Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: Ninth Grade Slays

Title Ninth Grade Slays (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Series, Book #2)
Author Heather Brewer
Genre YA Science Fiction
Rating C-

Summary (Read my review of Book #1, Eighth Grade Bites.) Vlad, teenage half-vampire, is now in high school and he's learning all sorts of new things: quadratic equations, how to kiss a girl, how to read and control other people's minds, how to evade vampire slayers, and what it means to be a Pravus.

First Line "Jasik gripped the photograph in his hand and scanned the face of the boy. Except for his pale complexion and clever eyes, no one would suspect the teen was anything other than human. But Jasik knew differently."

Review Many of my comments in the review of Eighth Grade Bites are also applicable in Ninth Grade Slays. The characters are still fun to read (although their sense of humor with making vampire-related puns isn't that witty), they're getting further fleshed out, the plotting (weaving together the mundane and the mythological) kept my interest, and the writing was stiff and kind of boring.

Actually, the low-quality of the writing got to be so irritating to me that I started underlining and writing "What?" comments in the margin. Examples:
"Vlad tucked the letter inside his pocket and, reaching into the freezer for a bag of A negative, allowed himself a smile," (p. 75).
Really? He had to allow himelf to smile? Vlad isn't a particularly negative or mean kid. He smiles and laughs quite often. Plus, in this particular scene, he'd just received a letter from his uncle--something he looks forward to. Why is the smile allowed? Bad verb choice, I think.
"...Quite a few [of the books] had been banned in both the school and the town library. Vlad couldn't understand the logic behind banning books. Tell kids they can't do something and then be surprised that your efforts drove them to do whatever you didn't want them to do? Some grown-ups could be so inherently stupid," (pp. 79-80).
Really? Does anybody else find this tangent on book banning to be a little heavy-handed? Also, did anybody else notice that she slipped in the modifier "inherently" in front of the stupidity of book-banning adults? (Note: I do not support book banning or challenging. I also don't support condescending name-calling.)

Some of her writing is kind of clever, though. Example:
"Most were older, classic novels--like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which had seriously freaked Vlad out as a kid and still did. Who wouldn't be scared by the tale of a girl falling into a bizarre world infested with talking animals and a queen with a thirst for blood?" (p. 79).
Nice irony.

But here's my biggest issue with this series: this plot feels like a rip-off/re-working of Harry Potter. Orphan with a big prophecy about his future who's parents' old friends help to raise and teach him and gets relentlessly pursued by others of his own "kind" who have turned evil. And what I find most befuddling about the whole thing is that the HP series was intended as Middle Grade fiction, but was written with a prose that appealed to even adults, but this Vladimir Tod series is YA/Teen fiction, but reads like Middle Grade.

I guess the up-side for Brewer is that I liked HP enough that the overall story-line of destiny, magic, and good v. evil will still keep me reading her series. (But I'll probably check them out of the library--sorry, no money in her pocket.)

Recommended Fans of the Harry Potter series who are looking for a derivative series.


Michael said...

Hi, hope things are moving along with your querying process. Do you have a working title yet?

Darren said...

WOW i love this book but i havent read it yeh im in school right now i just check it out at the library for more info on book contack me at please let me know what you think of if u wanna know how my book is going