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 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.
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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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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