I can now confidently say that I’ve read my vampire book for the year – The Radleys by Matt Haig, a book that does a smart, tongue-in-cheek (if slightly predictable) take on the vampire trend. The story centers around a family of off-duty vampires living the quintessential suburban lifestyle in England. It’s an easy target, but Haig skewers middle class norms as well as anybody, with frequent references to douchey neighbours, tastefully neutral decor, and strictly human recording artists. For example, Paul Simon and Vivaldi – fine. Jimi Hendrix – vampire, obviously, so off limits to “abstainers” like the Radleys. It’s fun seeing how Haig mixes the dark fantasy genre with very pedestrian details, creating all sorts of practical rules that these ethical vampires try to live by. At one point, Peter, the father, chokes on a “Thai green leaf salad with marinated chicken and a chilli and lime dressing.” Garlic, naturally.
This book was published this year as both general fiction and young adult (with separate covers and marketing pushes), but I found I preferred the book more when thinking of it as YA. I thought the analogy between vampire problems and real life issues worked best when discussing the difficulties the two teens encounter as they struggle to fit in – Rowan is pale, skinny, bullied, and obsessed with Byron. Clara is a vegetarian wannabe who doesn’t understand why she keeps getting weaker (and why no animal will go near her). Then, when the kids discover their vampiric roots, we get to enjoy a bit of the classic “geek to chic” fantasy: they’re suddenly strong, sexy, and afraid of no one. Plus, they can fly. It’s particularly satisfying when Clara fends off a would-be sexual predator by making mince-meat of his torso (and I don’t even think that’s too spoilery, because as delicious as that scene is, it’s pretty obvious what’s about to happen).
This was a hugely enjoyable, quick read. If you know a moody teenager who’s too cool for Twilight, then this might be the perfect ticket.