Saturday, 28 May 2011

review: The Vampire Stalker

by Allison van Diepen
Scholastic Press, June 2011
young adult paranormal
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

Amy may be a big fan of the popular series Otherworld, but she isn't prepared for its characters to spring into life. Handsome, brusque Alexander Banks, the vampire hunter and hero, follows Vigo Skaar, the vampire, right off the pages and into Amy's world. Before she knows it, Chicago turns into a vampire's playground and Alexander's bunking over at her place. Once Amy shows him the books he stars in, they realize that the author Elizabeth Howard may also be in danger from Vigo for revealing the vampire's secrets. Now, it's a matter of taking down Vigo before he turns modern Chicago into another Otherworld.
The cover:

Black and red is pretty basic, but it evokes a mood fitting to the story. Aside from the girl and the book, though, a little more detail with the night and the man (who is he?) would've made for a more developed cover. The font is also a little too standard, but the interior chapter design is lovely.

The book:

The Vampire Stalker is pleasant mainly because its focus isn't the supernatural, it's the characters-coming-to-life part, which is straight-up fantasy, not paranormal. *takes a moment to hug the neglected YA fantasy market* Anyway, it makes this feel a little more unique.

The thing is: this book is extremely straight-forward. Events happen in such a clockwork fashion -- tick, tock, one after the other. Oh, Elizabeth Howard might get threatened? She gets threatened. Oh, little sister goes out pas curfew? She gets kidnapped. The surprises weren't surprising, because they happened just when nothing was happening and something was BOUND to happen. But somehow, the straightforwardness doesn’t detract from the story. It ensures the spacing is consistently moving at a quick clip, though it does mean the most of the novel’s atmosphere is constantly strained.

The juxtaposition of vampires and modern life helps to highlight the danger, but also results in Amy’s school life, friends and family seeming too normal. There’s nothing remarkable about either of Amy’s friends, even as van Diepen tries to distinguish them with things like height and boyfriends. The help Amy and Alexander receive from a librarian only diminishes the importance of the protag, making Amy seem unassertive even as she pulls out the “I feel useless hiding, let me help” argument.

Stretching out the climax with the purpose of ending things neatly leaves the action hanging, feeling unfinished. “Literary physics” is an interesting idea to explain the author’s writing about the Otherworld, but the concept ironically seems too far-fetched when compared to fantastical things like portals and vampires. If such fantasy exists, why use such a mundane notion? Why not just make the author tap in psychically to the other world?

The Vampire Stalker is a different brand of paranormal, but it doesn’t mean the romance or writing is any better.

Rating: 2.6 out of 5