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The Reformed Vampire Support Group
by Catherine Jinks

Catherine Jinks is one of the up-and-coming stars of the children's/young adult section of the literary scene. She is probably best known for her Pagan's Crusade and Evil Genius series, both of which are moderately popular. The Reformed Vampire Support Group is entirely worthy of being moderately popular itself, although it is my impression that it is still lingering in the 'generally unknown' category.

This is indeed yet another teenage vampire novel, although quite different from Twilight or Secret Vampire. The heroine of the story is a fifteen-year-old girl, Nina, who was bitten by a vampire 40 years ago. She is still living with her mother, feeding off the blood of guinea pigs (she is reformed, after all), and writing Buffy-inspired vampire novels for teenagers. She is not alone -- there is a small enclave of vampires living in Australia, and they stick closely together. Mostly because vampires are wimps. They are comatose during the day, they are highly allergic to light, they are weak and sickly (at least when deprived of human blood), and the older ones no longer have valid legal identities. They are highly dependent on the few humans who know about them (such as Nina's mother), and have as little contact with the outside world as possible.

This helps explain why the support group is necessary. Of course, they all face the daily battle of not biting their human neighbors, of constant sickness, and of fear of discovery. But mostly they come together every Tuesday so that they can get out of the house and have someone to talk to -- although mostly they just complain and argue and gripe. As it turns out, immortality is not much fun if you're an invalid and a shut-in. And as the vampires are about to find out, it's even less fun if some nutcase decides that vampires are real, and starts trying to hunt them down.

This is a teenage vampire novel, so of course there is some romance, although it is very low-key. And while there certainly is adventure, the vampires have a horror of violence, and for going outside their safe zone, so that's a bit low-key too. Given the comparatively dense writing that spans over 350 pages, it's a pretty heavy read for youth who have come to expect writing that practically reads itself.

Catherine Jinks' writing style is probably the weakest part of this book, and it's not really bad. She is wordy, and as I read it I found myself mentally editing out whole paragraphs that didn't really tell us anything useful. This is not all bad; the style of narration did help remind the reader that it was a fifty-year-old vampire talking, not some silly teenager, and that the characters did not see the things happening to them as an exciting page-turning adventure, but as intrusions into their extremely mundane lives. The story is never boring, the characters are interesting, and somehow even the most predictable of plot elements are made interesting -- but this is definitely an 'interesting' book, not an exciting book. It might do better if placed in the adult shelves; it is certainly not what I expected in a young adult novel. But that's beside the point. The important thing is that it is a good story, and worth reading if you have an interest in quirky vampires, and don't expect any real romance, horror, or sparkling from your blood-suckers.

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