The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black
(borrowed from the Camden County Library System)
You think you know all the vampire stories? They aren't anything like this one. Vampire lore in movies, television and books run the gamut from ludicrous to really really scary. In fact, just vampire books written by Stokers take totally opposite views on Dracula. In the original, he's a really bad dude, but in the grandson's book, Dracula is a great guy, just misunderstood.
Holly Black has gone in her own direction, and I was prepared to roll my eyes and shake my head as she retrod the familiar terrain. But, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown did feel fresh and new. New, but not bright or happy at all. Black's vampire filled world is bleak, so very bleak.
Tana wakes up in the bathtub after a locked in night party, the only kind they can have anymore. She looks around and sees that everyone else at the party is dead. She doesn't know how she got in the tub, but figures she must have hidden there and that's how they missed her. She goes through the house and sees her friends and classmates laying drained on the floor. Tana assumes someone must have opened a window, which everyone knows you should never do. Eventually she hears sounds coming from a bedroom. There, she finds her charismatic ex-boyfriend tied to a bed and looking terrified. Also in the room is a chained up vampire. It turns out there are other vampires in the house and the daylight is starting to fade. Tana gets the two men out of the house. On her way out the door, she gets scratched or bit.
The way the virus works, is that you get bit, which makes you get cold, but you don't necessarily turn into a vampire. If you manage to let it run its course without giving in to the need for blood, you can survive as a human. Plenty of people try to lock up their loved ones to save them, but it's not easy and often the result is a new vampire and a dead family. So, the government wants them all dropped off at the local Coldtown, but people don't come back from that. Coldtowns are where the vampires live. They are gated and guarded. Most of what comes out are the video feeds. Every night there are broadcasts of the vampires famous nightlife, balls and parties that last from dusk until dawn. On the outside, people are entranced by the glamour and excitement. The populace runs the gamut from people who wish they were vampires to the people who will stop at nothing to keep their families safe.
Tana takes her ex, Aiden and Gavriel, the vampire prisoner, and drives them to Coldtown. The plan is to get them there and then find a way back out. Once there, she's dragged into a raging mess. She makes some friends, fights for her life and falls in love.
I was a little resistant to read more Holly Black. Sure, I just finished Doll Bones, but that was a middle grade book. The last batch of her YA books, the curse workers series, White Cat, etc, really didn't work for me. I loved that they were set in South Jersey, but I really didn't like that world at all. Not the people, not the things they did. In Coldtown, we get another bleak landscape, but the story that takes place in it isn't devoid of hope and that makes all the difference. Tana and her little sister lost their mother to "the coldness". Their father chained her in the basement, to try and wait out the virus until it ran its course. But, little Tana couldn't resist her mother's pleas for pity and release and wound up getting seriously injured before her father saved her, by killing her mom. She was traumatized and guilt ridden. She never romanticized vampires. Her little sister, though, is drawn to the glitz and glamour of the Coldtown vampires she sees onscreen every night.
Black's version of vampires and the way the people are either seduced or repulsed by them, all of them affected by the fact that they exist in their world. It's not pretty, but it does feel real and reasonable. It's not any world I'd ever want to live in, but it is one that I could see as being possible, if there were, in fact, such thing as vampires.