I was pretty geared up to love this one. A family of abstaining vampires living a boring suburban life? What was going to happen to test that I wondered? I was ready for excitement and struggle! I was ready for the abstainers to get all ape on some regular folk. I didn't get that exactly and I certainly don't blame that on the book, it isn't its fault that I had certain expectations. But I can't really say I enjoyed this one too much. I felt like it lacked dramatic tension and that it was basically a book about suburban vampires having a really boring mid-life crisis (to bite or not to bite, that is the question). It was like what I would imagine Revolutionary Road would be like, but with vampires.
I did like how each chapter began with quotes from the Abstainer's Handbook, which was a fairly tongue-in-cheek little tome. And the writing was quite funny at times. I especially enjoyed when Rowan finds out he is a vampire:
"He doesn't want to be having this conversation. Already, this night's happenings could take him a century to absorb, but his father keeps on and on as if he's talking about a minor STD or masturbation."
I mean, way to take the sexy out of being a vampire dad!
I also enjoyed the references to To Kill a Mockingbird, I mean why name a family of otherly pale strange abstaining vampires the Radleys if you aren't refering to Boo? As you read it seems that the Boo character is Rowan, the outcast teenage son who faces graffiti splattered throughout the town about what a freak he is. He is lonely, he is pale, he is weak, he is hated. Rowan also saves two people from attack and he is sort of vindicated at the end. Which would make Nathan Radley Uncle Will, the member of the family that is definately not abstaining from blood.
I'm actually quite surprised this was an Alex Award winner. There was a lot of adult middle aged business going on that I can't see appealing to the teenage set all that much. Yes, there were also two teenaged characters that were central to the plot, but I'm not sure that balanced out the older stuff.
Book Source = Library Copy
Other 2011 Alex Award Reviews:
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had to
The House of Tomorrow
The Reapers are the Angels
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake