The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Common Sense Media says

Dark, violent, sensuous vampire tale best for older teens.

Age(i)

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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Oodles about vampires, including newly invented vampire lore.

Positive messages

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is largely an exploration of the thrill and attraction of danger. Many of the characters, including heroine Tana, 17, hope that "the adrenaline [of bad behavior] might blot out" the things in their lives that are hard to cope with. The story also explores how we're drawn to what we're afraid of and whether or not becoming a vampire reveals our true natures or changes us from good people into monsters.

Positive role models

Narrator Tana, 17, occasionally indulges in typical bad teen behavior like drinking, but she's a loyal friend and devoted sister. Also, as cool as being a vampire seems, she doesn't want to become a monster. She'll willingly put herself in danger to help others, and she's able to make herself think rationally through her fear. Adults aren't much help here. Tana's mother became a vampire and bit her. Her father is willing to do anything to save his children, but he's emotionally scarred and distant. Other teens and vampires model the full spectrum of behavior from good to evil.

Violence

Graphic and detailed descriptions of violence abound in this vampire story, not only of the traditional blood sucking but also of beheading, stabbing, shooting, torture, and vampires committing suicide by burning in the sun. The grotesque is glorified -- many teens want to become vampires and install shunts and tubing in their veins to feed them blood -- and pervades all facets of pop culture. For example, gift-shop baby tees say Corpsebait, and social and traditional media overflow with live feeds and blogs of bloody, rave-style vampire parties. Several erotic, sensual, blood-drinking exchanges entwine sex and violence.

Sex

Sexual incidents are infrequent but powerfully sensual. There are several instances of deep tongue kissing, including one in which Tana bites her own tongue while kissing a vampire, and the blood and physical thrill are described in detail. Sexual arousal is tied to violence in the erotic, sometimes poetic, descriptions of Tana drinking blood. Early on, Tana and then-boyfriend Aidan explore the power dynamics of their relationship by making out with others, and Aidan sometimes makes out with boys. Tana's breasts are mentioned twice; they're not described, but one instance mentions the visible outline of her nipples through thin fabric. 

Language

"Damn," "s--tty," and "Satan's balls" are each used once. "Pee" is used once.

Consumerism

Products mentioned specifically and once each include McDonald's, Big Gulp, Chucks, Macy's, Cheerios, and Claire's Boutiques. Chartreuse is mentioned twice, and Tana's Crown Victoria is mentioned several times. Social media is a large part of the teens' lives, and YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Flickr are each mentioned once.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens are frequently depicted drinking, at typical house parties and at rave-style vampire balls. They play drinking games, and sometimes negative consequences such as hangovers and being sick are portrayed. Heroine Tana, 17, drinks a couple of times but not to excess, although it's mentioned that in the past she drank a lot, and in one incident someone drugs the mooshine she drinks. Teens, mostly background characters, are occasionally depicted smoking. Marijuana is mentioned two or three times and smoking hashish, once.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a vampire book by Holly Black, author of Doll Bones and co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, that immediately plunges the reader into a violent and bloody post-vampire-apocalypse world. Glorified vampire gore and lore have permeated pop culture and social media. Vampire hunters have hit reality TV shows; popular blogs show video feeds of nonstop, rave-style vampire balls in the quarantine area known as Coldtown; and gift-shop baby tees say things like Corpsebait. Kids want to be vampires and install shunts in their veins to provide easy access to their blood. Main character Tana, 17, is to Twilight's Bella as Joan Jett is to Doris Day. One helpful character in Coldtown is transgender. Graphic and detailed descriptions of violence abound, not only of the traditional blood sucking but also of beheading, stabbing, shooting, torture, and vampires committing suicide by burning in the sun. All this, plus sensual and erotic descriptions of biting, being bitten, watching someone else being bitten, and deep, detailed, bloody-tongue kisses, make this a vampire book for the more mature teen. 

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

While humanity tries to stop the epidemic by putting all vampires under quarantine in \"coldtowns,\" teens attracted to everything sexy-scary voluntarily go into them, knowing they'll never come out and hoping to be turned into vampires. When Tana Bach, 17, is bitten, she knows that the only way she'll keep her family safe from the monster she'll become is by riding out the infection in Coldtown. On the way, she rescues Gavriel, a charismatic vampire with a mysterious past, and starts falling for him. Tana needs to find a way to protect herself and her loved ones before Gavriel's past catches up to them both and before she goes cold forever.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Holly Black does a good job conveying both the teen attraction to the dark side and the genuine horrors it contains. The writing is good, better than that benchmark of vampire stories, Twilight. The prose is edgier and darker, better suited to older teens. Heroine Tana's strong, independent voice is realistic, and a couple of horrific passages border on poetic. Breaks in the action to provide backstory are sometimes disjointed, but most of the story clips along at a good pace. It's a solid entry in the vampire-horror genre that mature fans will enjoy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the incredible popularity of vampire stories. Why do they fascinate us so much?

  • Do the quotes about death at the beginning of each chapter enhance the experience of reading the story or detract from it? Why do you think they're there? Which did you like best? Was the quote from anyone you've heard of?

  • How do vampire stories like this one make connections between sex and violence? Is it the same as in movies or video games? What about reading is different from seeing?

Book details

Author:Holly Black
Genre:Horror
Topics:Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:September 3, 2013
Number of pages:421
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Teen, 15 years old Written byG30rg!3 October 4, 2013
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

5 stars

A thoroughly original tale of vampires in society, with a thrilling plot and griping writing style.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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