I’ve mentioned V.J. Chambers before on quillsandzebras, and reviewed her YA dark fantasy Breathless, which I described as Twilight meets the Da Vinci Code.
Sticking to the genre she knows best, Valerie has released another YA dark fantasy with a solid female lead caught up in events she cannot control. The end result? A light, amusing vampire drama recommended for fans of teen paranormal.
Many thanks to the author for the review copy
Little Sister by V.J. Chambers
Ever since Jane Cassidy’s big brother was killed in a car accident six months ago, she’s been taking solace in watching cheesy vampire movies and yelling at the characters on the screen when they do stupid things. She can’t control the tragedy in her own life, but in the movies, the characters can find ways out of the grip of death.
A chance meeting with Bailey Westfield, her brother’s best friend and her childhood crush, catapults her out of her cocoon of grieving. Bailey’s kiss makes Jane feel tugged under a rushing waterfall of cold, sweet darkness. She only sees him at night, and she longs to feel his icy fingers trace the outline of her jaw.
Jane doesn’t realize that she’s been (literally) sucked into the plot of a vampire movie. And she’s not so snarky when there are teeth on her own neck.
Falling somewhere between paranormal romance and YA dark fantasy, Little Sister is an engaging, short and sweet read with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. In a market overflowing with vampire literature, V.J. Chambers brings some originality to her vampires, interweaving classical mythology (garlics, sunlight, crosses) with a pinch of the unexpected.
Jane is a snarky teenager trying to escape from the truths she doesn’t want to face; Bailey is a brooding slightly self-centred vampire musician. Brought together by the death of Jane’s brother, the two use each other to find oblivion. Throw in Bailey’s slightly psycho ex-girlfriend and Jane’s concerned, well-meaning best friend and you have a soap opera waiting to happen.
Of all the vamp literature I’ve read, Little Sister is perhaps the most contemporary, using tactics such as online message forums to move the story forward. While this makes the story easier to relate to, some of these contemporary elements didn’t quite work for me. The references to other popular vampire films and novels — which other readers enjoyed — felt a little gimmicky to me, and I also found it a little too convenient that Jane would forget she had her cell phone on her at the key turning point.
However, I must admit to being overall pleasantly surprised by Little Sister. I liked that VJ’s vampires are so very human, more along the lines of university kids with an extra strong aversion to sunlight rather than centuries-old out-of-their-time eloquent gentlemen. Bailey and his roomate Crux are very young vampires, which avoids the usual imbalance in vampire/human relationships and means that Jane has a better fighting chance when standing up to Bailey.
The cherry on top is that VJ’s writing has improved since Breathless — her writing is more descriptive and better balanced between dialogue and prose. I also found the romance between Jane and Bailey more believable than the Jason/Azazel relationship; rather than being destined to be together, Jane and Bailey fall into a relationship because they find comfort in each other, which feels far more genuine.
In sum, if you like vampires and teen dramas, then this novella might be one for you.