The Art of Being a Vampire

Enslow/West 44. Aug. 2023. 200p. Tr $25.80. ISBN 9781978596702; pap. $16.35. ISBN 9781978596719.
Gr 9 Up–Shelby has been through a lot before arriving to stay with Aunt Clara and transferring to a “fancy, uptight school” where she soon gets into a fight and is nearly expelled. Her former beauty queen mom, just 34, recently died of an overdose. Her father has never been on the scene, leaving her mother with an addiction and an unplanned pregnancy. At school, Shelby falls in with sulky outsider Brandt. Alienated from both his divorced parents, Brandt brings Shelby to the squat where he lives with creepy Sid and Tallie, who are, like Brandt, vampires. They have an arrangement with local drug users to provide a safe spot in exchange for blood. After Shelby is bitten, she quickly develops an overwhelming craving for blood. Following a botched attempt to knock off a blood drive at the local Y, she becomes desperate and turns on Brandt, ultimately destroying the vampire house and freeing the drug users. When she returns to Aunt Clara’s and decides to enter rehab, Shelby makes peace with her memories of her mother, seeing the parallels between addiction and vampirism. She embraces her love for photography and finds hope and courage. The text is in verse form but reads mostly as prose broken arbitrarily into very short lines. Apart from the positive ending, the tone throughout is unrelentingly dark. The book is written at a second to third grade reading level.
VERDICT A quick read with a gritty, urban horror setting and a moody but compelling narrator, this will appeal to a wide range of high schoolers.

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