This enjoyable, chick-lit update of undead culture gives vampires and their victims a long-overdue makeover. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre marked by creaky gender relations and unchallenged class stratification.
Smart, ambitious and now aged out of foster care, Jane Williams is thrilled with her free ride to Birch Grove, a prestigious private high school. Her scholarship includes a cottage of her own, courtesy of headmistress Radcliffe and her family. Jane’s streetwise toughness conceals a naive, inexperienced heart that’s soon given to self-centered but gorgeous Lucian Radcliffe. (His musician brother, Jacob, has his own disturbing appeal, but he’s no Lucian.) While Jane recognizes that Lucian harbors his own sinister agenda, she thinks she’s willing to pay the price, which buys other compensations. Despite her lack of pedigree, she’s befriended by upper-crust classmates and encouraged by teachers who recognize her potential. Still, Jane can’t avoid asking troubling questions—she’s no meek Eyre apparent. Any resemblance to Brontë’s governess is purely cosmetic; this Jane’s true peers are the heroines of the historical gothic romances. Quotes from such deathless classics as The Monk and The Castle of Otranto, among others, begin each chapter, making the book something of a survey of the genre all by itself.
Acosta’s savvy take on sexist vampire traditions is refreshing even if much of its bracing astringency gets lost in the melodramatic resolution. Young readers won’t mind, and all can look forward to the inevitable sequel. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)