Review Blog

Aug 02 2010

Eighth grade bites by Heather Brewer

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Penguin, 2010. ISBN : 978 0 143 20514 2
Suggested reading age 13-16. There is nothing special or imaginative in this story which is first of five in The chronicles of Vladimir Tod series. Heather Brewer has assembled all the usual elements of vampire novels in the standard template applied by other authors of this genre. Accordingly, it will be a roaring success with readers currently devoted to the Twilight series and I'm sure they will clamour for the next instalments. Vladimir is a teenaged orphan vampire living with his 'Aunt' Nelly who is an old friend of his mysteriously deceased parents but not related. Nelly is completely comfortable with Vladimir being half vampire, half human and preposterously tells him he is normal and not weird or bizarre, despite the fact that she must steal enormous quantities of blood from the hospital for him to drink. The only other person knowing his secret is Henry, a lifelong friend who similarly has no problems with the fact that Vlad occasionally lusts after human blood. Within the supernatural context, Brewer casts her characters with normal adolescent characteristics and behaviours. One can identify readily with the schoolyard taunts and bullying directed at Vlad on the grounds of his 'Goth' appearance and the reader understands his awkward heart sick love for fellow student Meredith. The author struggled terribly recounting Vlad's yearning to understand his vampire father Tomas' past as he discovers documents and articles with hidden significance. Written communications left by Tomas are clumsy, contrived and completely unrealistic, as is the plot development involving powerful forces responsible for his parents' death threatening Vlad.
Descriptions of frozen blood snacks and blood infused lunches provided by Aunty Nelly are stomach turning, occurring more frequently than expected, even in such a story. Descriptions of death by blood sucking vampires do of course occur, and whilst one hesitates to describe them as tasteful, they are not unnecessarily graphic. Whilst my instinct is to dismiss this novel as inane rubbish, clearly it will appeal to many adolescent readers and will be valuable for engaging disinterested students, especially since the language and themes are not difficult to understand. Pleasingly the author dealt with a theme which is inherently evil and dark whilst allowing goodness and human values to be maintained in normal daily life and when faced by terror.
Rob Welsh

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