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Staff Picks: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

Guys, I love vampires. But I am still mostly skeptical of vampire books. It takes a new concept and a skilled writer to really make them work for me.

Luckily, I’ve enjoyed Holly Black’s writing, and I loved her take on vampire mythology in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, even if it wasn’t entirely original. Though for centuries vampires were under the radar, it only took one crazy guy to infect tons of people, turning entire cities “cold” and now vampire are a normal part of life. You know, just the stuff of school assemblies.

Imagine waking up in a bath tub the night after a party and finding everyone else dead in a fantastic display of carnage, except for your ex-boyfriend, who is tied to a bed. He’s been bitten, and thus craves her human blood—it’s the drinking that will complete the transformation. Oh, and there’s a vampire chained up to the bed, too.

This is how The Coldest Girl in Coldtown opens. With hungry vampires on her tail, Tana helps her ex and the crazy vampire escape so they can make it to the nearest Coldtown, where vampires are kept behind walls and allowed to party to their dead heart’s content with the throngs of people who are either trapped inside or flocked to the vampire cities for a chance of deathly glamour. The endless parties are broadcast across the country like bad reality TV shows, shocking and horrifying and sexy and seductive all at once.

Gavriel, the vampire along for the ride, is  a crazy, sexy guy with an enigmatic smile and a secret, and a tinge of madness to go with his pouty lips. Though Tana is mostly set on ensuring she doesn’t turn “cold”, she is drawn into Gavriel’s revenge plot and encounters all kinds of crazy characters once they make it to Coldtown.

These vampires are bloody; this is a gory book with lots of death. (No sparkling vampires here!) There’s just enough humor to balance it out, and Tana was a spunky heroine who was realistic and flawed and pig-headed and stubborn enough to think she was invincible but kind and good-hearted enough to want to save her friends (and even her jerk of an ex-boyfriend).

While this is a fun, horrific read, it also offers subtle commentary on America’s cultural obsession with death and celebrity. Supporting characters are interested and well-developed, and I only wish there would have been more time spent with them rather than flashback scenes with Tana’s mother and the emergence of vampires in society.

If you like Holly Black’s writing and enjoy deadly vampires, check this out. It’s a great novel for teens who like their YA paranormal with a heavy dose of horror. It also and has lots of crossover appeal for fans of adult urban fantasy series.

– Molly

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