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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'The Reformed Vampire Support Group' by Catherine JINKS

From the BLURB:

Think vampires are romantic, sexy, and powerful? Think again. Vampires are dead. And unless they want to end up staked, they have to give up fanging people, admit their addiction, join a support group, and reform themselves.

Nina Harrison, fanged at fifteen and still living with her mother, hates the Reformed Vampire Support Group meetings every Tuesday night. Even if she does appreciate Dave, who was in a punk band when he was alive, nothing exciting ever happens. That is, until one of group members is mysteriously destroyed by a silver bullet. With Nina (determined to prove that vamps aren't useless or weak) and Dave (secretly in love with Nina) at the helm, the misfit vampires soon band together to track down the hunter, save a werewolf, and keep the world safe from the likes of themselves.

Being a vampire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Nina Harrison – she was ‘blooded’ when she was just 15 years old, back in 1973. As it is, Nina still lives with her aging mother in their terrace house; she still has a poster of David Bowie on her wall, has a guinea pig diet and spends her time writing the paranormal ‘Zadia Bloodstone’ series. And every Tuesday night since 1973, Nina has been going to the Reformed Vampire Support Group.

The Group is really more of a collection of murder victims – with their murderer apart of the group. Seven members who were all directly or indirectly killed by a vampire called Casimir, and have now formed a Support Group to help each other cope with the fallout of being fanged and to suppress their blood urges.

But one Tuesday night Casimir doesn’t show up to group therapy. And when the group go to investigate his no-show, they discover Casimir staked in his coffin. Now the Reformed Vampire Support Group have a lot more to worry about than where their next guinea pig is coming from... the group is being stalked by a vampire vigilante. And for once in her life, Nina wants to be proactive and be a little more like her fictional heroine Zadia Bloodstone. . .

This book is amazing. Catherine Jinks turns her back on current paranormal romance and alpha vampires to write a stark, disturbing and darkly humorous YA vampire book.

Nina Harrison is a wonderful, if somewhat depressing protagonist. She has been stuck at age 15 since 1973 and is often the brunt of patronizing condescension from her support-group. She receives hostility from group members regarding her Zadia Bloodstone book series (which perpetuates negative vampire images) and is never taken seriously because of her young age. I loved Nina. I sympathized with her from the get-go, but also responded to her snarky hostility which is at once typical teenage behaviour, while also masking a deep self-hatred. Nina is funny and tragic, which is a surprisingly winning combination in this YA book.

At one point Nina likens being a vampire to having AIDS. And really, it’s a great running metaphor throughout the book and surprisingly apt. Both conditions are wrought with public misconception and stigma perpetuated by the media. Both diseases leave their victims with an entirely different outlook and response to life – and both diseases call for its victims to form support groups and discuss their coping mechanisms.

Being a vampire in Catherine Jinks’s world is not fun. These vampires are constantly hungry and thirsty, but can only eat one guinea pig meal a day. They crave blood, but drinking blood is problematic since it can be highly diseased and dirty – these vamps take enzyme supplements when they drink blood, to help digestion. Sunlight is absolutely out of the question – they even have to wear sunglasses when they go out at night because artificial lights (especially car head-lights) can cause their eyes to bleed. They are constantly nauseous and tired and during daylight hours they are literally dead to the world.
Basically, being a vampire sucks;
The plain fact is, I can’t do anything much. That’s part of the problem. Vampires are meant to be so glamorous and powerful, but I’m here to inform you that being a vampire is nothing like that. Not one bit. On the contrary, it’s like being stuck indoors with the flu watching daytime television, forever and ever.
If being a vampire were easy, there wouldn’t have to be a Reformed Vampire Support Group.
I loved the fact that Catherine Jinks has flipped the paranormal genre and vampire fiction on its head. ‘The Reformed Vampire Support Group’ is perhaps the most realistic imagining of vampires to date – these are sickly, blood-diseased immortals who are just trying to cope with the stigma surrounding their condition. Brilliant. Jinks is definitely writing in a back-lash to Edward Cullen and all other romanticized versions of modern vampires. . . and it is wonderfully refreshing. This is such a different take on vampires, and Jinks has figured out such a believable alternative that I was fascinated from page-one.

Jinks’s writing is often deliciously gross-out. The way she describes the vampire’s various ailments, guinea pig feasts and especially the consequences of not feeding;
He couldn’t even blink for a week. His tongue was kippered, his teeth were loose, and his eyeballs had shrunk to the size and consistency of dried peas.
The book is mostly a comedy-of-errors, which is not really a synopsis common to the YA paranormal genre. The comedy is in these sickly vampires being thrust into helter-skelter action and vigilantism when nothing about them is heroic or dangerous. But somehow, through a comedy of errors, they succeed in kidnapping bad-guys, stumbling across a werewolf fighting ring and rescuing a kidnapped werewolf.

I also loved that the book is set in Sydney, Australia. Jinks’s writing is made all the more refreshing for her Australian setting; everything from her Aussie dialogue (“gunna”, “mate”) to her references to Sydney’s seedier districts. I love the new crop of Australian paranormal fiction, and ‘The Reformed Vampire Support Group’ is no exception.

Catherine Jinks’s book is dark and darkly funny. It is a much altered vampire imagining, and in a totally different YA league. It is in no way a romanticized look at vampires, rather it is a surprisingly realistic and highly outlandish look at vampirism stigmatism.

5/5

Book #2 - April 4th 2011

4 comments:

  1. I love the concept! There has been such an overload of vampire and paranormal fiction out... especially in YA... especially since Twilight... This looks like such a creative twist. On my TBR pile :)

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  2. Danielle,

    I have seen this book in the store - picked it up, read the back blurb and put it down. After your review, I may have to revisit it. :)

    M

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  3. I hadn't seen this one - it sounds cute. And I like the thought of a werewolf book too.

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  4. "‘The Reformed Vampire Support Group’ is perhaps the most realistic imagining of vampires to date – these are sickly, blood-diseased immortals who are just trying to cope with the stigma surrounding their condition."

    LOL so no sparkling vamps then??

    I bought this book cause I got the eARC of book 2 on NetGalley, after such an awesome review I'll read it as soon as possible! I'll even take the book with me to Portugal so I can read it LOL

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