Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Coffin Club (book) by Ellen Schreiber

This is the fifth book in Schreiber's Vampire Kisses series. It's a series that mostly gets a "meh" response from me, but I keep reading it because the books are short and easy to get through, and because I keep hoping that Alexander will get to do something interesting. For the most part, this book gets my usual "meh" response, but there were a few things about it that got a fangirl squeal of approval from me.

I should mention that my reading of this book was colored by what I learned when I indulged my bad habit of skipping to the last few pages shortly after beginning the book. Alexander keeps a secret from Raven throughout most of this book, and knowing this secret allowed me to enjoy certain parts of the book in ways I don't think I would have otherwise.

Synopsis:

Desperate to see Alexander again, Raven decides to surprise him by going to see him in Hipsterville once her summer vacation starts. He'd gone there to take care of some vampire business (something involving Valentine and Jagger - I can't quite remember what that business was), but something is delaying his return to Dullsville. While Alexander is as happy to see Raven as Raven is to see him, he can't go back to Dullsville with her yet. He also doesn't want Raven going to the Coffin Club on her own, something which frustrates her, since this is one of the few places where she can meet lots of people who dress and think like she does.

Looking for something to pass the time one evening while she waits for her Aunt Libby, Raven decides to go to the Coffin Club. Things have changed since the last time she was there - the line to get in is a lot longer, and there are now two sides to the club, the public side and the secret side. Raven stumbles upon and talks her way into the secret side of the club, which caters to vampires rather than humans. This secret part of the Coffin Club has become a place where vampires can go and be themselves, partying with and flirting with others of their kind and having drinks made with blood.

The Coffin Club is going through an upheaval, however. There are two sides, the side that wants the vampires to go public and take over Hipsterville, and the side that wants the club to continue to be a secret haven for vampires and a relatively benign presence in Hipsterville. From what others in the club tell Raven, it looks like Jagger is on the side that wants vampires to stay secret, while a new, somewhat frightening vampire named Phoenix is on the side that wants vampires to go public. Although Raven doesn't trust Jagger, she at least knows him, and she doesn't know anything about Phoenix other than that he may be even more dangerous than Jagger. Something about Phoenix draws her, however, and the feeling seems to be mutual, because he always seems to be watching her.

Raven gets to visit the Coffin Club a few more times after this, even going there with Alexander once, although she can't bring herself to tell him that she's already gone there on her own. While lost and trying to find the public side of the club again, Raven ends up at Jagger's place in the club. Recently, local crop circles have been making the news - Raven had theorized that vampires were responsible, because a witness reported seeing bats, and in Jagger's apartment Raven spots all the tools necessary for creating crop circles. Both Phoenix and Jagger find her in the apartment, and Raven chooses to go with Jagger, the devil she knows. Thankfully, Alexander's recent reconciliation with Jagger seems to extend to her as well, and Jagger leads her safely out of the vampire part of the Coffin Club.

The day after a nice double date (Raven and Alexander, plus Aunt Libby and her new boyfriend Devon), Raven decides to do a little more investigating. She knows that Jagger and Phoenix are confronting each other at the site of one of the crop circles, and Raven wants to be there to listen in on what they have to say to each other. To her shock, Raven discovers that she's had it all wrong - it's Jagger who wants the vampires to take over Hipsterville and Phoenix who wants them to remain a secret.

After that bombshell, Raven goes on a date with Alexander and still can't bring herself to tell him everything she's done and learned about the Coffin Club, Jagger, and Phoenix. Alexander gives Raven a gift, a one-way ticket back to Dullsville with the promise that they'll both be leaving together soon. However, Raven has one last thing she wants to do. She goes back to the club, despite an ominous warning from Phoenix, and tells the vampire friends she's made (who don't know that she's human) what she's learned about Phoenix and Jagger. Finally, everything comes down to a vote for either Phoenix or Jagger - whoever wins gets the Master Key to the Coffin Club and gets to determine how things will be for vampires in Hipsterville. Phoenix wins by a large margin and decides to give his new power over the the clubgoers, but Jagger tries to invalidate the vote by bringing attention to Raven's vote.

Suddenly, Raven finds herself very much the only human among a large group of angry vampires. Raven's friends stand by her, but even they almost can't prevent the crowd from forcibly turning her into a vampire. Crying out for Alexander, Raven is instead saved by Phoenix. Although still not quite sure she can trust him, Raven allows Phoenix to take her to safety. All the secrecy has become too much for her, and Raven rushes to Alexander's place, determined to tell him everything that's been going on - only to discover that he already knows everything, because he was Phoenix all along. He had disguised himself because he knew he had to stop Jagger but also didn't want to mess up his recent reconciliation with Jagger. Now that everything has been resolved, it's time for Alexander and Raven to return to Dullsville together.

Commentary:

Raven is still conflicted about whether or not she wants to become a vampire. On the one hand, she kind of does, because the vampire world is attractive and exhilarating to her. On the other hand, she knows that Alexander feels like an outsider in the vampire world, and she knows that the vampire life is not what he wants for her. Some aspects of it kind of frighten her, as well. She had a nightmare about forcibly being turned into a vampire (amusingly enough, knowing how the book ends, Phoenix was the scary one in her nightmare), and, when she's almost forcibly turned into one for real, it's Alexander that she calls out for. Even if she does decide to become a vampire, she wants to become one on her terms - she wants Alexander to be the one who does it.

I don't think I would've guessed that Alexander was Phoenix, because Raven and Alexander pass by Phoenix's motorcycle on their way into the Coffin Club, creating the impression that Phoenix is already in the club somewhere when they get there. Had Schreiber taken it too far, Alexander pretending to be Phoenix might have pissed me off. As it was, however, I found it amusing, a little cute, and a little sexy. Raven got to see Alexander not as sweet, safe Alexander, but as a scary, somewhat sinister vampire, and it both drew her and frightened her. Alexander sort of tested her twice - the first time he talked to her as Phoenix, he flirted with her a bit, and she didn't bite, telling him that she already had a boyfriend. Near the end of the book, he flirted with her some more, and again she told him that she already had a boyfriend, although Raven noted that he didn't really seem to want her to accept any of his flirtations. I chose to interpret all of this as a way for Alexander to test whether Raven really wanted him or would go after any sexy vampire who showed an interest in her - and the answer was that she wouldn't. It's kind of cute, and Alexander didn't carry it to jealous extremes. It's also kind of cute that he kept trying to watch out for her while disguised as Phoenix (unfortunately making her fear Phoenix even more, since, to her, it seemed like he was stalking her or something).

I'm glad I already knew that Phoenix was really Alexander, because otherwise this book probably would've annoyed me. Throughout the whole series, I've felt that Schreiber doesn't do enough with Alexander and the romance between him and Raven - Alexander has a tendency to feel like Raven's token sexy vampire boyfriend, loved only because he's both sweet and a vampire. Alexander hardly shows up at all in this book as himself, and, when he does show up, Raven spends the whole time hiding things from him. It's not exactly the ideal situation.

I really hope that Schreiber eventually gives Alexander a bigger, better part, or at least focuses more on the relationship between him and Raven. By this point in the series, I shouldn't still find myself wishing for their relationship to get more development, and yet I am. I know this series is aimed at "reluctant readers" who are probably in a slightly younger age group than the audiences of any of the other young adult books I've read lately, but does that really mean the romance has to be so bare bones? Somehow, even Raven and Alexander's dates end up being unsatisfying.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Got Fangs? (book) by Katie Maxwell - This is the first book in Maxwell's Goth Series. Fran is tagging along with her mother, who's part of a Goth faire traveling in Europe. Fran has the ability to read people with her touch, but she hates her ability and feels like a freak because of it. A young man shows up and tells her that he's a vampire and she's his Beloved, the only person who can lift his curse. Although Benedikt is sexy, Fran's a bit resistant. Readers who enjoyed the vampires, romance, mystery, and action in The Coffin Club might like this book.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (live action TV series) - Pretty, blond, cheerleader-material Buffy moves to a new school and discovers that she, as the Slayer, must forget any chance she might have at becoming a normal, popular girl and fight demons, vampires, and other supernatural horrors in order to keep the oblivious residents of Sunnydale safe. Like Raven, Buffy eventually finds herself with a brooding, socially awkward, romantic vampire boyfriend. Readers who enjoyed Raven's investigations, her outsider status, the vampires, and the cluelessness of everyone in Dullsville might like this TV series. Readers who'd rather try another book should look into some of the many books based on this series - I don't, at the moment, have a particular book to recommend.
  • The Wallflower (manga) by Tomoko Hayakawa - When Sunako finally gathered up the courage to tell the boy she liked how she felt about him, he crushed her by telling her that he doesn't like ugly people. Ever since then, Sunako has surrounded herself with dark and scary things and stopped putting any effort into how she looks. She watches bloody horror movies, she's ghostly pale and dresses in dark clothing, and her room is filled with skulls, coffins, and other gruesome things. She lives alone in her aunt's house, which, unfortunately for her, is invaded by four beautiful guys who were promised free rent by her aunt if they could only turn Sunako into a lady. Readers who like the way Raven dresses and her obsession with dark things may like this series. Also, there are many light-hearted, sweet, and funny moments throughout this series, as well as hints of romance (which will have to stay hints until Sunako gets over her fear of romance, dating, and love).
  • Chibi Vampire (manga) by Yuna Kagesaki - Karin is a misfit in a family of vampires - rather than taking blood, she must give it (she really has to or she gets the most horrifying nosebleeds of all time), and she is unable to mind-wipe humans, can go out in the sun, and can tolerate garlic. A new boy named Kenta comes to her school and suddenly Karin's body is reacting to him, producing blood much faster than normal - what's going on? Those who'd like another vampire romance that would work well for a YA audience might want to try this.

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