Friday, February 17, 2012

This Bites - Metaphorically Speaking Of Course


At the Afterlife Academy of Exceptionally Dark Arts, the vampires in training follow one of two tracks: they become either Sisters or Saviors. Of course, everyone wants to be a Savior, swooping into infested high schools in matching red leather jumpsuits and wielding crossbows, putting down swarming vampires with deadly efficiency.

But Lily Fielding is just a Sister—a Third Sister at that, a measly trainee. When Lily and her two Sisters, Alice and Cara, are called out to their latest assignment, she figures it's just another run-of-the-mill gig: spot the Vamplayer (part vampire, part player), identify the predictably hot, trampy girl he's set his eyes on, and befriend her before the Vamplayer can turn her to do his bidding.

Finding the sleek and sexy Vamplayer, Tristan, and his equally beautiful and popular target, Bianca, is easy. And when Lily meets the adorably geeky Zander, she too falls under love's spell. But this assignment turns out to be trickier than most when the Third Sister must battle the baddest vampire of all.

I started this one pretty late. In fact, it was after 2am, and I was only planning on reading for an hour or so, until I got tired. I ended up reading the whole thing right then and there. I could not put this book down.

Rusty's style of writing has always appealed to me particularly because it mirrors the way I think, speak, and write. It's not super descriptive or waxing poetic - it gets straight to the point and throws in some sassy commentary from the narrator. The first-person present narration may not fit everyone's liking, teenager or not, but I think it definitely lends itself to a faster connection between story and reader.

The main character of this story, Lily, is a lot like Rusty's other heroines, Abby and Maddy. She's strong, snarky, sarcastic, smart, not hard to look at, and supernaturally talented. She's a bit unsure of herself and overly critical of herself a lot of the time, which made her particularly believable, but at the same time is able to pull herself up and become strong when those around her are vulnerable. So even though she's Third Sister, which pretty much equals playing 3rd fiddle, she's still badass in her own right.

Perhaps it's because I've seen her past incarnations, or maybe it was just my outlook this time around, but I'm sorry to say I had two really big problems with Lily. First, she seemed overly whiny to me. Particularly in the beginning, every other sentence was a complaint, a sarcastic complaint, or just a negative observation. Yeah, teenagers aren't exactly the happiest people on the planet, but she's a vampire for crying out loud! Enough with the whining, and go punch something! Second, and this is slightly spoilerish...but I thought she took WAY too long figuring things out. For being in-the-know about vampires, she sure didn't seem to catch on very quickly. Or at all. Yeah, this might all go back to her passive personality or her lack of confidence, but that didn't make it any less frustrating for me.

But on to the supporting bunch. Stars all the way around. I did feel slightly bad for Zander and Grover for getting the stereotypical geek names in addition to stereotypical geek builds and personalities, but I thought that working with stereotypes actually made them shine that much more. Alice and Cara weren't as active as I thought they would be, so I really didn't get as much character as Lily described. But Tristan and Bianca were both people I loved to hate, though I will admit I ended up kinda liking both of them in their own ways. It's complicated.

Even though it's definitely a teen book, don't think the older crowd will get lost in pop culture references. Lily is essentially stuck at seventeen for eternity, which means that she's been seventeen since she was bitten in the 1980's, which means she's been in three separate decades of teenage pop culture. Between having Jessie's Girl on the stereo in the prologue, and a 21 Jump Street shout-out midway through, it might be the target audience who has some googling to do. Nothing extensive or way important, but some fun for older YA readers to be sure.

So yes, teenage characters in high school means it's filled with the typical high school drama. Okay, maybe not so typical when vampires are involved. But yeah, there's a lot of Mean Girls drama, high school popularity politics, and a couple romance triangles thrown in for good measure. The upside? Some pretty awesome vampire action at the end. I'll admit it, there wasn't nearly as much as I'd have liked, but what there was was really nice. A bit gory but not too graphic, if that makes any sense. I guess I'd say horror but not slasher, which is typically how I like it.

Honestly, I'm a bit torn about the romance. I both like how it was handled, and yet am unsure if I really do like it. At the same time, I don't know how to really discuss it without spoilers. So I guess all I'll say is this: as much as I liked the 'decision' Lily made in the epilogue, I kinda feel she was forced into it, thus I'm not sure if I'm happy. I'll leave it at that.

Oh, one last thing before I do my recommendations... Spoiler-free prologue!!! I was sooo happy to read the prologue and realize it happened completely before the first chapter! I know it's not a necessity, but it still made me happy. Thanks, Rusty!

Overall, Vamplayers was a book I just couldn't put down. If you're looking for some vampire with your teen drama, but don't want a gushy romance, this is definitely a viable option. Not huge on romance, gore, or language, I'd say it's appropriate for Middle Grade and up, but it's probably better suited theme-wise for high school YA and up. With a fast-paced story, kickass characters, and vampire lore that is sure to leave you craving for more, you'd best hunt down Rusty Fischer's latest paranormal thriller, Vamplayers, before it decides to hunt you!

Approximate Reading Time: 4.5 hours

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Medallion Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.