Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod:

Eighth Grade Bites
Ninth Grade Slays

by Heather Brewer

When I first saw a copy of Eighth Grade Bites in fall of 2007, I thought the cover was awesome. The baggy black hoodie is so totally how teens dress these days, right? I put it on display by the new young adult books and was dismayed that no one checked it out. After a few weeks it went onto the regular shelves, and I forgot about it.

Fast-forward about nine months, and out of nowhere I realize that Twilight by Stephenie Meyer has hundreds of people on the waiting list and is being made into a movie, some of which is being filmed in Oregon. I remember when the book first came out in 2005, and I remember seeing it languishing on the shelf week after week after week. I also remember the sequel, and I remember wondering why we were getting the second book when the first hadn't been checked out even once.

Even once the hoopla started, I didn't want to read Twilight, because I didn't want to wait and because I'm sometimes turned off just by the fact of something being very popular. The upshot, however, is that all the requests for the Meyer books got me thinking again about the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. I remembered that I'd kind of wanted to read it, and I figured this would be a great time to do so, because it could be a recommendation to give teens for something to read while they're waiting for or after they've finished Twilight.

These books are pretty short, even for YA. The first one especially could be read in one sitting.(Meyer's books are designed to look longer, but I've heard they're not all that long.) While the writing isn't super and there's a noticeable lack of basic editing ("how's so-and-so fairing?"), as well as some continuity failures (creeping down the hall from one room to another, which were previously described as being on different floors), plus some painfully dumb "creative" choices (vampire communities exist in cities such as Cairo, London, Mexico City, and ... the sprawling metropolis of Stokerton?) — all that notwithstanding, I just about loved these books.

The main character is a sweet, likable kid with a crush on a pretty girl and a couple of bullies who pick on him for being goth. The best thing is the new twist on ye olde vampire story that is the centerpiece of the plot: Vlad's dad was a vampire and his mom was mortal (they're both dead), so he was actually born a vampire instead of made into one by being bitten; vampire lore, meanwhile, tells of a such a vampire being born one day, rising to rule over all other vampires and enslave the entire human race. So, as you can imagine, he's got some enemies in the vampire community. And what about the mystery of his parents' death?

Looking forward to the next installment, Tenth Grade Bleeds, in July 2009!

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