Nostalgia Friday: Secret Vampire, bu L J Smith

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Author’s website
Publication date – March 19, 1997

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The diagnosis for Poppy was death. there was no hope–until James, her best friend and secret love, appeared in the hospital. But this was a James she didn’t know. He offered Poppy eternal life. Only he could open the door to the Night World. They’re soulmates–but can she follow him into death and beyond?

Thoughts: For being written over a decade ago, this book actually holds up quite well to the test of time. The details it gives about the medicine and medical practices of the time are vague enough in most cases to not raise eyebrows among teens who are reading this for the first time in the rereleased anthologies. And it is an interesting introduction to the Night World, which will grow deeper and more complex and the series continues.

However, I must say that it really helps to know that in advance. Even if vampire fiction wasn’t in vogue right now, as a standalone story, Secret Vampire would be seen as pretty lackluster. The concept of the Night World is an interesting premise, but the threat behind the worldwide secret society really isn’t felt, though it is mentioned plenty of times. The writing style is fine, if a bit unpolished. The characters don’t exactly pop. Today, there are so many books lining the shelves that would not only compete but completely overtake this novel that I think it would have trouble getting anywhere if it were pitched to an agent or publisher. “Make it longer, elaborate instead of hinting, and maybe try for a trilogy instead of a longer series.”

That being said, though, it was pretty good for the late 90s, when YA paranormal fiction was in much shorter supply, and the majority of new books being written for that age group were noteworthy if they had more than 200 pages. I was excited to discover this book, because decent vampire fiction was tough to come by at the time. The same can’t be said of today.

This book also suffers heavily from the whole “teens in a vacuum” issue that occurs a lot in popular media. If you believe books and TV, teenagers get way more say in how the world works than they really do. In Secret Vampire, one character advises the brother of a dying girl not to let the funeral home embalm her, since he plans to turn her into a vampire. How a teenage boy is supposed to do this is never explained. It wasn’t even, “Convince your parents she didn’t want to be embalmed,” or, “I’ll come over and hypnotize people so it doesn’t happen,” (which is what he did, in the end), but no, it was expected that the teenage brother could handle it, realism be hanged.

And yes, I am mentioning realism in a story about a secret society of vampires, witches, and werewolves. The world still works the way it works, and that’s the kind of thing that can’t just be handwaved if you want to portray things in a realistic fashion. Of course, that isn’t a fault of the book not holding up against time. Modern media does that too. And in worse ways, sometimes. But it was worth mentioning.

As far as things stand now, I might recommend these books to somebody younger than the original target audience, since the age group these books were intended for now has access to far more, and better. But as far as nostalgia goes, the book still holds up fairly well to my fond memories of it. Knowing the rest of the series helps, certainly; if I’d only ever read this one book, I might have dismissed it out of hand and not bothered rereading it. I do enjoy the rest of the series more, though, once we get into the real meat of the story.

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