"Another vampire book, Bonnie? And you say you don't read such things..." I know. I know. This is a book a friend passed on last year, and it's just been sitting. I figured, what better time to read it than Halloween? The thing about this book is...it's DIFFERENT. One thing that annoys me about all these vampire books out there is that humans fall in love with the vampires, who aren't as scary and dangerous as everyone else believes...or at least, they aren't upon falling in love. Or, you know, they sparkle. Yeah, not so much. To me, vampires should be portrayed as scary, freaky monsters. They have no soul and drink human blood, after all. In R.A. Nelson's world, vampires are--get this--scary, freaky monsters. They're not romantic. They don't sparkle. They're MONSTERS. It's awesome.
The other thing that sets this book apart from other vampire novels is the fact that the main character, Emma, has epilepsy. She's attacked by a vampire and has a grand mal seizure while being turned. Because of this, the signal gets scrambled and Emma finds herself in a unique position: She's still half-human. Unlike other vampires, she can walk outside day or night. She also doesn't need to drink blood; people food still fuels her. Everything else, however, is like a vampire, from her newfound super-strength and speed to the way her eyes are now ultra-sensitive to light. In Nelson's world, once a human is turned, s/he is connected to the vampire who did the turning. Emma was turned by Wirtz, one of the most intimidating, blood-thirsty vampires of all, and by refusing to answer his call, she's provoked him. He now seeks vengeance as he attempts to reel her in, and is even willing to kill her family to get to her. Emma is forced to run away from home and camp out at an abandoned tower at a NASA base in order to escape and learn more about what she is becoming as she attempts to survive.
Nelson has a powerful way of writing. His words grip me from the very opening of the novel:
"When I was thirteen, I ran away from home because of a curse.
Mom caught up with me miles out in the country, standing in front of an abandoned grain silo. The sky was full of what looked like baby tornadoes. I had just been examined pretty thoroughly by a three-legged dog. I was sweaty, thirsty, filthy with road dust, and my heart was completely fractured" (first hardcover edition).
Emma is a survivor, and readers are hard-pressed not to sympathize with her and root for her. She forms a gradual relationship with a teenager named Sagan who works at NASA and comes to lean on him for support. She also forms a bond with three local vampires who teach her about their beliefs and the war between two factions of vampires with very different belief systems. Even then, Emma struggles with her differences and the fact that she is no longer fully of either word. I loved the way Emma truly cared for her family, even her younger sister. Too many YA novels don't have a good family unit anymore. I also liked the way the book is peppered with German, giving it an antiquated air not present in most books these days. I also enjoyed the firsthand look at a person with a seizure condition, something often overlooked in literature. I think all of these unique features combined with a strong writing style pull together to create a captivating story that is hard to put down.