Horror stories have always been popular – at least among some readers. But the past few years have seen so many vampire books that it has become not just a trend but an avalanche of the undead. And now zombies have been thrown into that growing heap. The new vampire stories are not always horrifying. In fact, as many of the legions of Twilight fans will tell you, they are often as much about romance as they are about horror. Take for example the Evernight series by Claudia Cray. Bianca and Lucas are in love, having met at the elite boarding school where Bianca’s parents were teaching. Both teens harbor secrets, the kind that will test their feelings for each other. Can a vampire and a vampire hunter ever find happiness together? Of course, when you are sixteen anything is possible, but you can be assured that this series will keep throwing obstacles in their paths. The series begins with the book entitled Evernight followed by Stargazer and Hourglass. The newest installment, Afterlife continues to challenge the couple as Bianca has now been transformed into a wraith and her home is the most dangerous place she can be, as a war is looming between vampires and wraiths. With an new book due out next spring, though, fans can rest assured that somehow Bianca and Lucas will pull through to face something even worse.
Vampire series abound to feed the seemingly endless thirst of voracious readers, One that has been around for a few years is written by P. C. and Kristin Cast. The series is called the House of Night, and the first volume is titled Marked. As with many series, the first book sets the stage and introduces readers to the characters. A school is also the setting in this book, but the world is a very different one. In the world of Zoey Redbird, vampyres are well-known and acknowledged. If the vampyres mark a child as special, they are allowed into the House of Night School, to either become a vampyre or die in the change. Zoey counts it as a blessing when she is marked for the school. But Zoey doesn’t quite fit in even there. Her Cherokee ancestry and her mark from the Goddess Nyx make her stand out. Zoey does find friends at the school but soon comes to realize that things are not all right with the vampyre world. There are at least eight books currently available for this series, including Destined, which is due to be released this month. P.C. Cast writes this series with her college-age daughter, Kristin. This collaboration may be what helps the dialogue ring true, even though the premise is so fantastical. The series has proved so popular that now several novellas are available that focus on some of the supporting characters from the series. Dragon’s Oath, for example, fleshes out the background of the House of Night’s talented fencing instructor.
Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber is up to Vol. 8 now, with the publication this past spring of Cryptic Craving. This has been one of the longer running series, since book one, from which the series took its name, was first published over seven years ago. Using the now almost clichéd premise of a teen girl who just doesn’t fit in, Schreiber incorporates real-life issues of bullying and searching for identity into the girl-meets-vampire saga. Raven is a Goth who dreams about being bold and adventurous and longs to meet and fall in love with a vampire. Enter Alexander, a mysteriously handsome boy whose family just happens to have moved into the local "haunted" mansion. But is Alexander really a vampire? Well it’s not really giving anything away to say that he is – since the series continues with titles like Kissing Coffins and Vampireville. Schreiber has also introduced Raven and Alexander to graphic novel readers with a series called Vampire Kisses Blood Relatives.
Another popular series is written by Marlene Perez. The Dead Is series began with Dead Is the New Black, published in 2008. Again the setting is a school but this time, not a boarding school. Daisy Giordano gets suspicious when cheerleader Samantha Devereaux comes back to school after summer break with a whole new look. The fact that Samantha actually looks like she’s dead doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, but Daisy is determined to get answers. She and her psychic sisters investigate and soon discover that a vampire is responsible. Unlike most of the super-serious books about humans and vampires, Perez infuses this series with lots of humor while still offering fast-paced action and some romance. The newest installment in this ongoing series about Daisy and her friends is Dead is Not an Option. By this time Daisy is in her senior year at Nightshade High and waiting anxiously for college acceptance letters, while at the same time dealing with growing tensions in the school between the vampires and werewolves – a real problem since Daisy’s boyfriend is a werewolf and her sister’s beau is a vampire.
There are numerous other series, including L. J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries, on which the television series is based and Melissa De la Cruz’s Blue Bloods, which should not be confused with the television series of the same name! Like Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series, these books are so popular that most teens are already well aware of them. But where are the zombie books? Never fear, there is a series for zombie fans as well. Sherrilyn Kenyon, who has established herself as a bestselling author with her adult Dark Hunter series has taken her lead character Nick Gautier and begun a teen series with a teenage Nick in the center of the action. The first book of the proposed series is Infinity: Chronicles of Nick. The action begins almost immediately when Nick discovers that the members of the football team have been changed into zombies and are feeding on other students. Nick sets out to fight them and learns that he has an important role to play in this epic battle. The story continues in Invincible.
And on a lighter note, sink your teeth into I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. Author Adam Selzer doesn’t take either zombies or romance too seriously in this funny, unpredictable look at the life of a lead singer who just happens to be a zombie and one of his biggest fans.
If you are looking for something different to try, pick up a copy of iDrakula by Bekka Black. This brings Bram Stoker’s original Dracula to today’s world. The book is written in text messages, e-mails and reproductions of computer browser screens and PDF attachments. What could have just come across as gimmicky instead really works as a fast, inventive tale with chills popping up on almost every page.
For even more of a twist on classic literature, more mature teens might want to give some of the recent horror-classic mash-ups a try. Two that stand out in this fast-growing body of books is Seth Grahame-Smith’s rework of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin, based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Following the original plot of both classics, including a lot of the actual text, the new works just add the zombie and vampire elements into the story to explain the action and motives of the characters. Most readers will want to know a little about the classic work, but I’m told by readers who have not read the originals that it’s not absolutely necessary.
Two of my favorite books from the vampire/zombie/werewolf library are not new at all. They are both by Annette Curtis Klause and they continue to be the standard by which I judge all the newer fiction. Silver Kiss tells the story of Zoe, who is trying to cope with her own grief over her mother’s imminent death from cancer, when she meets Simon. Simon is a vampire who has been trying to avenge the murder of his mother three hundred years ago. Simon alone seems to understand Zoe’s feelings, but is that enough for Zoe to give up her own humanity? The author’s Blood and Chocolate tells the dark story of Vivian, a teenage werewolf who has fallen for Aidan, a human boy – or as her family calls him – a "meat-boy." Vivian is torn by her loyalty to her family, her feelings for Aidan and her own bloody urges. Fans of Twilight should definitely not miss these.
Pat Vasilik is retired children’s coordinator of the Clifton Public Library.
Evernight by Claudia Cray (HarperTeen, $8.99); ages 13-16.
House of Night by P.C.Cast (St. Martin’s Press, $17.99); ages 14-17.
Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber (Katherine Tegen Books, $16.99); ages 13-16.
Vampire Kisses Blood Relations by Ellen Schreiber (Katherine Tegen Books, $7.99); ages 12-16.
Dead Is by Marlene Perez (Graphia, $7.99); ages 12-16.
Vampire Diaries by L. J. Smith (HarperTeen, $6.99); ages 13-16.
Blue Bloods by Melissa De la Cruz (Hyperion, $8.99); ages 14-17.
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon (St. Martin’s Griffin, $9.99); ages 13- 17.
I Kissed a Zombie and Liked It by Adam Selzer (Delacorte, $7.99); ages 13-16.
iDrakula by Bekka Black (Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99); ages 13-16.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirk, $12.95); ages 16 and up.
Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin (Gallery Books, $15) ages 16 and up.
Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, $8.99); ages 14 and up.
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, $8.99); ages 14 and up.