Just what Twilight needed – a teen novel about vampires that’s actually good

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Okay, so obviously it’s hard not to compare anything with vampires targeted at teenage girls with Twilight.

Which is unfortunate for this novel since it is vastly superior.

But hey, we might as well run with it. The Vampire Academy has (and Twilight doesn’t): 1) empowered women 2) realistic depictions of mental illness in teens 3) realistic depictions of death, isolation and school (or more realistic anyway) 4) complex explanations regarding the consumption of humans by vampires 5) genuine relationships 6) genuine friendships, particularly between women 7) a mature stance on the complications of large age gaps between partners and 8) how having babies can be confusing.

And I’m only stopping at eight because I don’t want to write a novel tonight.

To be clear, although I really enjoyed this book I would not rank it particularly high on the list of Bestest Books Ever Written. This book falls firmly in the “good” category for me, probably because the writing style wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but for the above listed (and other) reasons I am very impressed with it.

This book deals with a ton of issues – I would say it’s got at least feminist undertones since the protagonist, Rose, is in a male dominated environment where she sometimes struggles with expectations both from her male friends and herself. Lissa, Rose’s best friend and charge (it’s complicated) struggles with depression after the death of her family and several strange events following it. She isn’t sad all the time but she has outbursts when she looses control, she cuts herself occasionally and struggles with fear of stigma and social repercussions. Or, in other words, she goes through what a lot of teens do. I was less impressed with the ending where the medication she starts taking just writes off her issues, but I have a feeling those will be address in the other books and I also liked that Rose states outright that she expected anti-depressants to make her friend happy and loopy but has realized that depression is like other illnesses in some ways and can be treated, at least in part, using the same theories. Which I feel is kind of a mature explanation of a pretty confusing subject. The characters, including the love interests and the enemy’s all suffer from some kind of social isolation or major lose. Some of them become better people for it, some people become worse for it and most of them have a kind of mixed coping style. Again, realistic in a lot of ways. Vampires in this book do have to drink human blood, but they consider it the ultimate evil to kill a person. Unlike the Cullins who refuse to eat people but are totally down with all their friends coming around and eating the neighbourhood as long as it’s not in the town limits these vampires legitimately struggle with how to get food while respecting the sanctity of human life. This book also explores different relationships (people you really like, people you kind of like, people you don’t like but pretend you do, people you don’t love but pretend to, people you love but pretend not to, people you don’t like and don’t bother to hide, they’re all in there) and they make sense. None of this “I’m a new girl whose like… REALLY NOT PRETTY but all the boys are in love with me” crap.

The whole book is based around Rose and Lissa’s relationship and it’s wonderful. They both bring different things to it – Rose is impulsive, fiercely protective and practical. Lissa is kind, compassionate, gentle and insecure. But more importantly, they are incredible codependent. Sometimes to the point where it seems almost unhealthy but then, neither could function without the other. Essentially, I saw a lot of teenage friendships buried in there, maybe even some adult ones and that was really fantastic, if you ask me.

There is a relationship with an eight year gap (yeah, yeah, Bella and Edward got that one beat) but the age difference is a problem that stresses out both people involved in it – I think this is a good thing, given… you know… reality and how eight years is a long time, if you’re seventeen and twenty five. Like, kind of a large deal. Even having babies is better handled in this book because it’s complicated. Not everyone can have them with everyone they want and it means giving up their lives or their children. There’s no thinly valed abortion debate here. There’s the agony of deciding whether to have a child when you have to choose between raising it or doing something you love and believe to be important.

And there we have my initial thoughts on the Vampire Academy and why it’s better than Twilight. I’m sure they’ll be more later. Look it up.

Last movie I watched: Batman versus Dracula. Yup, that’s a thing. More than that, it’s an awesome thing.

Last TV episode I watched: The last episode of the 2003 -2007 Batman. I’m sad it’s over. ‘Cause it was kind of awesome.

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