The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks – Review
Are you a teen vampire who has been permanently fifteen ever since you got fanged in 1973? Do you still live with your mother, who has continued to age, and is now in her 70′s? Does the thought and sight of blood make you feel physically sick, and does your diet consist of the blood of guinea pigs, which you can barely keep down without throwing it up soon afterwards? No? And you think you have problems coping as a teenager? Just think what sorts of problems you might have if you’d answered “Yes!” to the questions I just posed, and your name was Nina Harrison, of Australia. You would have to attend weekly meetings of a reformed vampire support group, like in Catherine Jinks’s highly entertaining, funny, suspenseful, and memorable novel, The Reformed Vampire Support Group.
Nina is stuck in a time warp, her bedroom staying much as it was the night she attended a party (including her having a poster of David Bowie on the wall), walked outside, and got fanged by a vampire named Casimir. Casimir is responsible for most of the vampires in Australia. He is also a member of Nina’s support group of vampires who fight the temptation to drink human blood.
That is, he is a member, until he gets slayed by a mysterious unknown person who both stakes him while he’s sleeping in his coffin and shoots him with a silver bullet. The mission of the vampires in the support group becomes one to discover who killed Casimir. No one really liked him all that much and who can blame them, when he was the one responsible for their becoming vampires? Still, they want to find out who killed Casimir to try to prevent the same thing from happening to each of them.
It won’t be easy, though, because Nina and the Reformed Vampire Support Group aren’t like the vampires you read about in most of the lore and literature on the subject. Don’t think of Nina and her group as being like Count Dracula, the cast of Twilight, or Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Without giving in to their desires for human blood, which can make them temporarily stronger and faster than a regular human, they are a fairly sickly, pale, and whiny bunch, and are very self-serving. They rely on one of their members, George, to breed the guinea pigs they need to sustain themselves, and have to take various supplements to be able to process the blood properly. They have vowed not to drink human blood or be responsible for the creation of another vampire, but that’s very difficult to do without each other’s support, hence their weekly meetings. After Casimir gets killed, the group all moves into Nina’s mother’s house, because they know whomever murdered Casimir now knows all of their addresses. Also, Nina’s mother is not a vampire, so she’s awake during the day, while they are dead to the world. That means she can offer a degree of protection for them.
Using their only clue, a silver bullet, Nina, Dave (who Nina has a crush on) and Father Ramon (who sponsors, mentors, and befriends the group) set out on a dangerous journey to track down purchasers of silver bullets. This is when the novel takes off and gets really interesting. Along the way they rescue a werewolf from an illegal fight ring and deal with a villainous father/son team who run the fight ring and charge a silver bullet for admission. The silver bullet costs the bearers $1,000 dollars each. They discover that being vampires doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about others in need and helping them when you can. Being a vampire also doesn’t prevent you from also being a human.
I’m a big fan of the author, Catherine Jinks’s, other books, Evil Genius and its sequel, Genius Squad. They are both awesome, extremely well-written books I highly recommend. This one will probably appeal most to readers from the seventh to the twelfth grades, though I found myself, the parent of a teen girl, enjoying this novel probably as much as my daughter did. Though published in April of 2009, I didn’t see it at my local bookstore until fairly recently, and I jumped at the chance to read it, because I know Jinks is one of the best Y/A authors currently writing. Check back soon for my review of Catherine Jinks’s newest novel, Living Hell!