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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Drink, Slay, Love (aka I'm back from my months-long hiatus!)

So what happened was, I went to Africa. Ethiopia, specifically, and blogs are blocked by the Internet so I had to give it up for months. When I got back, I had a pile of written reviews that I had yet to type up, but school got in my way and NaNo was finally given me the incentive just write, regardless of time. I'll be here to stay now, thank you very much.

Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops.

Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast -- as the entrees.

The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do? **

Drink, Slay, Love = WIN.

I'm not sure just how I'm going to be able to convey how wonderfully awesome this book is but I will try in point form because doubtless I'll end up incoherent otherwise.

1) Durst knows how to do atmosphere. Better yet, she can write amazing characters, great plot and do atmosphere which seems to be a hassle for many new YA authors. I felt awe as I read and went through the cool night and opened into a beautiful, warm sunny day (over here it's cloudy 24/7) and then back into a dark, dank mansion that would have creeped me out if I wasn't so in love. Atmosphere in an supernatural book is a must and without it, this book I feel would have suffered.

2) Pearl. Ever heard of a female character with such a feminine name end up so fantastically kick ass? If you thought Buffy, go get yourself a cookie and let me tell you about a second equally wicked one. Despite the fact that she's the second successfully written one I've discovered yet, Pearl remained as un-Buffy like as possible (unlike certain other protagonists). Buffy had that mixture of popular and girly-cool while Pearl just oozed a femme fatale cool not many YA heroines can get nowadays. Personally, I loved her in the first chapter but her new conscience warmed me to me as the book went on and her nickname for the unicorn "Mr. Sparkly and Pointy" won me over. I mean, she's a vampire. Imagining those words coming out of her fanged mouth was hilarious. And then at the end? When she completely turned over an impression Jadrien had made of her? She's just classy. In a way a vampire hasn't been since ... Prime example: Picture a female Damon with a conscience. Yeah. That amazing.

3) Bethany was just ... augh. Best girly female character I've met yet. SPOILER! And she organized the whole thing! How gosh darn amazing is that?! END OF SPOILER. To be honest, all the female characters really are GREAT. You've got the popular girl who doesn't rule the school with her looks but with her self-esteem fueled confidence and at the end, after all that's happened to her, she's STILL got her part of her confidence intact. Albeit it was a bitch move, but isn't that exactly what "bitch" means? Bethany could be considered one as well if it wasn't for the fact that she's ridiculously nice (diabolical plans aside). And oh my God, I loved her even more after I read that she wasn't in love with Evan. Let me rephrase that:

The secondary female character - NOT IN LOVE WITH ANYONE ELSE IN THE BOOK - is exceptional smart, confident and still nice. Seriously. Durst, where have you been hiding?

4) Unicorns. Of course unicorns can give vampires a conscience! They're made of sugar, rainbows, puppies and virgin maidens! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Unicorns and vampires are a match made in heaven. Especially the twist which I - the analyzing beast - did not see coming. I loved it though. SPOILER! I mean a guy as a unicorn? Other than the kind of pedophilic undertones I thought of in the insistence the guy ever goes near any little girls, young or not, the reveal made me smile. END OF SPOILER!

5) The romance wasn't exactly pulse pounding but it was the kind of sweet that most YA authors are lacking nowadays. Then again, I had the feeling that physical attraction had a lot to do with it as well. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, but I would have actually felt a lot more satisfied if the book had ended with Pearl and Love Interest admitting their attraction for each other and desire to date. But hello, subversion number one!

6) The subversions were priceless and one of the main reasons why this book just made me want to hug it. We had the (finally!) mean/popular girl outed for what she was: popular because of her confidence. And can I say that I loved that she wasn't even that pretty? She was popular because of her confidence or bullying or whatever it was that made her the best. I actually wished she could have stuck around. Her interactions with Pearl were the best I've seen since the fish-out-of-water scenes in K-dramas. But I do want to say that if this was a real school, Bethany would have been the popular one. I never get how all these mean girls end up popular. In my school (which was full of rich suburban white kids) the most popular girl was yes pretty but she was also really sweet and OK, a little clueless. The same with the popular guy. Man, he wasn't even a jock. He was a really good musician with an excellent personality to match. To this day, no matter how much I enjoy the better written mean girl tropes, they still puzzle me.

Moving on, you have the next subversion, which is the "nice guys are not allowed by universal law to be the main love interest" trope. It brought tears to my eyes, that did. After I got over the whole stalkerish vibe of course, but that was explained later to my relief. In any case, I hope that newer YA writers take this as an expample. Pearl had a perfectly functional jackass as a boyfriend (you could say that this book is a sequel to a book I never want to read) whom Durst calls Jadrien (I laughed when I read that since I first saw that as Jace. Heh). She's aware he's an asshole but then so is she. Then she meets the nice guy and realizes that he's an asshole who cares more about having her because she's hard-to-get and would look good next to her than an actual understandable reason. You see, 1000+ YA female protagnists in the PNR genre? See how Pearl realized this in the space of half a book? So much win.

Bethany is another subversion of one-dimensional secondary "best friend" character of the new girl. Brad is another of the whole victim and "what's one to a million" trope. SPOILER! In most vampire books, once someone dies, that's it. That's literally the end of their existence. But Pearl not only remembers him but the fact that he had a personality right before he died cemented him in her mind and I had to stop from squealing when she was reminiscing. END OF SPOILER!

This last point leads me to the reason why I couldn't wholeheartedly love the book: the cliches. OK, so I understand that Pearl's family are all vampires and that they haven't had a stab in the heart yet but the gothic cliches? I cringed. It's not like they're forced to dress that way. They're vampires! They should have classy style. I can never wrap my head around why vampires would go around wearing human-made imitations of a style that existed in their time. It didn't make any sense to me. Also their attitudes were just ... really? You could have made them much more dynamic. Antoinette was a start with her Molly Ringwald obsession and so was Jeremiah, who I honestly wished I could have seen more of. He's a crazy vampire! Who doesn't love a crazy vampire?

*cough* Drusilla *cough*

He remained a dynamic character to the end and it made me sad to see an opportunity for Durst to flesh out a person affected by tragedy and influence Pearl a little more than done wasted. Then there was the vampire king who gave me the creeps when he was described as seventeen. Why seventeen PNR authors? He's a vampire! He could be any age! Seventeen is such a typical number. At least give me a college age guy so he doesn't feel like a bratty teen king a la Joffrey. Regardless of the age factor, I felt like there was a story behind the king that could have made me look beyond that magical number. A story that could have led to a personality. Sometimes I want to scream: EVIL DOES NOT MEAN PERSONALITY. Voldemort had character because he had a reason behind everything he did.

Why do all these characters assume that they're evil because they kill for food (which we humans do as well)? They're f*cking predators now! Of course they kill humans! Now I understand that vampires are a "species" of humans, which is why it causes some discomfort, but when you look at the news, people are killing each other for no reason everyday. I think that being a vampire with no other healthy blood source, you have to be granted some leeway. Now the king is cruel. He kills someone for violating standing protocol and for not being strong enough to even stand up. This sounds like pretty much every king/emperor/pharoah/dictator/president that ever lived. The latter is even considered a freaking mercy kill.

Another opportunity I felt flew by was Bethany and SPOILER! Pearl's father. I mean it screamed opportunity. Imagine if Bethany turned out to be a spy for Pearl's Daddy? It would have just, I mean ... OK, what actually played out made sense as to get her into  the game. But still. What if Pearl's Daddy turned Bethany? And she took Pearl's place? END OF SPOILER! Augh. So much good dramatic possibility. Most authors can't replicate other people's drama well let alone create this much in between their original set up. It could have gone and elevated itself to a five the same Wildefire was able to elevate itself with simply its ending. Because that's the kind of whiplash that feels good.

Unfortunately all the wasted opportunities plus the cliches cost this book a star.

All in all=☆☆☆☆

*This book was an ARC provided by NetGalley.
**This summary was taken from Goodreads.

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