Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Evernight books by Claudia Gray

Title: Evernight and Stargazer
Author: Claudia Gray
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publishing Date: Evernight May 2008, Stargazer March 2009
Hardcover: both 336 pages

Stand Alone or series: Books 1 and 2 in the ongoing Evernight series by Claudia Gray.

Summary: (from amazon)

Evernight: Grade 8 Up—Bianca has been uprooted from her happy, uneventful life to start anew at an elite boarding school where her parents will now be professors. Even though Bianca doesn't feel that she is the Evernight type—rich, beautiful, or gifted—she knows that her parents feel this is best for her. She and Lucas Ross share a special connection from the moment they meet and he, like Bianca and a few others, is an outsider. He is a rebel who is on a mission to discover the secret behind Evernight Academy. As the weeks progress, their relationship heats up. What they don't realize, however, is that they each harbor a great secret that could divide them forever. Can their love survive the truth?

Stargazer: The bloodthirsty boarders at an exclusive prep school for the undead return in this sequel to Evernight (2008). Sophomore Bianca, still human but almost a vampire, continues her clandestine, passionate romance with Lucas, a member of the vampire-hunting Black Cross. Together with handsome fellow student Balthazar, the kind of nice vampire boy Bianca’s parents envision as her boyfriend, Bianca and Lucas investigate violent, ghostly incidents at Evernight and the underlying question of why the Academy admits humans. Once again, heart-pounding suspense, steamy romance, and textbook-gothic details drive this rapid read that will please Twilight fans, too.

Review: It’s kind of hard to describe these books without giving too much away. By detailing what happens in the second book, the events in the first book are pretty obvious. So if you want a more detailed description of the plot, I’d check out amazon or Harperteen.

I did have a few issues with the overall story though and most of those had to do with the “true love” aspects of these books.

I know some people will think I’m being cynical, but I’m tired of reading books for young girls that promote the idea that love is something that should be valued above all other things: family, friends, honesty, hopes and dreams. These authors make the characters one dimensional by promoting such blind indifference to the rest of their lives.

In the books, Bianca lies continuously to everyone around her so she can be with Lucas. Yet, she never wonders if that dishonesty might be a sign that she and Lucas aren’t meant to be together.

Why? Because Gray, much like Stephanie Meyer, made the idea of them not being meant to be together completely implausible. Of course Lucas and Bianca are meant to be together. They’re teenagers who’ve only spent a short time together. He’s possessive and she’s self-conscious. He’s only controlling because he wants to “protect” her. How could they be anything besides “soul mates” or “mates for life” or any of the equally ridiculous “we’ll love each other forever” euphemism writers like to use?

I can’t help but feel like we’re doing a huge disservice to our daughters by teaching them that everything will be okay if you get a boyfriend. It doesn’t matter if you have to lie or steal or abandon you’re family, so long as he promises to stay with you forever everything will be okay in the end. These books are no better then the white horse fairy tales that have ruined relationships for women everywhere.

It’s just so silly. Bianca is so angry that her parents lied to her (in Stargazer) without any regard to her own lies. Her parents lie isn’t even that bad (at least in the world of vampires). Instead, it should have made Miranda guilty for being so sanctimonious when they proved, once again, how much they love her and would have done anything to have her.

But we can’t have that now can we?

So instead, the lie is used as the reason Bianca won’t ever become a vampire. Pretty convenient. It also seems unlikely when Bianca is already drinking more blood and even killed a mouse without realizing.

I also felt that Stargazer ended poorly. After the huge fire and the possible death of most of the people she knows, including her parents, Bianca doesn’t question leaving Lucas even for a second. Of course not. Instead she decides to join a group of vampire killers without any thought to how she’s going to survive without blood or how she’ll handle being inside churches. Not to mention how hard it’s gonna be to hide a hazy reflection when she’s not getting blood regularly.

Or the fact they might have just killed her family. (But who needs family when you have “hope?” Family schmamily. It’s just another hurdle in the way of true love right?)

And just because Bianca and Lucas are together, doesn’t mean the book has been wrapped up. What about the wraiths? What about her parents? Why was Mrs. Bethany hunting ghosts? What will happen to the humans around her when the wraiths find her? How will she get blood? What will she do when her parents track her down (which seems very likely if they survived)? What about Balthazar? What will the humans do when they find out the truth?

Stargazer ultimately felt like the middle book. There were too many lose ends and not enough character development (even thought the relationships did become more complex). I understand that series books don’t answer all the questions in each book, but there could have been much more closure in this book (at least a chapter with Bianca actually questioning throwing her life away with the Black Cross). A writer’s imagination and talent should be what makes me want to pick up the next book. Not a ton of cliff hangers.

I also thought the climax was a bit…well anti-climatic.

Verdict: Now all that being said, these sorts of love stories always bother me and are not necessary to these specific books. So please don't take my rant to mean the books were poor.

In fact, I really did enjoy these books. Even though they do have a lot in common with the Twilight series, I think they’re written much better. I have a sneaky suspicion that these books are going to keep getting better and better.

Rating: Evernight - 7, Stargazer - 6. Even though I thought the writing was better in Stargazer, I can't get over the ending. It was just too flimsy in my book.

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