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Ermahgerd. Berks.

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Caliban's War
James S.A. Corey
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The Shining Girls

Sunshine

Sunshine - Robin McKinley Here is a useful tip, should you ever find yourself face-to-face with a vampire: they are living corpses that eat people. They are not sun-sparkling, abstinent forever-teens. Staying inside all day and being forced to personally kill all of your food doesn't bode well for your mental health (not to mention the fact that you have been alive so long, you've had to re-buy all your Beatles albums in like five different formats).Robin McKinley gets this the way Stephanie Meyer or even, sometimes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, don't -- generally, it is safe to say, vampires aren't creatures whose pictures you want to pin up in your locker. Yes, authors can rewrite the rules of vampirism all they want to make them easy to romanticize (I have a soul! Oh yeah? We'll I'm vegetarian), but it all still comes down to A) creatures of the night B) part of a race that, by and large, views humans as walking ketchup dispensers C) unflattering complexions. In Sunshine, the vampires are gross. They look like what they are, which is, if you will remember, dead. They are also rightly feared by the populace, but that might have more to do with the role they played in the vaguely defined Voodoo Wars that ravaged society some years before, to the point where what seems like a pretty nondescript small city is now the eighth largest remaining population in the U.S. In short, vampires: not very nice.And yet, there's always the special one. But if Sunshine (not her real name, thankfully) can be the Buffy who befriends a vampire, at least she is a total screw-up in every other way (and I mean more of a screw-up than just that she pretends to trip on things and makes too many boys fall in love with her). She gives her mom hell. She barely graduated from high school. She dates a guy with too many tattoos. She's kind of a bitch. She's flawed, and fun to read about, which is important, because she's our narrator. But she is special, with an unknown magical heritage that saves her ass when she's kidnapped by bloodsuckers and chained up in a room with one of them. This turns out to be Constantine, who is that Special Vampire who doesn't eat people, but at least he's still pretty disgusting, as romantic heroes go. The no heartbeat thing would get pretty weird. Also the bathing in his blood, but that comes later.In many ways, this is a Twilight-y book, and you can see why the publisher decided to repackage it in a sparkly teen edition, even though it is about adult characters who actually screw instead of lying in fields and gazing longingly at one another: There's a special girl. There's a vampire. There is a little bit of romance (though Sunshine has the good sense to be freaked out about it, and, at least, never describes anyone's beautiful chest). Also in both books nothing happens for long stretches of time, only to rush through an action-packed climax in just a few pages. (Oh, I forgot, both also involve scenes of googling and message board reading, which still isn't all that interesting.) The difference is that Robin McKinley can write, and instead of filling her pages with repetition and day-to-day mundanities (new word!), she creates a fun cast of supporting characters at the bakery where Sunshine works (I could almost write an entire separate review about the role baking plays in this book, but I didn't want to make anyone hungry) and puts real thought into the way you might react to a traumatic experience like almost being eaten. Like, you might throw yourself back into your work (mmm, cinnamon rolls!) even as you struggled to cope with the fallout, alienating your friends and loved ones in the bargain. This is a really entertaining book that slowed down just a little too much in the middle for me, but it is much, much better than a phrase like "vampire romance" might imply. In a parallel dimension, this book is the famous one, and Stephanie Meyer, bless her heart, is selling her books to Kindle owners on Amazon, because writing is a nice little hobby but why do it full time when you are so bad at it?Man, I really didn't mean to rag on Twilight so much. Sorry about that.(Oh, p.s. to Karen -- sorry for failing at that whole tandem review thing. We can just pretend I wrote this a week ago.)