It seems I can’t get away from series in this genre. Yet again I’m reviewing a novel that requires more time than I should spend on mockery, and is written for young adults. I’d like any readers to keep in mind that I’m a woman approaching her twenty-sixth birthday, and I’m making fun of novellas aimed at teenage girls. This is how I spend my weekends.
Anyway, this week in vampires I read the first in The Vampire Journals saga called Turned by Morgan Rice.
It follows Caitlin Paine (yea, I know,) who has just transferred to an inner city New York high school. Clutching her journal, Caitlin wanders a school which is everything that the movie Dangerous Minds has taught me, except there’s no lily-white savior anywhere to turn around the hard-knock lives of the students. There’s over-crowding, metal detectors, and teachers who sit at their desks reading newspapers instead of minding the herd. Caitlin then describes herself as completely average:
“At five foot five she wasn’t especially tall, and with her brown hair and brown eyes (and normal weight) she felt she was average.”
That description sounds familiar. And then this happens:
“There was something about her that made people look twice. She knew, deep down, that she was different. But she wasn’t exactly sure how.”
Well, that something is that you’re the heroine of this story, and no one ever seems to want to write about actually plain-looking people, ignoring the fact that the majority of the population fall into that category. Or maybe it’s because she’s a vampire. I don’t know, this is only the second page.
Then the narrative gets arbitrary in its defense about racial issues.
“—she felt alone. Not because she was the only white girl—she actually preferred that. Some of her closest friends at other schools had been black, Spanish, Asian, Indian—and some of her meanest frenemies had been white.”
That’s—-good to know?
Caitlin meets a nice boy called Jonah who gives up his seat for her, and like many lonely and socially awkward people, she takes this simply act of kindness to mean attraction and love. And sadly, she’s right, as this genre loves to encourage girls to cling desperately to the first guy that is nice to you. The other students mockingly call him ‘Barack’, as they think he looks like the president. Caitlin looks at him and agrees. Except that she describes him as green-eyed, with short brown hair and olive skin. So, I guess?
On her way home, Caitlin’s inner monologue introduces us to her home life: her dad left when she was little, she has a fourteen year old brother named Sam whom she adores, and she and her mother have a very volatile relationship. Her mother moving the family every few years or months doesn’t help. Interrupting this exposition, Caitlin spots four bullies beating up some thin boy who looks like Barack Obama except not at all—-it’s Jonah!
Caitlin yells at the bullies to stop. They do, and proceed to chase her down an alley, and she drops her journal in her haste. Trapped, Caitlin turns toward her pursuers, and shit gets freaky. She feels such primal anger that she hulks-out:
“Caitlin let out a primal roar that surprised and scared even her. As the first kid approached her and laid his beefy hand on her wrist, she watched as her hand reacted on it’s own, grabbing hold of her attacker’s wrist and twisting it backwards at a right angle. The kid’s face contorted in shock as his wrist, and then arm, were snapped in two.”
Alright! I can get behind this. The next kid she sends flying by planting both feet on his chest and kicking, Dragon Ball Z style. The last two she picks up by their necks, and conks their heads together, accompanied with what I can only assume is a coconut sound. Then she stares at their necks and blacks out, coming to outside of her apartment. OK I was right, vampire! How’d I guess?!
There’s a brief interlude where her fifteen year old brother Sam (I thought he was fourteen?!) enters her room and mentions running away to their last home town. Caitlin yells in anger, “Just go!” as her feelings are hurt and she feels like he wants to abandon her, like all the men in her life.
Anyway, the next day at school Caitlin feels a new energy, and when she shows up twenty-five minutes late to her class, she corrects her teacher’s grammar and gets sent to the principal. She basically says, “Fuck this noise,” and wanders the school. She runs into a beat up Jonah, and although she tries to play dumb on how he got his injuries, he pulls out her journal which she’d forgotten about. He then invites her on a date to a symphony, as he’s a viola player; sensitive and nonthreatening.
Caitlin goes home and gets attacked by her mother. Sam’s gone! Caitlin is happy he’s in a better place. This girl adjusts almost too easily to life’s changes. ‘Shrug’ should be her middle name. Her mother then yells at her that she should never have taken her in. It turns out Caitlin is her father’s daughter, but not her mother’s. Caitlin leaves with one change of clothes after casually shoving her mother through two walls.
At the concert, Caitlin is in total bliss, sitting next to Jonah and holding his hand, watching some famous Italian singer perform Beethoven’s ninth (yes, there are lyrics. Am I uncultured for not knowing that? This is why nice boys don’t ask me to symphonies.) Then she gets horrible cramps, and jumps up to scramble away just as intermission begins, leaving an alarmed Jonah behind. But she doesn’t run to the bathroom to take ibuprofen. These aren’t lady cramps. These are hunger cramps. She stumbles around the hall in a haze, until she accidentally walks into that Italian singer’s dressing room. She blacks out again, and wakes up in a dumpster. The sunlight gives her a splitting headache. Nothing strange there, sounds like my weekend nights. Or work week nights. Let’s just say I end up in a lot of places.
Cut to the detective on the case, whose name is Grace, (Heeeey—). As she enters the crime scene at the opera house, she thinks about how she’s forty and should have married (What.) The Italian singer is dead, with two puncture wounds on his neck. Who could have done this?! Oh wait, here’s a ticket stub on the ground. Nice going, dumpster girl.
Caitlin decides to go home, as she needs her cell and some not garbage clothes. When she arrives, however, she’s slightly distracted by the corpse of her mother. Three men dressed in black appear out of the shadows, confronting Caitlin on the opera murder. They start asking questions: which coven is she from? Did she know she was on their turf? Befuddled and probably smelling pretty rank by now, Caitlin edges over toward the window. Police arrive at the scene, and their quick and messy murders are just the distraction Caitlin needs to jump out onto the fire escape. Despite her new-found agility and strength, the three men eventually pin her down and capture her.
She awakens in a dungeon, and is then taken to some council chamber. There she views people dressed in black scurry from pillar to pillar, making a fluttery bird sound. Awww! (I love birds.)
A man sitting behind a council desk, who radiates pure evil, asks Caitlin the same questions as before. What coven sent her? Why did she kill so publicly? What’s her deal? Caitlin kind of just stands there in response, so they decide to torture her by pouring gallons of holy water on her. Instead of burning her, however, she just gets wet. Seeing everyone’s shock as her chance to escape, she breaks her chains and books it. Running down a hall, she sees a burly man blocking the way with a spear. She can’t help but notice how handsome he is. (Really?) Instead of hindering her, this stranger spears her pursuers, and helps her escape. After running a really long chase scene, this handsome stranger gathers her up into his arms and flies. It’s like the ending to The Littlest Witch except this isn’t Tim Curry, so I’m not turned on.
They end up landing at Sexpot’s home base, an inconspicuous castle in New York City. The man’s name is Caleb, and he belongs to a rival coven from the ones who had just so mercilessly made Caitlin damp. Being dragged into yet another council chamber, except with a more benevolent judge this time, Caleb explains how he thinks Caitlin is The One. According to vampire doctrine, The One will be a vampire who signals vampire Armageddon, and will lead them to The Sword. ( I smell a sequel hook.)
“Pish Posh!” says the council. Caleb has just blown his cover as a spy at the rival coven, only to rescue a mere half-breed vampire. When they ask Caitlin who her father is, she answers that she’s not sure. The council glance at Caleb with a “Seriously, dude?” look on their faces, and punish him with fifty years confinement. Caitlin is to be thrown out on her ass, as half-breeds are forbidden. Before leaving, Caitlin has a rather bothersome dialogue with handsome Caleb. She asks if the only reason he saved her was because he thought she was The One. He says yes, and Caitlin is hurt and dejected. She thought their ten minutes of acquaintance, consisting of running for their lives and no speaking, had meant something! She turns to leave, but Caleb grabs her; he does love her! But he can’t. She’s a half-breed, and he’s been confined to this headquarters for fifty years. To disobey would mean exile from his coven. So Caitlin leaves, for reals this time, lamenting how men always abandon her. I feel like we’ve been here before.
Meanwhile, good old Barack has been called in by the police, as they blame the opera singer’s death on Caitlin, (rightfully so,) as well as her mother’s and the four cops that showed up just in time to move the plot along (not-so rightfully so.) Jonah has been in questioning for seven hours. The cops say Caitlin’s phone is dead, and they checked the records. She hadn’t had any contact with Jonah which he hadn’t verified. They decide to let him go when suddenly, he gets a text; it’s from Caitlin!
Caitlin is wandering Central Park in mid-day when she had texted Jonah. (I’d like to mention this phone was last seen with a dead battery at her murdered mother’s apartment. How it got back into Caitlin’s hands is anyone’s guess. My guess is vampire magic.) Her phone then goes dead, ( didn’t the police say it already was?) and she sits dejected on a bench. Why bother? The bench is just going to abandon her, like all the other benches. But then: “FREEZE!”, the police are here! However, as Caitlin is being cuffed, the bad vampire coven descends, (in daylight?) to slaughter the officers. They are doing so to recapture Caitlin, but wouldn’t you know it? Caleb swoops in and flies Caitlin away as the novella ends. Caleb has chosen exile to save Caitlin.
This story wasn’t too bad. Caitlin wasn’t the most unrealistic teenager I’ve ever written about, although I don’t like her as much as Blake from School for Vampires or Sam from Super Dark. But it wasn’t terrible. There were some inconsistencies, which I’ve mentioned, but hey, it’s not like we can all afford an editor. Maybe I’ll even check out the sequel, which is called Loved, and— wait a second!
I may joke about the message stories like this send to young girls, (Caitlin is powerful enough to kick people through walls, but feels suicidal when the guy she just met doesn’t profess love fast enough.) Do I really think they have a bad impression on young girls’ actions and thoughts? To me, that’s similar to the question: Do violent video games cause children to be violent? And to both questions, I say ‘No’. The fact is, some people can separate fantasy from reality. Whether it be video games or hokey love stories, a person with a sound head on their shoulders, be they teenagers or of legal age, will make logical decisions. So I find myself sick to say it, but reading books like this, or Twilight, do no harm as long as the reader uses them only as a brief escape, and not as expectations for life.
After all, I was raised in the Renaissance of Disney era, and I’m not sitting around longing for my prince.