Sarah Beth Durst
Margaret K. McElderry Books (2011)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
I loved this from beginning to end – the snarky voice of the narration was excellent and spot on, and it was wonderful to read a YA paranormal that made complete internal sense! There’s so rarely a reason for an immortal vampire to go to school, but Durst supplied a legitimate one here, which was a treat to see.
Pearl is a sixteen year old vampire, living it up and revelling in her immortality and badness, with an almost entirely insane family and archetypical boyfriend egging her on. But things start to change almost immediately when she is staked by a unicorn’s horn, which has both physiological and psychological effects on her. Her family look to exploit her new immunity to the sun, sending her to high school to cultivate teen blood, which has some unexpected side effects of its own. Can Pearl reconcile the new aspects of her nature with her family’s needs and wishes, or must she turn her back on them all to reconcile with her new nature?
There’s just the right amount of vampire lore in Drink Slay Love, solidly lashed with laugh-out-loud mockery of the genre in a way that adds to the cleverness of the narrative. It’s a smart story, cloaked in humour and teen angst while retaining a core essence of great storytelling and smooth writing.
My only complaint about the book is to do with the cover. This is a book that could, and should, be read by male and female readers, but the cover is so anti-boy that I (as a secondary school teacher librarian) would struggle to get young men to pick it up. I know there is a lot of discussion about this online right now (see posts on this topic by authors Foz Meadows and Seanan McGuire), and I agree entirely that no matter who the characters are, or what the stories are about, all books should be for all readers. However, it is a fact that we are gender-stereotyping books with their covers. It’s a little like the stigma romance novels have for some women – the beefcake and heaving bosom covers do a disservice to the book, and make it less desirable to read in public (for some – it never bothered me!). Trying to get 14 or 15 year old boys to read books that have bright red lips or pink fluffy unicorns on the cover is NOT EASY. I’m starting to think we should just have plain brown covers on all books and be done with it! In the case of Drink Slay Love, I actually don’t believe the cover is at all representative of the story, which is even more problematic, given the gendering it is doing.
Having said that, it is a small disappointment for an otherwise spot-on read. Highly recommended!