Teenage love must overcome immortal evil in DeKelb-Rittenhouse’s (Faerie Rings: The Book of Forests, 2009) young-adult vampire novel.
Teenager Lauren Whitfield has a lot on her plate—getting good grades, working on her creative writing, and hiding her crush on her best friend, Kayla Price. Her life becomes much more complicated, and much more dangerous, when she and Kayla begin working at the too-good-to-be-true vintage clothing store Deja Nous. The amazing clothing in the store pales in comparison to the gorgeous owner, Elizabeth Valiant, and both Lauren and Kayla become enthralled with their beautiful boss. Yet just as Lauren begins to bloom as a young woman under Elizabeth’s tutelage, she and Kayla also begin to wither. The girls are constantly exhausted, plagued by bad dreams, and have trouble eating anything but rare meat. Lauren is horrified when she finally learns the cause of her ailments: Elizabeth is a centuries-old vampire, and she is grooming Lauren and Kayla to become her next immortal lovers. Lauren must find a way to free herself from Elizabeth’s thrall and thwart her intentions before it’s too late. It’s encouraging to have lesbian main characters as well as positive portrayals of bisexuality in YA fiction. The implicit and explicit feminist calls to arms and defenses of the “inconvenient” women of history and fiction are also refreshing. As a vampire tale, however, the novel does almost nothing new. Elizabeth is the lesbian vampire vixen, a stereotypical role as old as Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 novella, Carmilla, which Dekelb-Rittenhouse references in the novel. The conventional signs of a vampire attack and seduction are portrayed with almost mechanical efficiency: animal transformation, alluring characters who only appear at night, mesmerism, neck wounds, exhaustion, dreamlike visions, increased sensuality, cravings for blood and raw meat, etc. Finally, Lauren’s confrontation with Elizabeth and the conclusion itself feel rushed.
Lively feminist conceits dressed in too-familiar vampire garb.