I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a little while ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
First up, I’d like to talk about Vampires Never Get Old. Thank you so much to Titan for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
SINK YOUR TEETH INTO THIS…
In this delicious new collection, you’ll find eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices.
Enter ‘The House of Black Sapphires’ by Dhonielle Clayton, and discover the secret world of vampires and magic behind the doors of New Orleans. Meet ‘The Boys From Blood River’ by Rebecca Roanhorse and their enticing power and terrible sacrifices. And in V.E. Schwab’s ‘First Kill’, witness the centuries-old struggle between vampire and slayer – and the thrill of forbidden love.
Vampires lurking on social media, vampires hungry for more than just blood, vampires coming out – and going out for their first kill – this collection puts a new spin on the age-old classic.
WELCOME TO THE EVOLUTION OF THE VAMPIRE – AND A REVOLUTION ON THE PAGE
Publication Date: 25th May
TW: loss of a loved one, grief, blood, gore, violence, death, mention of slavery, bullying, abuse, misgendering, transphobia, ableism, attempted murder, parental abuse, colonization, racism, domestic violence, attempted assault, panic attacks and anxiety
Vampires Never Get Old was a really interesting and constantly intriguing anthology. I loved the sheer variety of genres on display and how the stories are always followed up with a slice of lore or mythology
Seven Nights for Dying by Tessa Gratton had such an interesting premise, having all that time to make a choice and set your life to rights. I liked how it explored art, legacy and grief. Similarly, The Boys from Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse was a complex, dark and highly intriguing story. Senior Year Sucks by Julie Murphy was a really fun sapphic slayer-vampire enemies to lovers short romance story that I’d happily devour a full length version of.
I liked how the writers often used the vampiric symbols to explore social issues. In The Boy and the Bell by Heidi Heilig, vampires are used as a symbol of privilege. I loved how body snatchers and grave robbers were reimagined as a curious trans teen wanting to be a doctor. A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed followed this theme with a lively, conversational and funny tone. Ahmed addresses what happens to the often faceless, dehumanised victims of the tragic white vampirical patriarch. In Kind by Kayla Whaley calls out the ableist ‘mercy killing’ and magical cure tropes and it was awesome to see a kickass disabled character take centre stage.
Vampires Never Say Die by Zoradia Cordova and Natalie C Parker was an interesting and highly entertaining look at vampirism, particularly codes of conduct and friendship. Bestiary by Laura Ruby boasted a complex, flawed and highly intriguing protagonist. I loved Ruby’s exploration of a dystopian reality without water. I loved the multimedia format of Mirrors, Windows & Selfies by Mark Oshiro and the genius concept of telling the story through blog posts. It was a poignant story that really delved into questions of family, identity and loyalty.
I instantly fell in love with The House of Black Sapphires by Dhonielle Clayton. It was just magical and lyrical, with a dark edge to it. I liked how Clayton addressed the legacy of slavery through vampirism and how it impacts Black identities. Finally, I loved the casually queer First Kill by V E Schwab. It was packed full of twists and turns and ends on one hell of a hook for future exploration.
Vampires Never Get Old was a thrilling, brilliantly diverse and highly bingeable anthology that proved that vampires are back and long may they rule.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Boyband Murder Mystery by Ava Eldred. Thank you so much to Harriet Venn and Penguin for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I have long believed that loving a boyband brings with it a wealth of transferable skills, but I’d never imagined solving a murder would be one of them…’
Harri and her best friends worship Half Light – an internationally famous boyband. When frontman Frankie is arrested on suspicion of murdering his oldest friend Evan, Harri feels like her world’s about to fall apart. But quickly she realises that she – and all the other Half Light superfans out there – know and understand much more about these boys than any detective ever could.
Now she’s rallying a fangirl army to prove Frankie’s innocence – and to show the world that you should never underestimate a teenage girl with a passion…
Publication Date: 27th May
TW: death, murder, manipulation
The Boyband Murder Mystery is an engaging, entertaining and totally bingeable rip-roaring ride.
I think the main strength of this book is how it is essentially a love letter to the power of teenage fandom. Far too often, teenage girls are belittled and mocked for their fandoms. They’re dismissed and seen as being immature. Eldred instead celebrates the community and power a fandom can hold. It’s a crucial part of being young, to find common interests and a shared love of something with a community that you can build around you.
The Half Light fandom is exactly that for Harri. It’s her solace and where she builds genuine friendships. The gorgeous feeling of acceptance and love surrounding the community makes the book shine and fills your heart by the end. We get to know these wonderful, fully fleshed-out characters through this sphere of fandom and feel that sense of instant connection Harri has to them. Music brings them all together and Eldred celebrates the uniting power of fandom across the world.
I liked how Eldred never patronised her readers, instead she utilises the skills of fandoms to offer a unique take on a murder mystery. The over-analysis of every online post actually works in favour of Harri here, as her and her team of fellow superfans decide to take on the case themselves. In doing so, they peek behind the gilded facade of stardom and encounter some dark and tough scenarios occurring behind the curtain. This book also explores the toxic side of fandom and fame itself, with a large focus on appearances differing from reality and manipulation of public perception. Every act, every caption is a carefully calculated marketing and power move and Harri’s realisation of this is heart-breaking at times.
The Boyband Murder Mystery is an intrguing take on the murder mystery genre, with a focus on the power of teenage fandom and the joyous aspects that can grow from it.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Crossing by Manjeet Mann. Thank you again to Penguin for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.
A trailblazing new novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds; The Crossing is a profound story of hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis.
Natalie’s world is falling apart. She’s just lost her mum and her brother marches the streets of Dover full of hate and anger. Swimming is her only refuge.
Sammy has fled his home and family in Eritrea for the chance of a new life in Europe. Every step he takes on his journey is a step into an unknown and unwelcoming future.
A twist of fate brings them together and gives them both hope. But is hope enough to mend a broken world?
Publication Date: 3rd June
TW: racism, xenophobia, death, grief, drowning, hate crimes, extremist groups, war
The Crossing is the type of book that burrows its way into your mind and refuses to leave. It is so profoundly impactful and feels like essential reading. I don’t think I can recommend it highly enough.
In my review of Mann’s previous work Run, Rebel, I talked about how poetry has this innate emotional power. Mann completely captures this once more in The Crossing. Each word is so delicately chosen in order to wreck the maximum emotional devastation upon the reader. Mann takes on such relevant topics that hold political and social weight in dealing with these issues and weaves this tragically beautiful stories packed full of violence and suffering. This is all achieved in just a few delicately chosen words and that sort of talent just has to be applauded. Right from the opening page, that intense emotion immediately hits you and creates a vice that never really lets you go. This is an incredibly compelling form of narrative that means you can never tear yourself away from the page.
I loved how Mann’s poetic choices reinforced the two distinctive voices in the book. The two narratives intersect in such clever and aesthetically intriguing ways, while also always pushing the plot forward. This is an introspective character study of the grief and trauma both characters suffer, but it also speaks to a wider narrative around immigration and global conflict. Mann really emphasises this by having the characters echo the same words and phrases but in vastly different contexts from one another. Often the same word that ends one narrative section begins the other character’s latest section. This stylistic choice works incredibly well and highlights their connection throughout.
The Crossing is an emotional powerhouse of a book told through razor-sharp verse and packed full of heart and important exploration of social issues.