How not to write a YA vampire novel 

I recently finished the first in the Darren Shan series, Cirque De Freak so I thought I would share my opinion of it, because who isn’t tired of opinions on the Internet nowadays, right? Nobody. That’s who. You’d have to be an ordinary human with no distinguishing features whatsoever to be bored of opinions. 

Generally, I kinda liked it. The whole plot is about him becoming a vampire and I was surprised by the circumstances that led this teenage boy to become a nonsparkly member of the undead. Though when I think back on it, the plot and the archetypes within it are as much cookie cutter made as cookie cutter cut cookies. I still enjoyed it. The pace of the story is fast and it’s description simple. What could be seen as a limitation makes the story flow really easily.

The only problem I had with the story was that Darren does something from seemingly out of nowhere (gets a new pet) which starts a chain of events leading to the inevitable and the moment, method and bravado of the decision, for it is a very stupid decision, had me hating him for being so dumb. Even though the prologue had a big extra story about how much he loves spiders, I still didn’t buy it. No one would try and do what he did. No one. Unless they were already indestructible. It’s the equivalent of seeing the customised Ferrari of your dreams, knowing it’s owned by a pissed off and drunkenly violent hitman and saying “ah, I’ll steal it anyway”, or seeing Taylor Swift with Tom Hiddleston and thinking “yeah I’ll just saunter up to her and show her my moves”. That last one is a good comparison actually because the object of affection is a venomous spider who turns on you whenever you don’t play her music and performs on a stage. Indistinguishable. #TaylorSwiftIsABitch #DontEvenCare. However, this stupidity aside, I didn’t give up because the following scenes describing his experiences with the spider as a pet were so disgusting I was enthralled. I’m fascinated why anyone would want a spider-pet much less let it crawl all over them – even more so when it’s a deadly spider as big as your face. 

So yeah, narrow escape there, Darren. As I tweeted earlier, don’t use stupidity as a motivator for your protagonist. I’ll keep reading to see just how stupid they are and if they get punished for it, but I’ll never revisit the story and I’ll curse its name at every opportunity. Darren Shan just escaped that by grossing me out. 

His take on vampirism is actually interesting too. The ‘rules’ are info-dumped on us but the focus shifts from vampires being bad guys to just being a different form of animal. It’s a simple but fresh take. It raises an interesting question though. Can I really criticise a story for being unoriginal, overly simplistic or otherwise flawed when it’s aimed at lower level readers? I mean, they have to learn somehow right? And it’s not a cliche if you’ve not read the other hundreds of stories. 

I’ll be checking out the rest of the series if I stumble across them, but it wasn’t a book that blew me away cos look, I’m still here aren’t I? 


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