Monday, September 30, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
Audience:  Young Adult
Review from Advanced Reader's Copy
ISBN:  9780316213103
Publication Date: September 3, 2013

Vampirism is spreading and the only way to contain the disease is through the creation of Coldtowns, quarantines where the prisoners are in charge.  But in these Coldtowns, vampires have become celebrities with reality shows and streaming video 24 hours a day.  When Tana wakes up after a party and finds all of her friends dead at the hands of vampires, she is not thinking about fame and fortune, but she is full of terror about how to save her ex-boyfriend Aidan and mysterious stranger Gavriel.  This wouldn't be so hard if Aidan hadn't already gone cold, been infected by a vampire.  His choices now are to turn by feeding on another human, or sweat out the infection for months.  This strange trio heads to the nearest Coldtown, picking up more misfits along the way, and Tana has to wait to see if she goes cold and what Gavriel has planned.

Like Gene Yang, I saw Holly Black on an author panel at ALA and wondered why I had never read her books.  She was adorable on the panel, all anxious energy and awkwardness, so I picked up a galley of her latest book and gave it a try.  I will say while Black is an incredibly talented author, I remember why I have never read any of her books-she's the queen of urban horror.  I'm more a fan of fluffy bunnies and books about cake.  

Coldtown, as I will refer to the book from here on, was chilling to me from the beginning.  Like Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, vampirism is treated as a disease.  Those that are infected are shut off from society, but some desperately want to be vampires, and that's where the most gruesome scenes occur.  Once Tana and Aidan arrive in Coldtown and are taken in as part of a plan to award vampirism to a group of wannabes, the whole tone of the book turns even more dangerous.  All along the reader knows the dangers that lie in wait at Coldtown, but once the reality of it is shown through not only the action, but the blog report from Midnight and the article by Bill Story, it gets even more real.  

The characters were well-crafted.  Tana was the reluctant hero and Gavriel her odd suitor.  Aidan as the terrible boyfriend, but surprisingly good vampire was also a welcome surprise.  Then there are the humans in Coldtown like Valentina and Jameson that are gritty and tough and there despite the danger.  

I'm not sure that I would call this a plot driven novel, although the plot is compelling.  The characters stand out, the setting is well described, the entire build up of the scene is wonderful.  I honestly read every word, and that does not happen with plot driven novels.  Holly Black is quite a talented author, I just wish she would write a lovely book about cake.

Now for the Expiration Date question.  Tana and other main characters are in their teens.  Some of their behavior is very rooted in adolescence, like the entire relationship between Tana and Aidan with the cheating in front of each other for sport.  But at the same time, you have the older vampires with a historic memory.  I'm not sure that Coldtown has an expiration date for fans of vampire fiction.  Like the old woman at the truck stop said, dying's not just for the young.

There is definitely room in the vampire canon for such a well written book like Coldtown.  I'm glad that I read, although it did give me some sleepless nights.  I'm just a wimp, you'll be fine when you read Coldtown.  But maybe keep some rosewater by your bed, just in case.

Happy Reading!

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