by Holly Black
To be published on September 3, 2013
by Little, Brown BFYR
Source: Thanks to Little, Brown BFYR for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book. My full FTC disclosure is on the right sidebar.
Summary from Goodreads: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
My take: I am by no means an expert on either vampire lore or vampire fiction. In fact, my entire pop culture vampire experience consists of reading the Twilight series years ago, plus one summer spent watching every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
But I am a big fan of the Curse Worker series, which ranks among my favorite YA series of all time. So I was both excited and nervous to read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Fortunately, I really liked it.
As the blurb suggests, the story starts dramatically, with main character Tana waking up the morning after a party in a house full of dead bodies. Soon she's on the run with her vamp-infected ex-boyfriend with a live vampire stuffed in her trunk.
I love Cassel Sharpe's wry first-person narration, so it took me a few pages to adjust to Tana's matter-of-fact third person point of view, but the more I got to knowTana, the more I liked her. She's not the kind of girl who thinks about what's in her own best interest. She does what she thinks is right. And when someone needs help, whether it's her ex-boyfriend or a stranger, she doesn't hesitate.
I also really loved the story world, which seemed to me to use vampirism as a way to explore modern day obsessions with fame, notoriety, and physical perfection, and to gently mock the way these obsessions are fueled by our social media and reality TV-obsessed world. Yes, other vampire series like Buffy have incorporated the concept of vampire groupies, but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown makes this concept even more 21st century. Those outside the Coldtowns watch the vampires inside on live feeds. Bloggers breathlessly chronicle the goings-on inside the guarded cities. Vampire celebrities entertain viewers and camera crews ride shotgun with vampire hunters. Everyday teens dream of finding fame and escaping their humdrum lives by joining the vampire world.
Tana, who survived a real-life childhood encounter with a vampire, has more complicated feelings about vampires. Yet when vampire Gavriel needs to be rescued, she risks her own life to help him.
Heather from The Flyleaf Review reminded me in a tweet that Holly Black also wrote a bunch of fairy stories. I haven't read those, but I was thinking about this as I read and decided that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown definitely has some fairytale elements. Tana's rescue of Gavriel felt a little like one of those moments in a fairy tale when a character helps, say, a prince disguised as a beggar, and is later handsomely rewarded. Indeed, Tana's impulsive gesture will have repercussions that extend through the entire story. Later in the book, Gavriel actually tells Tana a fairytale, the story of Koschei the Deathless. Gavriel says of the main character, Ivan: "he manages to do the impossible purely by not giving up. He is the chaotic part of the story, because he doesn't do what everyone expects of him."
A Coldtown isn't much of a fairy tale kingdom, but Tana also never does what you'd expect. She never gives up, and never does what any sensible person would do. She's an interesting hero -- a regular girl who refuses to give up on anyone -- not the guy who dumped her, not the vampire who could infect her, not the best friend she promised a trip to California after graduation.
I really loved the ending of the book. There's revenge, there's sacrifice, and, just like a fairy story, what goes around comes around. Then the world settles into a sort of moral equilibrium -- yes, even a crazy, mixed up world like a Coldtown. So while I really can't comment on where this book fits into the whole vampire subgenre, I can tell you that I really enjoyed it as a story.
I'll be giving away an ARC of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown tomorrow on Freebie Friday! Be sure to stop by :)