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Slayer

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Slayer Book Poster Image
Uneven series start picks up when Buffy TV series ends.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of vampire and demon lore that readers can compare with other takes throughout literature and mythology. Some info on first aid and CPR.

Positive Messages

Following instincts, being true to self and what's right, no matter what tradition dictates. Plus loyalty to family and friends, and protecting those you love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Athena's newfound powers to kill demons go against the protector and healer she had grown up to be. Throughout the story she works to reconcile these disparate halves of her being and finds a way to stay true to herself. She also works through childhood trauma, loss, and family strife. While Athena is a straight character, her twin is a lesbian and her closest friend is in a gay male relationship.

Violence

Like the TV series, lots of demon fighting with stakes, guns, roundhouse kicks, knives, etc., once in an arena with screaming, betting fans. This leaves a number of demons dead, often from decapitation -- the one bit of gore. Deaths or near-deaths of humans close to main characters are quieter -- they're taken in their sleep. A girl bitten by vampire nearly bleeds to death. Trauma from past bubbles up often: the loss of a father and many family friends, a house fire, a girl whipped by own mother. Caged demons tortured, one slowly skinned alive.

Sex

A few kisses (same- and opposite-sex) and some innuendo about how one demon entices prey.

Language

Mostly "hell," "dammit," and "ass," and not often. One utterance of "bitch."

Consumerism

Cheetos.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer for sale in a bar with many patrons drinking, plus demons' powers used to make drugs, including one that makes you very happy and forgetful.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Slayer is the first book from the world of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and movie written by longtime Buffy fan/bestselling author Kiersten White (And I Darken trilogy).  It helps to have watched the TV series to keep up with some of the characters and lore that pop up throughout the story. Expect demon-against-Slayer violence with many demons ending up dead (some by decapitation). Humans who die do so more quietly, in their sleep. Trauma from the past bubbles up often: the loss of a father and many family friends, a house fire, a girl whipped by own mother. Caged demons are tortured, with one slowly skinned alive. Other mature content stays pretty mild: a bar scene with some beers, some minor swearing, a couple of kisses, straight and LGBTQ. When the main character, Athena, discovers she has supernatural abilities as a Slayer, she doesn't forget that she's always been a healer and protector. She tries to find a way to be both.  

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What's the story?

In SLAYER, Athena knew something was different the moment the end times were thwarted and all the demon portals closed. Her chronic asthma ceased and she felt really strong and restless all the time. When a hellhound finds Athena and the remaining Watchers hiding out in Ireland, she acts before she can think, snapping its neck with her bare hands. Now everyone knows who she's become, including her twin sister Artemis, the one everyone thought would be the next chosen Slayer. When Athena's old crush, Leo, and his mom show up and want to train her to fight, Athena's mom refuses to let her. As she begins to train without Mom's permission, that's just the first of Athena's many secrets. A demon shows up in the woods, injured and unconscious, and Athena overrides her new Slayer instincts to kill him. She tries to save him instead.

Is it any good?

Buffy fans may find the start to this homage YA series a fun indulgence at first, but the storytelling, like the newest Slayer, lacks a clear direction. Most of the problem lies in main character Athena's inner story. Athena is upset about her relationship with her sister, with her mother who favors her sister, with the death of her father years before, with Buffy for getting them all into this mess, with her new powers that don't match who she thought she was, with the cute guy she was humiliated in front of, and the girl who humiliated her. And she's not trained to fight or think of herself as strong or someone who makes good decisions. These are all good things for a character to work out -- but not in a jumble all at once. It makes the big shifts in the story at the end seem as jumbled as her thinking.

Slayer, because it references Buffy the TV series and the character often, also takes too long to launch in its own direction. Buffy was best left behind a few chapters in. Here's hoping this great YA author, Kiersten White, finds her footing with this series and steers it in a clearer direction for Book 2.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Slayer in comparison with the TV show. Who do you like better: Buffy or Athena?

  • The twins have a difficult relationship. How does childhood trauma affect them differently? What about their relationship with their mother? How does their relationship change by the end of the story?

  • Will you read more in this series? Does this story make you want to watch or re-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

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