Monday, July 16, 2012

Own the Night: Night of the Living Dead

It's already the middle of July! Here in the Teen Room, we continue to support literacy by offering our teen summer reading program and drop-in activities.  Last week, our theme was "Night of the Living Dead."  Teens were able to participate in shrunken apple-head carving, select items for a zombie-apocalypse survival kit, and test their knowledge about zombies, vampires, and other "living dead" creatures.

Of course, young adult fiction continues to be full of stories of the undead.  Although this niche of YA fiction is not as popular as it was, say, four years ago, it continues to have a large following among both teens and their parents. 

Since we've covered several zombie fiction selections in the June 21 blog entry, I'll focus only on vampires this week. After all, they are the original "living dead." Of course, vampire fiction took a huge leap in popularity among YA readers with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. There are, however, many other choices for those readers who have had enough of Bella and Edward. If you are a fan of gruesome stories with varying degrees of gore, be sure you check out some of these selections:

Dracula, by Bram Stoker.  The original vampire story, Stoker's 1897 classic has been adapted to both film and graphic novel versions, partly to ease readers' comprehension. However, for an advanced reader who can handle the rather archaic language and syntax, the original story is still the best. More modern vampire stories tend to include much blood and gore; Stoker's classic, the story of the gradual seduction of Lucy and Mina, and the growing awareness of the threat of Count Dracula, is creepier for what it hints at, rather than describes. 

 Cirque du Freak, by Darren Shan.  An older, but still popular, series, Cirque du Freak (also known as The Saga of Darren Shan), originally appeared on the YA market in 2002. What followed was an instant sensation, particularly among younger teen boys looking for blood and guts. The story follows teenage Darren Shan and his friend, Stevie, as they venture into a local freak show. There, Darren realizes that, while most of the half-human creatures are disturbing, none is as threatening as the frightening Mr. Crepsley, whom Darren recognizes as a true vampire. Steve wants to stay after the show to confront Crepsley, but his motives are dishonest. Darren overhears a terrifying promise, and is fated to be drawn to Mr. Crepsley. Thus begins the saga of Darren's descent into the dark, gory world of vampires.  Shan published twelve volumes in this series, ending in 2006; he's since begun a spin-off series, The Saga of Larten Crepsley.

Vampirates,  by Justin Somper.  What could be better than a series about vampires? A series about vampires AND pirates - vampirates - of course. Somper published his original novel, Demons of the Ocean, in 2006.  It tells the story of teenage twins who live in a post-apocalyptic world where much of the earth's surface has been flooded. The twins' father disappears, leaving them to fend for themselves in this harsh environment. A strong sea storm separates them: the boy, Connor, is rescued by pirates, while the girl, Grace, is saved by a more sinister ship, the home of the vampirates. There are six books in the series, each full of adventure, mystery, and terror.  

Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, and Chronicles of the Slayer, by Heather Brewer.  The first book in Brewer's original series, Eighth Grade Bites, was reviewed in the September 22, 2011 entry of this blog.  It told the story of Vladmir Tod, a vampire who thinks he is alone in the world, until his neighbors and teachers begin to be threatened by something so sinister it could only be another vampire. From this first book, Brewer follows Vlad's story through his high school career.  Her second series, Chronicles of the Slayer, began with First Kill in 2011.  This series backtracks to tell the Vladimir Tod story from a different perspective: that of a teenage boy, Vlad's former friend, who is training to be a vampire slayer. 

Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead.  In the isolated mountains of northwestern Montana, St. Vladimir's Academy offers education for both the elite members of the ruling vampire class, and the half-vampire creatures who serve and protect them. Lissa, a member of the ruling Moroi class, has been on the run with her friend and bodyguard, dhampir Rose, for two years. At the beginning of the novel, they are captured and returned to St. Vlad's against their will. For a while, Rose learns to ignore her uneasiness: after all, Lissa seems to be assimilating to the culture of St. Vlad's rather well. Rose, whose sole purpose is to protect her friend, does not want to alienate herself from Lissa. However, when danger threatens to destroy Lissa and the entire Moroi class, Rose must trust her instincts and find out whether the threat is coming from outside St. Vlad's - or from the inside. Mead follows her initial installment with five more novels, creating a six-volume series for more mature readers.

Drake Chronicles, by Alxyandra Harvey.  In this newer series, whose first title is Hearts At Stake, Harvey introduces Solange, the only daughter to be born in a blue-blood vampire clan in over 800 years; she herself will wake up undead on her 16th birthday. According to an ancient prophecy, she is destined to be a vampire queen, and so is pursued by young vampire suitors. She is also being pursued by vampire-slayer Kieran; it is only the protection of her parents and her seven older brothers that keeps her safe. Rather than all this attention and drama, Solange just wants to live a normal life. On her side is her best friend, Lucy, a mortal teen with enough bravado to stand up to an entire vampire family in defense of Solange's right to be a teenager. Written in a smart, witty style, Harvey breathes fresh air into the vampire fiction genre; Hearts At Stake is the first in a five-book series. 

Hopefully, that is enough of a sample of Young Adult vampire fiction; if not, come by the Teen Room, as we have even more to show you here! 

This week, the Teen Room drop-in activities will focus on a Crime and Mystery theme.  Gillette teens, stop by any afternoon this week from 1 to 4 p.m. to participate!

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