When I was in elementary school, I read many, many books on monsters and the paranormal. Books about ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, mummies, werewolves...and vampires. Outside of books, there wasn't a lot to see with vampires at the time. You might catch classic Universal monster movies or the later, bloodier Hammer horror movies on late night TV (assuming you could convince your parents to let you stay up that late). Scooby-Doo and other Saturday morning cartoons would have vampires (usually just cranky old men in costumes), there were some horror comics that had vampires in them, but all in all, there wasn't a lot to find, and vampires were pretty uniformly creepy monsters a la Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. These days, it seems like vampires are everywhere, and they're almost always beautiful, magnetic, young men and women who are tragic figures, caught somewhere between being monsters and heroes. Even Dracula has changed into a handsome, stylish anti-hero. For a lot of people, vampires have become tiresome or a joke, something to be mocked or taken apart. But I'd like to think there's still some life in the undead.
And here we have Holly Black and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.
Holly Black doesn't just walk the line between "loving tribute to vampire stories" and "smart deconstruction of vampire stories," she dances along the line in beautiful pirouettes. She's created a world where vampires are out and proud, but also caged, murderous animals. It's a world where the media portrays vampires as both terrifying monsters and glamorous, gorgeous eternal beings of mystery. She uses this setting to give us characters who are gritty and complicated, beautiful and powerful, monstrous and brutal. And she gives us a terrific heroine, Tana, who is smart, scrappy, brave, loyal, trusting, confused, terrified, and vulnerable. She's forced to make difficult choices, trust untrustworthy people, risk her life and the lives of people she loves, and face her deepest, darkest fears. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is clever, tense, touching, witty, gruesome, heartbreaking, and inspiring.