Friday, 14 December 2012

Eighth Grade Bites

Level: Teen
Genre: Urban Fantasy > Vampire
Obtained: borrowed from room mate
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

I remember seeing this book in Border's (I shall miss you, Borders), and it drew my attention right away so point for the cover there. The high contrast style of the art was unique to the cover world. Well, I am sure there are more out there, but it's not something you see often. The happy vampire face on his hoodie is also a great choice as it creates a symbol that will be linked with Vladimir Tod. What's more is it's a symbol you will remember. Now, the other thing I ended up thinking when I saw these covers was that it was probably going to be some emo type vampire, or, at the very least, a book that would gear to teens only. Well, Vlad isn't really overly emo, but I did find the book was suited for pretty much young teens only so the cover did a great job at marketing for its intended audience. So, all in all, I would rate this cover as fantastic!

About the Book:
Vladimir, for the most part, is your typical thirteen year old. He dislikes school, has problems with bullies, and is battling his courage so that he can talk to his crush. Oh yeah, he also happens to be a vampire. It is Vlad's nature that starts to cause problems when a mysterious man starts hunting him down. What's worse is that his aunt doesn't seem to be taking him seriously, and he still needs to finish that math homework...

Rating: 5/10 (7/10)
You're probably wondering why I have two different ratings. This is because I felt that the book, in general, was merely okay, but I also think that it will hold more merit for its intended audience. Now, before you start griping to me about how this is a book for teens therefore I should judge it for teens alone, I ask you why? Why hold youth and young adult books to a lower standard? There are several youth and young adult books that can be enjoyed by those other than the books' intended audience (IE Howl's Moving Castle, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter), and this is why I refuse to rate something for only its intended audience. Of course, that's not to say I will ignore who it is intended for either so expect this review to have both pros and cons for both teens and broader, more general audience.

With that being said, I would like to start off by saying that one of my favourite things about this book is that Vlad actually seems to act like a thirteen year old boy! Now, this makes a good chunk of the characters annoying to me, but it pleased me greatly that they acted their age. All too often you come across teenage characters that come across as either too young or too old. With Vlad seeming more like a typical teenager, this would more than likely get more teens relating to him. It is because of this that I feel many teens would end up enjoying this book.

My main annoyance with Eighth Grade Bites was the writing and depictions of the characters and the story line. Everything was overly simple, making it where I could see what was coming from a mile away. Now, this isn't always an issue. There have been several books that I have read where the plot was nothing extraordinary yet the writing style and/or the characters made up for it. Sadly, this was not the case with Eighth Grade Bites. The characters remained flat throughout the book and never filled in their basic outline. All I know of Henry is that he is good looking and Vlad's best friend. Vlad's crush, Meridith, is pretty and nice. D'ablo is dark and clearly a villain. As for Mr. Otis, well, he was a little better though I think that was due to the fact that I kept envisioning him as John C. Reilly's Mr. Crepsley from The Vampire's Assistant so it had little to do with the author's skills. Again, he was little more than an outline. In this case, we have the kooky and eccentric character type, but as I have already said, the problem is there is no colour, flair, or flesh to these characters, causing the, to be little more than words on the page.

But what about the plot? You would think that with a vampire hunting Vlad down that it would be quite interesting. Not really. It may be with a younger audience, but the problem is that you could predict nearly everything that would happen, making it where there is little tension. Now, be aware that my examples will contain

Heather Brewer introduces two characters in Eighth Grade Bites: D'ablo, a man in black who is clearly a villain of sorts, and Mr. Otis, the kooky and mysterious character that has taken an interest in Vlad. Throughout the book, Vladimir is wondering what evil Otis is up to. We also see clues that seem to point out that Otis is a bad guy. We see his hat in a deceased teacher's house and also see Otis consorting with D'ablo. However, the problem is that the book is so overridden with cliched character types that was more than aware that Otis would end up being the helpful good guy. Maybe this obviousness wouldn't be as clear to a twelve year old, but I am still certain they could see it coming.

The other bit that stood out to me was when Otis and Vlad go to save Vlad's aunt from the vampires. First, Otis tells the vampires that he has brought them Vlad, and this causes Vlad to think he was right about Otis being evil all along. A few pages later, Vlad is led to believe that Otis killed his aunt instead of saving her. Once again, we have the "person I trusted betrayed me, but it turns out they actually didn't." Again, this can work sometimes, but I say once more than this book was so overflowing with tropes and cliches that you can't help but see it coming.

Even with these downfalls, I can still see plenty of young teens enjoying this book. Another reason I could see it being enjoyed by a younger age bracket is due to the humour. The jokes were a little cheesy, in my taste, but they were also cute. You get to see Vlad drinking "tea" and his Twinkies are filled with blood capsules so that he never gets to enjoy switching lunches with other students. We also get to see Vlad dress up as Dracula for Halloween, which is bound to bring a few smiles to faces. Personally, I thought the jokes seemed to be trying too hard, but I would imagine the intended audience would enjoy them well enough. 

Overall, this book is fairly simple, but even simple things can be enjoyed. I think the fact that Vlad acts his age will endear the younger audience. As for the general whole, I would not find myself recommending this to many outside the book's intended age bracket. As for recommending it to the intended audience, I probably would, but it would be on the lower end of recommendations. Of course, this is only the first book so there is a chance that The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod could become interesting. I may not have been a fan of the first book, but I still plan on giving the second book a chance so expect another Vladimir Tod review in the future. So far though, I will be sticking with my earlier mentioned recommendations: good for teens but others should probably stay clear -- you will probably just be bored.

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