unspoken, was my favorite book of 2012. Justine Larbalestier wrote a series (Magic or Madness) that I was slightly obsessed with as a teen, not to mention her involvement in my favorite YA short story collection, Zombies Vs. Unicorns. And then I read that this was supposed to be a YA vampire parody, and well I’d been anticipating its release for a while.
Maybe my expectations were a little too high going in, especially considering the mixed reviews I’ve already read for this one. I had fun reading this one, for sure; it just was nowhere near as funny or as wonderful as I expected it to be.
It’s about Mel, a girl who lives in a city that’s rather segregated. Part of the city, made up of shades, is where the vampires roam, and the other part is where the scared humans live. While a lot of humans are scared or prejudiced against vampires, like Mel is (though she denies it), there is a general law and understanding between the two. For starters, vampires cannot feed off of any unwilling humans. Also, no one under the age of 18 can be turned into a vampire.
There’s sort of this mutual tolerance of each other. The vampires bring in a lot tourism to the humans. And the humans don’t mind being studied and written about by the vampires. The tolerance and the laws most likely have a lot to do with the fact that in this world, 2 out of every 10 people who decide to be turned into a vampire die. Part of this is because of the whole zombie thing. About half of the failed attempts result in zombification. As a result of past mistakes, it has been learned that zombies spread their disease really fast and the only way to prevent mass disease spread and death is to kill a zombie immediately.
Mel is a tough character. She fences for fun, hangs out with her exes like it’s no big deal, helps solve all her friends’ problems, and seriously has no problem hitting a guy when something is out of line. Everything changes for her when Francis, a vampire, begins to attend her school, and her classic novel-reading best friend becomes enamored. The book then becomes all about Mel trying to convince Cathy to stay away from the heartbreaking undead.
Too bad for Mel, it soon becomes clear that Francis returns Cathy’s feelings. Though, Mel believes his feelings are to due more with a book Francis is writing about love than about his actual feelings. One of Mel’s other best friends is going though her own vampire problem. Her father has left her and her mom alone, without even a note (besides a later text message), to run away with a vampire woman client of his. This friend’s mother is the school principal, and Mel decides to investigate things when she sees how poorly her principal reacts to Francis. A principal should never be afraid of a student, should they? Why admit them to begin with?
Before Mel knows it, it’s not about keeping Cathy away from Francis so much, as it is about keeping Cathy human. Cathy wants to become a vampire so she can spend the rest of eternity with Francis, after only knowing him a few weeks. The two friends’ stories connect and Mel has a lot of questions to ask herself about what matters most. All this is happening of course, while she meets a boy (human for the moment) of her own. And while she teaches Kit (who grew up with vampires) about what it means to be human, Kit teaches the stubborn Mel, about the goodness of vampires.
This book has zombies, vampires, fencing, the beach, hidden caves, lot of rats (literally), high school drama, and a lot of charm! I was however, expecting it to be funnier (being a parody). Mel has plenty of good one-liners, and a collection of undead jokes up her sleeve, but there are only so many times one can hear the same jokes over and over. There are only so many times I can read about the importance of smiling and laughing, and how vampires can’t do it. Seriously, I got it. And frankly, I can see why Mel’s bestie would get so pissed. Saying the same thing over and over again doesn’t get someone to change their mind. The repetitiveness just makes someone need violence. Seriously.
Cathy deciding on an eternity with someone after a few weeks was a good parody laugh out loud moment for me. But other than that, I didn’t see a lot of parody, or at least anything that really stood out. All vampires always are written to be like Francis, and his character was actually just too predictable and boring for me (though I guess this was the point). Maybe I was hoping for some more in-your-face/obnoxious parody and less of the subtle, small connections each character/event has had to other characters/events.
I did love Mel and all of her friends. And I loved how they weren’t as wealthy as the teen characters in most other YA books. They spent their allowances on burgers, and most of them couldn’t afford a car. This made them all the more believable. I also loved the phone conversations Mel had with her sister. Family and friends were so important to this main character and this made her more real too. I loved Kit and how sarcastic he was. Everything with him though was a little too predictable too.
I was kind of hoping for less predictability and more hilarity. I’m not saying parodies can’t be serious. I just thought this one was a little too serious. The authors did a fantastic job with the world building and the characters. Maybe the problem was in the marketing of this book because if it were just to be a regular, paranormal book, I’d probably have enjoyed it a lot more. I give it a 7 /10 .