Claudia Gray
2008, Young Adult
Harper Teen, $16.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061284394
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Kisses

I think that Claudia Gray’s new young adult vampire series can’t help but be compared to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Unfortunately, there were a couple of details that were too similar for comfort, but that’s pretty much where the likeness ends. And actually, those initial similarities were one reason I wanted to read this book – I had just finished Breaking Dawn and was in the mood for more of the same. However, Evernight definitely has a life of its own and the author’s unobtrusive writing style helped draw me into its world.

As the book opens, Bianca (and yes, I couldn’t help but notice how similar her name is to Bella) prepares to run away from Evernight Academy. Her parents are new teachers at the exclusive school and despite Bianca’s desperate pleas, they have no plans to quit their jobs. So, Bianca decides to show them just how much she wants to leave. Not that she actually wants to split – she just wants to make a statement. Bianca is shy - painfully so, and this means that pulling her out of her comfy small-town life and plunking her down in the middle of a scary, gargoyle-infested private school full of snobby rich kids is a huge deal. Her big statement plans are pretty much squashed, however, when she realizes just how scary the woods surrounding the school are. And her plan evaporates entirely when a large boy materializes and starts chasing her.

After some heart-stopping terror, a bit of a struggle, and some embarrassing clarifications, Lucas Ross introduces himself as a fellow student of Evernight. Bianca is immediately attracted to the tall, green-eyed boy with the golden-brown hair (again, a striking resemblance to another hero). Despite their awkward meeting, she feels like she’s made a friend. And thus the school year begins. Most of the students are the rich, preppy type, but there are some scholarship students who add variety. Oddly enough, Bianca seems to fit in with both crowds, which is only the first clue that all is not as it seems at Evernight. Dead squirrels are often found on campus and one of Bianca’s friends swears she hears strange noises above her dorm room at night.

Any initial similarities to Twilight drop away as the plot picks up and I settled in for what I thought was going to be a fairly average read. Some surprising twists grabbed my interest, however, and by the end of the book I’d decided to continue on with the series. Because I don’t want to spoil anything, I can’t really give away much of the plot, but we do know that this is a vampire tale, and it’s fun to guess what exactly is going on at Evernight – who is what, who knows what, etc. The writing style is easygoing and quite good for a debut. The emotion of being in high school came across strongly and I sympathized with Bianca as she tried to fit in with the other private school brats. Another dynamic involved the fact that both of Bianca’s parents teach at the high school, which could add some additional awkwardness.

The only aspect I found lacking was the romance. It seemed as if everything progressed normally and then Bianca and Lucas were suddenly an item. We know that she thinks of him often (the story is told in the first person), but we never really get to see how Lucas cares for her. In fact, for a while it seems the opposite, because Lucas is ignoring Bianca to a degree and then boom, they’re together and boom again, they’re head-over-heels. I just didn’t see a whole lot of emotion until they were already madly in love.

This book marks a good beginning to a new young adult series. There was mystery, high school angst, monsters, some romance, and enough twists to keep me on my toes. I enjoyed the author’s unassuming voice and feel quite curious about what the next book will bring. If you’re feeling the loss of the Twilight series or just enjoy a good paranormal YA, grab Evernight and see if you too are sucked into the academy life.

-- Andi Davis

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