Sunday, March 7, 2010

gossip girl with vampires

Niki Bruce reviews a couple of new young adult vampire novels and discovers they're not too bad.

You knew it had to happen eventually; what with the influx of non-violent, glittering vampires of the Twilight genre, it was bound to happen.
Surprisingly though, Melissa de la Cruz' New York-based series featuring socialites as vampires – Blue Bloods (of course) – isn't that bad. The first in the series, eponymously entitled Blue Bloods and the second, Masquerade, are aimed at young adult readers, as are most vampire themed novels at the moment.
The first book introduces readers to Schuyler Van Alen, who is 15 years old, lives in a rundown, rambling old mansion and goes to a posh prep school, where she doesn't fit in as she's not blonde, busty, rich or out doing things girls her ages shouldn't really be doing. Schuyler has one real friend, a boy called Oliver, a mother in a coma, a dead father and frosty grandmother.
Naturally she's also got a crush on the hottest boy in school – who doesn't give her the time of day – and whose queen bee twin sister goes out of her way to may
ke life hard for Schuyler.
The first half of the book sets up the premise of this exclusive lifestyle with lots of references to fashion labels, bad behaviour and teenage angst – actually kind of boring unless you're a fifteen year old girl, I suppose. The second half, however, is were the supernatural steps in and the vampire motiff takes off.
Like most to the vampires being written about (and turned into film) these days, de la Cruz' vamp lack most of the drawbacks of the traditional form – this lot can endure sunlight (they head to the Caribbean for holidays), eat garlic, wear silver, drink, have sex and procreate. Although the do need blood – unlike the emasculated Twilight version – and enjoy having a number of human 'familiars' who donate. The Blue Bloods also run the local Blood Bank charity which is quietly ironic.
Schuyler discovers she's one of these 'blue bloods' but while coming to terms with that also discovers that this doesn't make her part of the cool group either – she's actually a 'half-blood'; her father was human. So, still looked down upon by her arch-enemy, Mimi Force, Schuyler can't really see any benefit to her new state. And on top of that, someone is going around killing the scions of the Blue Bloods.
There is a lot more background and explanation in Blue Bloods, explaining how these vampires came to be and why they are in America; Masquerade expands upon the mythology with details about the group's history and why they are seemingly both 'young' and yet centuries old. It's a bit complicated but de la Cruz makes it relatively believeable.
Blue Bloods and Masquerade are the first two novels of the series – de la Cruz has already got two more planned and advertised on the inside-front covers of the books; Revelations and The Van Alen Legacy. Assuming the tween set enjoys them as much as I did, the series is sure to take off.
The books are certainly not heavy reading; nor would they be defined as literature. They are, however, well-written for their genre and the character of Schuyler is feisty, punky and vulnerable. She's a much better role model for young girls than the insipid, vapid, boy-obsessed Bella (have you worked out yet that I can't stand the Twilight series?).

Blue Bloods and Masquerade are written by Melissa de la Cruz and published by Atom. These two books are available from good book stores in Singapore and the next three in the series are available online from Amazon US.


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