Marked: House of Night – P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Zoey lives in a world where vapirism isn’t inflicted upon you, it’s just something that randomly manifests itself during some kids’ teen years. Vampyres are the most famous, charming and talented people around, but they’re also feared and treated like freaks. When Zoey is marked as a vampyre she immediately leaves her old life behind and moves to the house of night, a boarding school where you are trained and either turn into a full-fledged “vamp” or you die. But before she can get there, she gets an extra mark, from the goddess of night that they worship. It singles her out as a possibly powerful new force, making her enemies and possible allies. And other than drinking blood and not liking to go out during the day, the vampyres are much more like witches (the modern, Wiccan conception of it) than they are vampires.
I hate to bite the hand that feeds me (and supplied me with a free review copy of this book) but this really wasn’t any good at all. I can see the appeal to a younger teen, there are elements of an interesting story here, but it’s really just no good. It’s common for vampire stories to be an exploration of fears about female sexuality, but this book just reinforces those fears in a weird way. There is a lot of slut-shaming and the use of someone’s sexuality as a weapon against them. There is a lot of talk about gay acceptance, but it’s always framed in a way that shows that while the characters accept their gay friend it’s in part because he doesn’t hang out with any of the other gay students. Those boys are all too faggy feminine, which is gross and wrong and luckily Damien’s not like that! And of all the “bad” things that happen throughout the course of the book, the most scarring to Zoey is an almost blow job she witnesses at the beginning of the book:
Yes, I was aware of the whole oral sex thing. I doubt if there’s a teenager alive in America today who isn’t aware that most of the adult public think we’re giving guys blow jobs like they used to give guys gum (or maybe more appropriately suckers). Okay that’s just bullshit, and it’s always made me mad. Of course there are girls who think it’s “cool” to give guys head. Uh, they’re wrong. Those of us with fuctioning brains know that it is not cool to be used like that.
She seriously never shuts up about it. But I think the above paragraph kind of shows how the authors are trying hard to be both purient and preachy. For a book with such a squeaky-clean, sex-negative viewpoint there is a lot of cursing. Which I have no problem with, if used well. But all of the “fucks” in this book were just weird. Especially when Zoey also says “poopie” a lot.
I don’t generally worry about what parents will think when I give kids books. Working in a public library in a liberal city, I’m lucky that way. But I don’t know of any parent who might read this book and find it appropriate. Conservative or religious families would find the Goddess-worship and religion-bashing upsetting, liberal families would find the tone-deaf use of minorities (besides the homosexual weirdness Zoey’s Native American, and it’s not necessary or handled in a non-stereotypical manner at all), sexuality and thin fetishization offensive. It’s writing and plot are best suited for younger teens, but the content is often more mature than that.
To me this is the exact opposite of the Vampire Academy series. The plot of which is more twisted and fun, and the romance is well, more twisted and fun. The “bad mother” plotline is meatier (she’s a fierce warrior who didn’t want to sacrifice her independence to raise her daughter, vs a weak woman who stopped caring about her kids when she married a fundamentalist) and the questions about sexuality are actually interesting.