Friday, July 17, 2009

REVIEW: The Reformed Vampire Support Group

Jinks, C.  (2009).  The Reformed Vampire Support Group.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt




To put a twist on the opening of this book:  I am not stuck.  I know just what to write next.  And that is...


I heart The Reformed Vampire Support Group.  I want to join it.  Nevermind the fact that it'll involve a fair amount of work since I am neither a vampire nor a reformed vampire.  (Unless of course, I'm lying right now.  You'll never know)


Nina, the author of the Youngblood series, enjoys writing her character Zadia as a powerful and beautiful vampire, but knows the reality of vampire life is far from being as cool.  Infected when she was fifteen, Nina is a woman in her fifties doomed to look and behave like a teenager.  She can't drive.  She doesn't have superpowers.  She must battle the urge to take blood from people for fear of revealing her secret.  And she must work to prevent her body from decomposing.  To help with all these problems, Nina attends a reformed vampire support group each Tuesday.  The various vampires deal with different aspects of the dead lifestyles and occupy different spaces on the Kubler-Ross grief cycle.  All this gets more complicated when the vampire, Casimer, who is responsible for 'infecting' all of the vampires in Australia, is found staked in his apartment.  Nina and the other members of her support group go on the defensive, fearing Casimer's deranged slayer will target them next.


While there is quite a bit of a danger and suspense in the narrative, there's also a lot of talking as the vampire support group decide what they're going to do to solve their problems.  While this is a nice change from a lot of narrative that go ACTIONdododoNOWnowNOWnowDON'TthinkACTfastpaceEND!!!!!!  At times, I found myself thinking, "Crud, are these weakling vampies, still chatting?  Hellz, I'll take care of the bad guys.  They may be fictional characters, but I'll find a way to eliminate them faster than these characters can come to a decision.  

Plus, this is, to a small degree, a meta-narrative about Nina's own writing process.  Which is pretty much the easiest way to gain my love at first chapter.


P.S.  I'll see all-ya-alls vamp buddies Tuesday night at 9:30 PM in St. Agatha's!



Activities to Do with the Book:


Since Nina strugles with writing a story, it'd be only natural to have readers share in her experience by writing their own creative stories.  A teacher could emphasize issues of characterization and the idea that most characters have flaws and can't always be happy-perfect idealized versions of the author. 

Since this book is clearly a counter-narrative to SOME other perceptions of vampires in the media, the text lends itself to comparison with the Twilight series, The Blue Bloods series, The Vampire Diaries and all the other books out there that romanticize vampirism.  The Reformed Vampire Support Group works to deconstruct many of the romanticized stereotypes in similar fashion to Charlaine Harris's (very adult) Southern Vampire Series.
An interesting discussion to proke would be a consideration of vampires as "victims" (p. 12).  This could lend itself to a safe and metaphorical discussion of not having control in a situation and overcoming that feeling. 

Favorite Quotes:


“Nina was stuck.  She didn't know what to write next.
So far, her teenage love interest had been dragged into a refrigerated meat locker by two thugs armed with a gun and a boning knife" (p. 1)
"You know what?  This isn't going to work.  I can't write aboutmyself the way I write about Zadia [my character].  It's too weird.  It's confusing.  Next thing I'll get mixed up and start making me do things that I can't actually do.  Like turn into a bat, for instance.  Zadia can do that, but I can't.  No one can.
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 televistion, forever and ever" (pp. 4-5).


"I still look fifteen, you see.  I still am fifteen, when all's said and done, since I stopped aging back in 1973, when I was infected.  So I'd attract far too much attention behind a steering wheel" (p. 5). 
"I didn't want to complain too much, because that's what vampires do.  They complain too much" (p. 7).

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