|Source: Author Website|
Marked (House of Night #1) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007, 320pp.)
“Zoey Montgomery! Night has chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!”
Imagine a world where monsters are an accepted reality. Imagine, too, that in this world, children undergo an alarming change. No longer are they the sweet-tempered cherubs you have come to treasure, but dark, brooding creatures that wreak havoc in the lives of others and have the habit of sleeping during the day. What are they? No, not teenagers (though you’re not far from the mark if that was your guess): vampires. Welcome to the world of Zoey Redbird, a place not so different from our own: bullies pick on nerds, parents and children fail to understand each other, and the high school “in” crowd takes particular joy in excluding outsiders from social activities. The only notable difference is that the word “vampires” is spelled with a “y,” and teenagers have the nasty habit of turning into these bloodsucking creatures without warning. This “Change,” occurring only during adolescence, is caused by a confusing mix of mutant DNA and hormones. When Zoey comes down with a particularly bad case of it, her horrified family and friends turn on her. She takes refuge at the House of Night, an exclusive boarding school for vampyres, where she makes a friends, enemies, and a name for herself.
Unfortunately, her story isn’t a very remarkable one. It borrows elements from a number of successful fantasy sagas, and more or less reads like an American Harry Potter: lonely, friendless protagonist discovers that s/he has magical powers and gets to attend a school for magic where students wear elaborately designed school uniforms. To the protagonist’s surprise, s/he turns out to have an outstanding talent for magic, despite the fact that s/he has had no formal training. In addition, the protagonist acquires, upon immediate arrival, an arrogant, blond-haired nemesis with inappropriate levels of hostility towards non-magic users. To top this all off, Zoey has a “mark” on her forehead, a crescent moon-shaped tattoo indicative of the Change. So: is this just another exercise in teenage wish-fulfillment? You bet. But like the countless other offerings in the YA vampire romance genre, it serves as a sufficient mode of escapism. Why else should we read, if not to escape reality?
However, a word of warning: although this novel will doubtless appeal to the legions of readers suffering from post-bestselling-fantasy-saga syndrome, this series is more appropriate for the Ages 16-18 bracket. Aside from its frequent use of strong language and sexual references (we first meet Zoey’s chief rival, Aphrodite, in a public hallway trying to force her ex-boyfriend to accept a sexual favor), the novel’s themes will be better appreciated by those about to graduate from high school. The change of scene from the human world to the House of Night mirrors the what an average teen experiences during the transition from high school, where loneliness and uncertainties abound, to college, where most outcasts finally find their “niche.” Marked, the first book in the House of Night series, will appeal to any teen who has ever found themselves bored, friendless, or lonely, and transports them from this mundane world of ours into a land of night where good friends abound, rivals are two-dimensional and unworthy of your presence, and hot vampyre guys have eyes only for you.