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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the first installment in the new series by best-selling Vampire Academy author Richelle Mead. The heroine in this installment does not fall head over heels in love, like most female YA protagonists, so there's very little romance, for once. There is some language -- mostly the occasional "s--t" or "assh--e" -- as well as a climactic scene involving a couple of deaths, as well as some injuries to a few main characters. A 21-year-old character drinks and smokes cigarettes, but the school-aged teens are pretty chaste and party-free. The book features a strong female lead and some valuable lessons about prejudice and discrimination.
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What's the story?
In this Vampire Academy spin-off, the focus shifts from Rose Hathaway to secondary character Sydney Sage, a clever 18-year-old Alchemist who's sent on an undercover mission to protect Jill, the Moroi vampire queen's sister. Sydney must pretend to be Jill's sister as they attend an elite boarding school in Palm Springs, Calif., along with Jill's bodyguard, Eddie, and the smug and sexy Adrian, who lives nearby with the town's one Moroi inhabitant. Complicating the assignment is Sydney's palpable dislike of Palm Springs' head Alchemist, Keith, who keeps threatening to replace Sydney with her less experienced younger sister if she keeps acting like a \"vamp lover.\" As Sydney grows accustomed to her vampire-guarding post, she discovers her human classmates keep sporting mysterious \"magical\" tattoos. Plus, young women -- human and vampire alike -- keep popping up dead.
Is it any good?
Some firsts in a series are all punchy exposition to get you hooked before the action revs up, while others are spectacular even by stand-alone standards; BLOODLINES is more the former. While there are a few suspenseful central mysteries to follow and be resolved, this is clearly an exercise in getting to know Sydney -- a brilliant introvert who has never felt appreciated or unconditionally loved by her perfectionist father -- and see her adapt to her precarious new mission. Her interactions with flirtatious vampire Adrian and intriguing human classmate Trey are particularly fascinating, because they force the self-conscious Sydney to entertain the idea that she's actually a girl, not just an Alchemist.
Fans hoping for fluttery romance will have to wait for the next installments. Mead has a knack for making it seem like every male could possibly be interested in every female and vice-versa, but there definitely were a couple of bold-faced possibilities for Sydney in the next book. Since Sydney is often portrayed as a Hermione-esque character (incredibly smart, logical and invested in helping others) with no romantic experience, it will be interesting to see how Mead weaves in a first-love plotline for the plucky and mature heroine. You don't have to be familiar with Vampire Academy to enjoy Bloodlines, but those who've read that series will have a deeper sense of the various characters' personalities.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the cover makes this book look like yet another paranormal romance, but there's actually little romance in it. Publishers seem to believe tween and teen girls are unable to read a book without romance. Do you think they are?
Discuss the author's theme of prejudice and discrimination. How do Keith and even Sydney make assumptions about the vampires and dhampirs? How is Sydney an example of someone who learns to see past the superficial?
For those familiar with the Vampire Academy series: How is Sydney a different kind of protagonist than Rose? Which story line do you prefer? Do you like how the author inludes supporting characters from VA into a more prominent role in Bloodlines?
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