Claudia Gray

HarperTeen (2009)

ISBN: 978-0061284441

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, Syndicated May 2010

This one’s been on my shelf a while. I don’t remember why I chose it originally except that it sounded good, and by the time it arrived in the post I went ‘ugh vampire boarding school, what was I thinking’ and chucked it on the shelf. I got it out again on a whim yesterday, read the first chapter and went ‘ugh, rebellious girl who thinks she’s plain, gorgeous guy, bland flirting, spooky hints surely I’m not going to bother reading this one…’

And then I kept reading.

Despite the utterly drippy first chapter, I was sucked into the story of Evernight, a boarding school full of suspiciously beautiful, ethereal and sophisticated students. Bianca is one of a small minority of far less elegant and more, well, human kids at the school and despite her parents being on the faculty, she really doesn’t fit in.

Bianca falls for Lucas, another of the outsiders at school (though he is also impossibly beautiful, in case you were wondering). He is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of Evernight, and starts working on Bianca to question everything, including her own parents.

You’ve probably figured out the twist in the tale so far (it rhymes with schmampires), but that’s okay, because that particular revelation is the least of the twists in this tangled tale. A third of the way in, I figured out that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was, and that wasn’t the first time my preconceptions about the type of story this is were turned on their heads.

The least interesting part of the story to me was the romance, because Lucas is about as interesting as a charmingly carved piece of wood. I really enjoyed the other relationships between the characters, though, particularly Bianca’s loving parents, and the various kids at the school. There are several archetypes in the story who prove to be far more than you might expect at the start. I particularly liked the odd friendship that develops between Bianca and Patrice her impossibly sophisticated roommate. In most stories Patrice would be an irredeemable Mean Girl, but they develop layers of understanding that really worked for me.

Bianca, too, has far more depths than her initial chapters suggest, and I was very impressed with the use of the tight first person narrative to convincingly misdirect the reader (well, you know, me). I had to go back to re-read some of the earlier chapters and was impressed at how well they held up once I knew everything that was going on.

All in all, a clever plot (and this one reveals itself to be tighter and more clever the further in you go) and an appealing cast of characters goes a long way for me, and more than makes up for the annoyance of teenager Romeo + Juliet vows of eternal love. I’ll certainly be checking out the two sequels which, thanks to my postponement of reading this one, are already out.