Sunday, April 15, 2012

High School Sucks: Ninth Grade Slays

Ninth Grade Slays by Heather Brewer
Dutton Children's Books, 2008

When I was first introduced to The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod last year, I had my suspicions. Another vampire series? Really? But I was so, so wrong because Heather Brewer was able to craft a character and a situation that I could actually relate to and care about. Check out my post on the first book here.

These feelings of connection still ring true for me as I decided to pick up the second installment in the series, Ninth Grade Slays. Bullies exist in all shapes and sizes and ages and unfortunately, I've never found that it gets that much easier to deal with with age. I'm quicker to stand up for myself (sometimes), but it still hurts. After a particularly trying day dealing with one of these situations, I wanted someone who understood what it felt like to feel alone and like the world just won't cut you a break. And so, I reached for Vlad, and I'm so happy I did.

Vlad is happy to have the hell that is middle school behind him, but high school seems to suck just as much for our half-human, half-vampire protagonist. Henry's popularity continues to soar, Otis has been gone for months, Meredith's beauty continues to render Vlad speechless, and the bullies are back and worse than ever. And as if all of that weren't enough, practicing his vampire skills such as mind control and telepathy haven't been going so great either.

Fortunately, Vlad is resilient and there are a few bright spots to be had. He makes a new friend in Henry's cousin, Joss, who also knows what it's like to lose someone you love, and Otis does return and takes Vlad on a trip to Siberia where the teen is able to learn about his vampire abilities and heritage. But there's still trouble brewing back home and it could start costing lives, including Vlad's.

Brewer's talents continue to shine as the series goes on. The pop culture references to other types of modern vampire lore are welcome and Vlad's curiosity perfectly mirrors that of readers. I also stand by my previous remarks that she has a particular gift for capturing the feelings that come along with being this particular age. As someone in my 20s, I still feel the way that Vlad and his friends do a lot of the time, only proving that my inner 14 year old continues to shape me. I admire Vlad's ability to just keep moving forward, though, no matter how awful things get. He still wants to do the right thing, he still cares about Aunt Nelly, Uncle Otis, and Henry more than anything in the world and doesn't want to see any of them hurt, and he just tries to do the best he can with the situation he's in. Vlad is an admirable guy and it's no surprise to me why boys and girls alike gravitate to this series. Vlad gets it; Brewer gets it.

Comments welcome and, as always, happy reading.

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