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R&R 127 | House of Night 1: Marked

It's been ages; I've been busy with lots of other stuff and couldn't find the time for this project. I haven't even finished a book in the entire month of June. Seriously, that's how busy I've been. And I'll continue to be busy, but I have found a way to clear some time to continue the project, hopefully more regularly from here on out. Thanks for sticking with me during my 'neglectful' absence.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Marked (House of Night #1)
First published in: 2007
This edition: Atom Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-905654-31-4
Genre/keywords: young adult, vampires, supernatural
Pages: 306
Cover photography: Getty images; design by Cara E. Petrus

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It's just regular day at school for most Oklahoman teenagers. But not for Zoey Redbird. Zoey just got Marked. Which means Zoey is destined to be a vampire, and to attend the House of Night school. A challenge of a non-life time.

MARKED, the first book in THE HOUSE OF NIGHT series, has a bit of an abrupt opening; it starts with Zoey being "Marked" immediately. Granted, the book never drags on and doesn't get boring, but everything happens way too fast. I would've appreciated a better intro, as this is part one of a series, the perfect opportunity to introduce your series' back story properly, a back story I would have been interested in, as this is an atypical vampire lore story. Oh, sorry. It's 'vampyre' here. Sigh.

Using the archaic "vampyre" in such a modern book bothers me in the same way the use of the term "magick" does. I was doing a shoulder shake laugh when I read what the vampire who marked Zoey said (as he marked her): "Night had chosen thee! Thy death will be thy birth!" (etc. etc.) I found myself wondering, while only on page 4 of this book, whether I would regret this read. For an atypical vampire story, it's pretty cheesy at times.

My main problem with book, however, is the protagonist-slash-narrator. I'm not so much bothered by theMary Sue-ness of her. You know, the main character, female, unaware of own attractiveness, every boy drools at sight of her… Oh. And she's Very Speshul. At this point, with a lot of YA literature it's what you choose in a main character by choosing to pick up this type of series in the first place. By choosing the series, you choose the cliche.

I didn't choose Zoey's judgmental voice though. This book is obviously geared towards teenagers (so I wouldn't recommend it to adults), but at the same time Zoey's comments about Goths and emos and "Okies" and "girly-gays" can be very off-putting for these teens, those who would be interested in reading the HOUSE OF NIGHT series. They could very well find themselves judged by Zoey and thus the authors! Alienating a large portion of your audience isn't the best move to make. I was also bothered by Zoey's recurrent shallow remarks regarding the (only!) "unattractive" fellow fledgling with his carrot hair. I'm so tired of (us) gingers being singled out this way.

The book has its preachy moments, as well. At some point in the book there's a whole "drugs are bad mmmmkay?" speech and while I appreciate the message that the authors hope to send, e.g. don't drink and don't do drugs, a book about bloodsucking vamps is not the right forum. Zoey's judgmental voice already gets on one's nerves enough without the holier-than-thou attitude. Oh and a girl is a "slut" simply for making out with a boy (geeeez), yet the authors have no problem inserting a blowjob scene into the text early on and referring to it constantly in subsequent chapters. If you're going down the goody-goody road, be consistent and don't use sex to sell your story.

All of the above – combined with Zoey's speshulness – makes Zoey sound arrogant and unsympathetic. The authors, too.

Zoey's stance on language is also inconsistent: it's "hell" this and "hell" that, but she cannot bring herself to say "shit" or "crap" when referring to horse excrement. No. It's horse "poopie". Yes. Not even poo, but pooPIE. And women have boobies. It's like a three year-old is telling the story sometimes.
The worst has to be the humor, though, often used at unwelcome times. A prime example can be found during a rather pivotal / serious scene where Zoey is having an outer body experience after an injury to her head, and sees her body from above:

"And I/she didn't look good. I/she was all pale and her lips were blue. Hey! White face, blue lips and red blood! Am I patriotic or what?"
– p.42

I actually snorted and shook my head when I read this, because I couldn't really believe these authors for thinking this was funny or that teens are seriously like this. And to think one of the authors of the mother-daughter duo IS a teen. And how proud they are of sounding so teenaged-like (it's in their preface).

While a lot of YA-series are perfectly suitable for adult readers, I wouldn't recommend The House of Night to adults. It's over-the-top teenaged. Nothing resonates with me, nothing.
The series is also not for some religious people. The SOOKIE STACKHOUSE novels by Charlaine Harris also have a fanatic anti-vampire church, but Harris allows for plenty of grey areas. Sookie, for example, is a Christian girl and pro-vamp. THE HOUSE OF NIGHT: Pagan good, church bad.

What I did like about the series is the original aspects:
– The vampires worship the Goddess Nyx; it's vampirism meets wicca, paganism
– The way you become a vampire is not the traditional 'by being bitten'. I always appreciate a fresh take.
– Like the SOOKIE novels, vamps are out in the open.
– And it's about baby vamps going to a vampire school, although I think this is also being done in the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series by Richelle Mead, though I haven't yet read any of those books.

I also liked that plenty happened to keep a reader interested, though I will still say everything happens too fast (especially in that Zoey's too powerful, too soon).
Ah, it's suitable light reading; I acquired a bunch of light reads for the summer (backyard reads, equivalent of beach reads, but as I'm beach less…) and MARKED was one of them. Loud neighbors, bring it on. Is this a good series? Not really, I don't feel. But I've read worse.

(I may try the second book, but I'm not entirely sure yet.)