Saturday, 25 September 2010

Review: Vlad Tod 1 by Heather Brewer

   Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

Genre: Paranormal > Vampires 
Age Group: Middle Grade (8+) 
Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 2007 
Pages:  182 pages (quite short) 
ISBN-10: 0525478116  
ISBN-13: 978-0525478119 
Source: Penguin Australia (BTL Guest Editor)


Cover love?  
Love at first BITE. This cover is as delicious as, well, blood is for Vlad. I wanted to sink my teeth into it.
Okay, okay, I'll stop with the bad puns now.

Have you seen the rest of the Vlad Tod covers? If you look at them chronologically, you'll see that Vlad's face gradually emerges - from in the shadows, to the full light. Clever!


Junior high really sucks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has a secret: his mother was human, but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he faces a much bigger problem: he's being hunted by a vampire killer. - from Goodreads

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod (which will henceforth simply be known as Vlad Tod), are light, funny stories perfect for young readers, and will definitely engage the most reluctant of readers (not scientifically proven).  Vlad Tod is a series that can appeal to a wide audience - boys and girls, 8 year olds and 16 year olds. Your example? Me. I enjoyed it, I would have enjoyed it eight years ago as well, had it been released.

On a side note, I am thrilled to see a vampire series that isn't a piece of carnage in the Twilight Aftermath.
(And okay, I pined for this book after seeing it on BTL, and other blogs - which just goes to show that blogging is awesome - and when I received it, I could barely contain my joy.)

The writing is simplistic, but thoroughly captivating. Heather Brewer has a writing style that readers can easily associate with and feel immersed in. As I've said, the story is geared towards younger readers, and does not employ the type of poetic, lyrical writing often seen with more mature books. Instead, Vlad's voice is matter-of-fact, and thus feels real.

What I feel about the first book, though, is that the characters are not built as well as they could have been. Aside from Vlad, whohas a distinct, relatable voice, the other characters felt strange and awkward to me. I liked Henry, who was a good friend, but I didn't understand Aunt Nelly. She indulged in Vlad's thirst for blood, and seemed to be too lenient for a good mother figure. She wasn't a well-rounded character, because she had no perceptible flaws. Oh wait. Then again, she let a potential murderer into the house despite Vlad's misgivings.


I did not appreciate the way Vlad treated Henry at the end of the book. Henry, his best friend, the one who stuck up to him in times of crisis, was casually manipulated and exploited by Vlad. The concept of "drudges", humans who are controlled by vampires to do their every bidding, feels more wrong than compulsion. It feels like slavery of a supposed "best friend". The reason I felt that the concept of "drudges" is immoral is because this is a book for young readers, and they should not be taught that it is acceptable to treat another person like a slave.

And Otis Otis', a creepy "is he the bad guy" character, had too much mystery about him. I didn't really know who his character was until the very end of the book. I wasn't surprised, I was shocked.

What didn't settle well with me was the fact that this book was so short. Time was spent on building up an image of Vlad's life in the reader's mind (in preparation for the sequels), without any real action happening until the last couple of pages. As a result, the characters were not developed to their full potential, and there was not much of a plot until the last section.

Overall, I felt that this book can be a good read if it's subject matter is not overanalysed (like I have done) - hence the appeal to younger readers. The series has a lot of potential for more, as Eighth Grade Bites reads like the setting up to a great series. The premise is great, the concept is original, and I look forward to more.


How awesome are these pics?
On the left-  Vlad Tod T-shirt on an adorable Penguin penguin!
In the centre - Heather Brewer at the Book Expo America (BEA) standing in front of Vlad Tod steps.
On the right - Awesome Vlad Tod tote showing the cute smiley.

Vlad T-shirt on Penguin
Vlad Tod stairs
Awesome Vlad tote