A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the violence is much milder here than in other vampire books -- two teens are presumed dead, but it's barely described. There's some swearing (including "f--k"), teen use of alcohol and pot (looked upon unfavorably by the main character), and a teen receiving oral sex in the dorm hallway -- it's barely described but often referred to. Some readers may dislike the way the main character and all her teen fledgling vampire friends embrace goddess worship and participate in a number of well-described ceremonies. This worship is contrasted with the church the main character's stepfather belongs to -- the fictitious, fundamentalist-sounding People of Faith, whom she believes are narrow minded.
What's the story?
Zoey, a very regular high school student, is visited in the hall one day by a vampire tracker and marked with a crescent moon -- the sign that she needs to report to the fledgling teen vampire school, called House of Night. Her parents reject the idea, so she runs to her Cherokee grandmother for guidance, only to have a vision of the Goddess Nyx telling her that she has a special purpose at the school. When she arrives at House of Night, it's only too obvious that some cruel forces are at work -- the head of the sorority-like Dark Daughters, Aphrodite, proves to be a powerful and devious adversary -- but Zoey discovers extra abilities from the goddess to fight her rule over the school.
Is it any good?
Written by a fantasy writer and her college-age daughter, this definitely feels more like a fun mother-daughter project than serious sci-fi. There's more gossiping and bad-girl behavior than bloody fangs and supernatural creature battles. In fact, the transition from talking smack about the school bully to casting a circle of elements for goddess worship can get pretty jarring. The authors try too hard to please both the Gossip Girl crowd and Twilighters. There's even a hot older love interest -- a vampire who's also a famous actor (take that, Edward!).
With the vampire training school setting, the authors are also going for Harry Potter grads. But the descriptions of classes aren't nearly as fun, and the pace slows as every hall break and class direction is described. But as the main character gets more comfortable with her powers and the story focuses on a few mysteries at the school, readers will feel more engaged. Plus, the most intriguing mystery is left for the next book in the series. For vampire fans, here's hoping that one's more of a page-turner.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the occult aspects of this book, discussing their beliefs on the subject. Do you think Zoey could have been another religion and still joined the school, or do goddess worship and vampirism have to go hand in hand in this book? How do you think this vampire series compares to others -- like the Twilight Saga? Which version of vampire lore do you prefer? Why?