I know, I know, yet another vampire book. But Evernight by Claudia Gray has a twist on the genre that I think is quite interesting. To explain why I’m going to have to go into details, so if you haven’t read the book yet, be warned. Here be spoilers…
I am a big fan of the twist, when used well in young adult fiction (Nick at the end of the Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Clary and Jace’s relationship in City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare). One of the greatest pleasures is rereading a book and discovering the trail of breadcrumbs leading up to the twist. Going from ‘oh my god I didn’t see this.’ to ‘how could it be anything else.’ Like a magic eye painting where you can only see the witch, after the twist how could it be anything else but a duck?
Evernight is not one of those books. The big reveal halfway through the book is that Bianca, our heroine, is not an innocent ingénue but a born vampire who has known about her nature ‘as soon as I was old enough to keep a secret.’ So why then for the first 150 pages of the book are we the reader ignorant of information? Instead of the feeling of things clicking into place my reaction was WTF?
I went back and reread the first half of the book, knowing the reveal. And instead of the careful foreshadowing there was no way you could have guessed the twist. With the result that instead of adding something to the book it read more as the twist for the sake of the twist. And as a reader I felt betrayed and deliberately kept in the dark. This was not an unreliable narrator (Micah in Justine Larbaleisteir’s Liar), the narrator was unreliable on only one point to create false suspense.
The main problem I have with this book is the point of view. I think if Gray had choose the third person, it could have worked. In the third person we have more distance from a character and they are better placed to hide things from us. The narrow confines of the first person point of view means that we, the reader, know what Bianca’s knows. And if information is kept from the reader that the narrator would think about we feel betrayed and lied to.
It would have felt less like two different books glued together if Gray had hinted about the secret Bianca was keeping. That she was ashamed of her true nature and wanted to distinguish herself from the others who were different. Like a watered down version of Jessica (one of the best TV creations) in True Blood. Puberty is horrifying enough teenage girls made monstrous by their hormones without adding fangs, blood tears, and a regenerating hymen to mix. Or if she was in denial? Or even ignorant of her true nature?
It was shame because the suspense in the opening scene really worked for me but I never felt it was followed through into the book. Bianca dreams of the flower but it is never mentioned again. I guessed the Lucas=vampire hunter from the opening scene.
Another issues I had with the book was the Bianca/Lucas relationship. Bianca goes straight from interesting guy I met in the woods to Mine, Mine Mine, Mine. Now I was a teenage girl, I understand obsession, but apart from her vampire nature there isn’t a big explanation for her sudden obsession with Lucas. Whatever criticisms you may have about Twilight Meyer puts the time in to develop Bella and Edwards relationship (boy does she ever, that is pretty much the singular plot until the baseball game and the cat and mouse games in the third act). As the book is told entirely from Bianca’s point of view I spent most of the Lucas love scenes bored and wondering exactly why she was so obsessed with him, particularly when the far superior, and (less boring and pious) Balthazar is lurking in the background. Rwahah.
Also I really didn’t get what Lucas saw in her. There didn’t feel a real connection between the characters. If you are going to go the well trodden route of slayer/ vampire romance (awh Buffy you were awesome) you had better knock it out of the park.
I found the supporting characters: Patrice, Vic, Raquel far more interesting than either Lucas or Bianca.
It was a shame because these factors spoiled my enjoyment of the genuinely different things Gray is doing within the genre. The girl vampire is notoriously underdeveloped apart from Jessica and Pam in True Blood. I loved the fact that in the love scenes Bianca is the pursuer, she wants Lucas and she is not ashamed to admit.
This book had so much potential. The female vampire. The frank depiction of female sexuality. The well-drawn cast of supporting characters. The awesome cover. The clever gothic opening. All of it unrealised.
There are much better young adults book out there, don’t waste your time on this one.