Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Bloodlust (Alex Duval)

AUTHOR: Alex Duval
SERIES: Vampire Beach, book 1
PUBLISHER: Simon Pulse
PAGES: 208
SOURCE: My library
GENRE: Paranormal, vampires
GIVE IT TO: HS boys and girls, reluctant readers
OVERALL RATING: Not recommended; 1/5 stars
SUMMARY: When Jason and his sister Dani move from Minnesota to Malibu, CA, Jason can't believe this is his life. Surf and sand, a posh new house in an exclusive gated community, the hot girl at school who takes an interest in seems perfect. But when a girl's dead body washes up on the beach, Jason begins to see that his new Malibu friends have secrets that he can't ignore.

POP-CULTURE COMPARISON: The Lost Boys meets Beverly Hills, 90210

WHAT I LIKED: First let me just say that I am totally over the vampire craze, even if my students are not. Last week, I was shelving books in my library and I came across this one. Being in a middle school, I started wondering why I ordered a book titled Bloodlust with a large martini on the front cover. When I looked in Titlewave for reviews and grade level recommendations, there were none. My library is new, and I ordered every single book in there. I am not sure what possessed me to order this one. With no professional reviews to go on, I needed to familiarize myself with the content, so I took it home.

If you mix Beverly Hills, 90210 with 1987 movie The Lost Boys, you'll get something similar to Bloodlust. Of course, as teen in the late 80s and early 90s, I was obsessed with 90210 and have seen The Lost Boys more times than I could possibly count. I even had the movie soundtrack, which was one of my favorite albums in 9th grade. So, for adult readers, Bloodlust will evoke nostalgia for those bygone days of bloodthirsty teen vampires and gorgeous rich kids frolicking on California beaches.

I like that the book is short and simply written, making it a great choice for reluctant readers. Content-wise, middle school librarians should read it first. I am proud of the diversity of my collection, but some librarians might not be comfortable purchasing some of the books I have for my middle schoolers. It's definitely fine for high school, but for middle school, it just depends on the reader. There is language and sexual innuendo (see below). Teens drink and do drugs at a party. To me, the sexual content excessive partying is too mature for middle school, so I have moved it to the high school.

I liked that the story is told from Jason's perspective; it seems most recent vampire books are from a swooning girl's point of view. I like how down-to-earth normal Jason is. He ogles pretty girls, can't wait to start surfing, and doesn't compromise his morals for peer pressure. He is concerned when Dani is not fitting in as well as she would like and agrees to take her to a party to help her meet new people. At the party, he turns down alcohol (he promised his parents) and searches for Dani when he hasn't seen her for awhile. When a fight breaks out at the party, Jason jumps in to defend the weaker boy, getting himself nearly killed in the process. As noble as he is, Jason is still normal, falling for the charms of a beautiful girl and wanting to look the other way when things just don't add up.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Bloodlust is great for reluctant high school readers who like vampire books and movies. As a very-willing, adult reader who is sick of vampire books, I am just not part of the target audience. For me, the book moves at a snail's pace, the writing is overly-simple, and the plot is supremely predictable. I would never have read Bloodlust were it not for the content check for my library. Thankfully, it was a short, easy read.

The relationships are shallow. I do not understand why Jason falls head-over-heels for Sienna; he barely knows her. She cheats on her boyfriend (and he on her) and seems just fine having superficial relationships. Sienna barely knows Jason when she first kisses him, yet Jason feels bad when he questions her behavior--WHY? Not getting that at all. Give uber-gorgeous Sienna some acne, braces, and about 20 extra pounds, and Jason doesn't give her a second glance. Shallow.

The underdeveloped characters are another problem. Jason is by far the character with the most personality; Dani, Sienna, Adam, Zach, Brad...all of them are fairly one-dimensional. Dani is the sister Jason wants to protect. Sienna is the popular, hot girl with a big secret. Adam is the computer-hacking, insightful best friend. Zach is the mysterious stranger always lurking around. Brad is Sienna's popular jerk boyfriend... Defining all the characters by their "one characteristic" makes for a pretty dull read with few surprises.

  • Language: medium; not a ton, but it does include the f-word a couple of times
  • Sexuality: medium; Jason admires a girl's body many times; girls dress suggestively (short shorts, bikinis), kissing; groups of teens kissing in hot tubs
  • Violence: mild; Jason is nearly killed after standing up for a weaker boy at a party; a girl is killed and her body washes up on the beach; several vampire bites
  • Drugs/Alcohol: very high; teens drink (and get quite drunk) at parties, multiple references to teen drug use

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We had it, but it was not popular. Only one student checked it out since we acquired it in Sept 2009 as part of our opening collection. I moved both Bloodlust and its sequel, Initiation, to our feeder high school.

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