Original take on vampires

Original take on vampires

Do we really need another vampire novel? If the author is the insanely talented Holly Black, the answer is a resounding yes.

Black, the best-selling author of a number of contemporary dark fantasy novels and co-author of the wildly popular "Spiderwick Chronicles," returns with "The Coldest Girl of Coldtown" (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013), an utterly original take on the bloodthirsty genre.

Tana lives in a world much like our own, complete with social media, reality TV shows and teenage rebellion. With one major exception: The vampire population, once old-school and discreet in its dining habits, has exploded, thanks to a newly made vamp who went rogue, indiscriminately infecting victims with abandon.

That's right: Vampirism is a disease spread by biting, and the primary symptom is an insatiable thirst for human blood. You can beat the disease and avoid becoming a vampire, but only if you avoid drinking blood for 88 days. Most people don't succeed.

The government's solution to the vampire situation was to create Coldtowns — quarantined cities where vampires and their human groupies can coexist. People on the outside watch video feeds of Coldtown, imagining that life inside is glamorous and sexy. Some scheme to get inside, even though it's a bit like Hotel California: Once you check in, you can never leave. Or, almost never.

As the book opens, Tana wakes up in a bathtub, very hung over, only to discover that all of her friends from last night's house party are dead, lying in pools of blood. (The squeamish should note that there is a fair amount of gore in this book.) The only survivors are her ex-boyfriend, a charming cad named Aiden who has been bitten but not yet turned, and a swoony vampire, Gavriel.

Aiden may be a cad, but Tana is determined to try to save him because she's that kind of gal. She's got to get him to Coldtown. Gavriel — who is kind of a psychopath with a heart, if that makes any sense — has reasons of his own to go there.

And Tana? Her future is uncertain indeed, and although there is the obligatory romantic attraction to Gavriel, it's not at all overdone. The ending is perfect and suggests a sequel, although Black has not announced any plans for one.

I listened to the audio version of Coldtown, read by Christine Lakin. The actress manages not only to pull off the voice of a teenage girl with a great deal of credibility but also makes Gavriel sound as smooth — and irresistible — as a hot fudge sundae. Go ahead: Bite into it.

Sara Latta is a science writer and author of 18 books for children and young adults. You can learn more about her work and link to past reviews athttp://www.saralatta.com.

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