A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
As with all good horror, good against evil drives the book. Personal sacrifice, honesty, trust, and heroism are also themes here.
Positive Role Models
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.
Violence & Scariness
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."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple kisses.
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"Goddamn" and "Jesus" mostly.
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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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.