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Review: Vampire Rising

AUTHOR: Jason Henderson
SERIES: Alex Van Helsing, book 1  
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen    
ISBN:  9780061950995
PAGES: 272
SOURCE: My library
GENRE: Action-adventure, vampires

GIVE IT TO: boys ages 11-13 


SUMMARY: Alex Van Helsing is not your typical 14-year old boy; as the great-great-great grandson of Abraham Van Helsing, who killed Dracula centuries ago, Alex is destined to follow the family legacy as a vampire hunter. When a powerful vampire kidnaps two of his friends, Alex must venture into Scholomance, a hidden vampire school, to get them back.  

WHAT I LIKED:  What is it about Lord Bryon? Vampire Rising is the second book I’ve read IN A ROW that features Lord Byron (yes THAT Lord Byron) as an immortal vampire interacting with modern-day teenagers. What are the odds? (The other book was Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins.)  

What The DaVinci Code does for The Last Supper, Vampire Rising does for Frankenstein and Dracula. While studying Frankenstein in college, I heard the story of the night that Mary Shelley and her friends (including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron) sat around one night making up ghost stories. Henderson uses this introduction to Frankenstein as a basis for the story of how Dracula slayer Abraham Van Helsing’s great-great-great grandson continues the vampire-hunting legacy. I kept wondering where the lines of history and fantasy meet–what is true and what is fabricated? Really, such a cool concept.

With all his contact-lens trouble, bully woes, and unintended troubles in school, Alex Van Helsing is a character that many young readers will relate to. Uninformed about his family’s vampire-hunting legacy, Alex must figure out this vampire stuff right along with the reader. Bullies Merrill & Merrill get progressively worse, and young readers who are encountering the same problem will identify with Alex’s attempts to avoid them. And can I just say, thank you, thank you, thank you to Jason Henderson for making a literature teacher a motorcycle-riding, kick-ass vampire slayer. You have just upped the cool factor of book nerds everywhere.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Action-packed with plenty of fighting scenes, Vampire Rising will appeal to some readers easily, but I think others will be a little harder to sell. It’s refreshing to read about bloodthirsty, non-sparkly vampires, but on the heels of the Twilight craze, many of my middle school readers still ask for steamy vampire romances. Also, what Vampire Rising has in its action scenes, it lacks in character development. Readers know virtually nothing about Sangster, Sid, Paul, and Minhi. The sequel Voice of the Undead was just released this week, so maybe these characters will gain some personality in the next book.


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: medium; lots of vampire fighting scenes; vampires drinking blood
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it, and since it is on the Texas Lone Star list for 2011-2012, it will be popular in the library this school year.


  • Hey! Thank you for the awesome review. I was really thrilled to read it; especially coming from a "neighbor."

    I can probably parse for you what's history and what's made up. If you ever want to do a blog Q&A or a Skype visit, just drop me a line.

  • Hmmm…I think I'll take you up on that. I have gotten a couple of offers, but I have never done a blog interview. Maybe it is time to start! School starts in a few weeks; that would be a great thing to get a group of students in on–they could ask questions, too. I can look up who has read it and invite the ones who know the book and maybe a few others who I think would like it.


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