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 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.
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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?
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?
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