Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Vampire Academy Book 1 by Richelle Mead

Book:  Vampire Academy
Author:  Richelle Mead
Publisher:  Razorbill
Year:  2007
Reason I read it:  I have to read 2 challenged/banned books for my YA lit class.
My grade:  C+
St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school; it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's; the very place where they're most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi; the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires make Lissa one of them forever.

My Review

For my second challenged or banned book, I chose “Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead.  It is the first in a series of books.  It was banned at Henderson Junior High School in the Stephenville, Texas Independent School District in 2009.  In a move that has to be a first in the history of book banning, the school district banned the entire series, including the books in the series that were not even written yet!  I am not certain who started the challenge to the books, but they were challenged and removed because of references to sex and nudity in the book.

This book received favorable reviews from both VOYA and Booklist.  It was also a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers in 2008 and an ALA Teens’ Top Ten book in 2008.  On, the book has 4.26 stars out of 5.  It’s not an award winner, but it’s not the type of book that wins awards.  It’s just a book for pleasure reading.  About vampires.

Honestly, I’m not sure what got the censors so upset about this book.  I thought it was a little silly and a little vapid in parts, especially at the beginning, but the “sex and nudity” was not really that bad.  The main character seemed to have a sort of slutty reputation, but the reader discovers that she is technically still a virgin.  However, there are no descriptions of her exploits except for a couple scenes of making out.  There is one nudity scene where the main character almost has sex, but there is no real description of it, other than saying that she thought it was about to happen.  Of course, two paragraphs later, the reader discovers that Rose and Dimitri were both under a compulsion spell of lust.  There is talk about one of the friends who had sex for the first time with a boy she dated for several years.  However, for a book that is about seniors in high school, this seemed rather tame.  And it's tame compared to the talk I hear in the high school where I teach.

There is a little bit of language in the book, but definitely less than 15 curse words are used in the whole book, unless you consider "badass" a curse word.  It is a lot tamer than “Forever” by Judy Blume, which I consider a classic YA coming of age story.  I suppose the difference is that Judy Blume discusses sex and the consequences that result in making the choice to have sex.  In this novel, it’s just sort of thrown out there.  I think that is because this is an adult author who decided to write YA.  Authors who always write YA deal with sex and sexuality differently.

I think it would depend on the maturity level of the middle school reader as to whether or not this book is appropriate.  There was really nothing in it that would prevent me from handing it to my 13 year old, except for the fact that the first half of the book is trying too hard to be cool and teenager-y.  My objection to the book is that it was slow to begin with, hard to understand at first and used the word “badass” way too many times, in my humble opinion.  Can’t the author find another way to describe someone?  Really?  Also, the main character was smart alecky, self-centered and rather stuck on herself and her abilities.  She could throw some punches, but she lacked strength of character.  Lizzie Bennett was a strong female character.  Rose Hathaway is just a poseur.

I probably would not have finished this book if it had not been one for my class, but I’m glad that I did finish it.  At a certain point, the plot hooked me and I was able to overlook the fact that I hated the main female character and the fact that the author was trying too hard to sound like a teenager.  I still don’t like Rose, but now I want to see what happens to the rest of the characters.  Some of the secondary characters were more interesting.  I loved Christian and I think Lissa will end up being interesting, as well as Mason.

My grade for this book would be a C+.  I still don’t understand why the censors felt this needed to be removed for sex and nudity.  If I had removed it, it would have been for trying too hard to be hip and showing an appalling lack of depth in the main characters.  That’s the REAL problem in this book. 

I'm still trying to figure out what all the fuss is about with this book series.  I've read much better YA series than this one.  And yet, I will probably read the second one. : ) 

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