Department 19

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Department 19 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Suspenseful vampire horror really goes for the gore.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The author references some great literature, including Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and we even meet fictionalized versions of Bram Stoker, as well as the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in a flashback where he complains that no one liked his book. Classic characters like Van Helsing and Frankenstein's monster are present here as well.

Positive Messages

As with all good horror, good against evil drives the book. Personal sacrifice, honesty, trust, and heroism are also themes here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jamie is pretty angry most of the time. The only grounding thing for him seems to be his resolve to save his mother from the vampires. Otherwise he's shouting and disobeying orders from superiors. It's hard to completely trust any of the characters who all seem to have secrets, but at least Frankenstein is pretty loyal to Jamie's family and will do anything to help him. The founders of Department 19 and all the operatives have sacrificed a great deal to keep the world safer. Jamie's father had to keep his whole life a secret from his family.


Gory stuff, including vampires who taunt and torture victims before slashing throats, plus some ritualistic killing with victims held upside down in a circle. In one scene a vampire tears another's tongue out (but says it will grow back). Bodies are found in various states of decomposition with limbs torn off. Specialized equipment carried by Department 19 operatives includes a kind of stake that blows holes through torsos. The main character, Jamie, remembers his father killing himself in front of his family when cornered by authorities. His mother is kidnapped by vampires who send him a bloodied torso etched with the words "tell the boy to come."


A couple kisses.


"Goddamn" and "Jesus" mostly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of smoking of cigarettes and cigars by adults throughout, and by some teens in a flashback scene. Social drinking and drunkenness. Frankenstein has so much opium in one scene he can barely stand. A drug called Bliss -- heavy street drugs mixed with blood -- is manufactured by one character and sold to addicted vampires.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this gory book is the first of a planned series about a vampire-hunting organization. It starts with the memory a teen has of his father shooting himself as authorities close in on him and continues as a sadistic vampire kidnaps his mother and sends a message etched on a torso saying "tell the boy to come." Vampires kill mercilessly and sometimes ritualistically -- corpses are dismembered, victims bleed upside down in a circle -- and vampire hunters carry all kinds of weapons an M-rated video game would relish, like a stake in a hand-held cannon. Other mature content includes smoking and drinking by mortals and immortals getting high on a meth-and-blood mix called Bliss. Readers paying attention to the less bloody details will notice references to classic literature such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. They will also notice that the main character, Jamie is quite a hot-head. He's always angry and yelling about something. But he seems to have a good mentor and is grounded by his search for his kidnapped mother.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjacobd1 May 11, 2015

synopsys got it wrong

ignoring the violence as it is a strong theme in this book there is really nothing else negative about it. all the things that could be considered not for young... Continue reading
Adult Written bywog April 9, 2013

Grow up XD

I'm sorry but all those saying that it is gory book have clearly never watched the news before and i think the language used is effective as i was the same... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old July 12, 2015

I'm 10 and I read it

Very good! quite violent but there are
almost no bad words. :)
Teen, 13 years old Written byTigerclan123 November 24, 2019

D po 19

It's a great book and I think you should read it if you are over 10

What's the story?

Two years after Jamie Carpenter sees his father shoot himself as the authorities close in, his mother is kidnapped and Jamie is picked up by Department 19. The super-secret organization informs him that his mother is being held by a vampire -- the oldest and most sadistic one. They also tell him that his father worked for Department 19. In fact, the Carpenters were one of the founding families of the organization, guaranteeing Jamie a place there. Hoping to save his mother, he quickly trains and suits up in some pretty impressive vampire-hunter gear. But the vampire is always three steps ahead of him, even with the monster Frankenstein and an attractive teen vampire helping Jamie track him down.

Is it any good?

Horror fans are really in for a treat. Even those who think they've read too many vampire books in the last few years will enjoy visiting the undead in DEPARTMENT 19. It's got plenty of gore, but it's also smart with good twists that will keep teens guessing. The author adds depth by flashing back to classic characters from the genre, like the original vampire hunters who took down Count Dracula. Frankenstein's monster is also a character, which could have been hokey (see Young Frankenstein for proof), but instead readers will find him complex, funny, terribly loyal, and a born vampire hunter. Jamie's montage-like vampire hunter training session seems familiar (see The Matrix), but it's easily forgivable. In the end, readers will quickly drain Department 19 and be thirsty for more. This is going to be a riveting series. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about horror, blood, and guts. Is there too much in this book, or is it just right for the subject matter? 

  • Were you shocked by any of the gory scenes, or does it remind you of video games you've played or movies you've watched?

  • This is yet another vampire book. How is it different from what's been wildly popular the last couple years? How is it the same? What drew you to the book?

Book details

  • Author: Will Hill
  • Genre: Horror
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Publication date: March 31, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
  • Number of pages: 480
  • Last updated: February 20, 2020

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