Elise Amador has lived a normal, if sheltered middle-class life in San Pedro, Calif., but the summer of her 16th year brings family turmoil, romance and—vampires.
Debut novelist Rubalcava brings a Latina twist to the burgeoning genre of teen vampire romance. Ely Amador has a loving family—although her older brother, Ace, has disappeared for a surprisingly long time, and no one seems to be looking for him; her sister, Camy, is suffering from inexplicable stomachaches; and it’s a little strange that her mother never seems to age. Could Mom’s repeated, unexplained absences from home have something to do with plastic surgery? No, as Ely begins to discover on a trip to Mexico to discover her roots with her paternal grandmother. Mom is a vampire—albeit one in a severe state of denial—and her children—something no vampire should be able to have—are all in the process of becoming bloodsuckers themselves. Which makes them very, very interesting to a large cast of “normal” vampires, who suddenly find the option of sexual reproduction quite attractive. In addition to the vampires competing for Ely’s attention—the devastatingly attractive Jordi Pax leading the crowd—her developing powers seem to make her like catnip to the high school boys, including Connor, the brother of her best friend, Sarah; Landon, the boy she crushed on before she met Jordi; and Josh, an arrogant jock. And then there’s Chuy, the orphan boy she semi-adopts in Mexico, who is the only one who can explain why the locals regard her with superstitious horror. The prose can be somewhat pedestrian—there’s much dropping of brand names, band names and close description of outfits—but the use of Mexican folklore and mythology to construct an alternative vampire world is a refreshing change in this genre, and the depiction of friend and family relationships, functional and dys-, is warm and well-observed. Ely may be a reluctant vampire, and she may not understand her powers, but when her best friend is threatened, she doesn’t hesitate to use them.
Fans of teen vampire romance will find much to enjoy here.