by Rusty Fischer
Publisher: Medallion Press
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
At the Afterlife Academy of Exceptionally Dark Arts, Lily Fielding is a measly trainee who dreams of one day becoming a Savior—those who visit vampire-infested high schools and put down the undead with their deadly crossbows. When Lily and her classmates Alice and Cara begin their latest assignment, it seems like just another run-of-the-mill gig: they’re to simply spot the Vamplayer—part vampire, part player—identify the popular girl he’s set his sights on, and befriend her before the Vamplayer can turn her to do his bidding. Before long, however, the Vamplayer sets his sights on Lily's friends, and she is left to face the threat alone while protecting her friends from the dark forces she has sworn to resist.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This book just didn't work for me, and there are a number of reasons why. While I did somewhat enjoy the first part, I spent much of the remainder of the book in a state of confusion. Things that I expected to be explained never were. The characterization kind of fell apart. When you have a group with a name like the Sisterhood of Dangerous Girlfriends that trains at a place called the Afterlife Academy of Exceptionally Dark Arts, you'd expect this book to be a lot funnier and fluffier than it was. But after a certain point, it started to take itself way too seriously... and that's the point where I couldn't take it seriously anymore.
A lot of the time, the action was mixed up and I couldn't tell what was going on. I felt like the author thought we -- as readers -- were in her head and could see the scenes unfold the way she did. Unfortunately, there often wasn't enough information given (or, if there was, it was contradictory). Some things were just plain stupid. The girls in the Afterlife Academy train on a Simulator, which is basically a 1970s-style house full of booby traps (mostly wooden stakes that get triggered when you step in the wrong place). At one point in the story, Lily says that maybe they needed a simulator for dealing with a Vamplayer's seduction rather than his fighting skills. Um, yeah! That would have been a lot more useful. I mean, how often are you going to be skulking through a booby-trapped house? Then there was the whole deal with vampires being "turned". I thought they already were "turned"! Isn't that why they're vampires? It was never explained how, exactly, this could happen. With the vampire mythology especially, I felt like I had missed a huge chunk of information. Why can these vampires tolerate sunlight? Why was Lily so clueless about the effects of communion wine on a vampire? What's with the flying? How do these vampires manipulate such long fangs, and why are they necessary? What's the deal with the claws? Why did Lily have such little knowledge about the hierarchy of vampires that she thought the Royals were just a myth?
Lily, as a main character, was pretty bland. She's got a dark ponytail and she's a vampire. Okay, fine. She's also not very interesting. She doesn't have a heck of a lot of emotions, either, and when she does have them, you end up scratching your head. She thinks Tristan is a horrible, evil sleaze, but she's not ruling out a relationship with him. (What?) She watches vampires dissolve into puddles of goo in front of her, and she barely reacts. She falls for a guy, but all she seems to like about him is his hair (at least, that's what she keeps going on about). She's clueless about what's going on with the Vamplayer, and even when the evidence is staring her in the face, she stubbornly insists that it can't be so! The rest of the characters were pretty unremarkable as well. Lily's friends, Alice and Cara, seem like they were just there to create conflict and move the plot along. The human boys, Grover and Zander, were okay, but even then they weren't written well enough for me to get really attached to them. Another problem was that all the action seemed to happen in a vacuum. This story supposedly took place at a boarding school... but we rarely see any of the other students, giving the impression that the main characters are rambling around in this Gothic building all by themselves. It just seemed odd.
While reading this, I often felt like I was reading a sequel, and the first book must've been where everything was explained. I've read that this is, in fact, a companion novel to Zombies Don't Cry. Companion novel... not sequel. As such, I expected a lot more explanation for the world these characters were inhabiting. As it was, I felt like I'd been dropped in the middle of their world without any sort of explanation or guidance. That's not a bad thing... if the world-building helps flesh things out as the story goes along. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn't.
Overall: 2.43 out of 5