Actual rating: 4.5 stars and an unicorn.
“Kind of funny when you think about it, us believing we had to protect a dude from you,” Tall said. “In a few weeks we can all grab a cheeseburger together and laugh about this. A hot chick like you couldn’t possibly be a vampire. Seriously, though, you might want to cut down on the black garb.”
“Not that you were in any way ‘asking for it,’” Tall said. “A woman can wear whatever she chooses without fear of being mistaken for a fiendish bloodsucking nightwalker. But have you thought green? Green would look great with your eyes.”
Any book with a stalker unicorn and an alpha-female vampire with a sadistic streak is bound to be a fucking winner. This book is fa-bu-lous. *snaps fingers*
- A motherfucking sparkly twinkly stabbing stalker unicorn, HELLO?!
- A strong female vampire lead who slowly discovers her humanity (who's a master at power plays)
- A Mafia-like vampiric society
- A sweet love interest who's a decent human being, and a love triangle that doesn't hurt because it's not really much of one
- A hilarious portrayal of high school that points out the clichés within the cliques
- A tongue-in-cheek style of writing, chock full of deadpan humor (no pun intended)
- Actual female friendship! Hallelujah!
The unicorn stood between the dumpsters. He sparkled like a horse-shaped disco ball. His traditional spiral horn beamed like a toy light saber.
Pearl burst out laughing. “Seriously? A unicorn? Please.”
“Why are you here? Are you dumpster diving?” Pearl asked. “I can see how the horn would be useful in sorting through trash. But is that really appropriate behavior for a mythical creature? Shouldn’t you be eating honey and sunshine?”
Pearl is a vampire. She is merciless (and in The Family, she's got to be). She drinks blood, she's even got a favorite drink. His name's Brad. He works at the ice cream shop. He tastes best after he's bad mint ice cream.
“Shh,” she said. “Nearly dawn. No time for talking.” Snuggling against him, she continued to feed him ice cream. He swallowed mechanically, as if her proximity erased all brain function. Pearl pressed closer and pushed his straggly hair back away from his neck.
And then she extended her fangs and sank them into his jugular.
But all that was before she got stabbed by an unicorn. A motherfucking unicorn. They're not supposed to even exist! Naturally, nobody believes her. Her family (The Family) just laughs at her. Pearl's Family is like a vampire Mafia. Her mother is cold (as well as cold-blooded). Her father is a "businessman." But all in all, it's a fairly normal family...just a little deadlier than most. She's got a fussy aunt. She's got an idiot cousin. She's got a crazy uncle.
...his propensity to chew off birds’ heads was much more unsettling than the puckering on his cheeks.
But the family has more to worry about that the possible sighting of an unicorn, the King of the vampires is coming to town, and her family is their host. So yeah, bigger things to worry about here.
But then, weird things start happening...Pearl starts feeling empathy for her food (aka Brad the ice cream boy).
I should release him, she thought. Let the puppy run free.
Pearl shook her head. Where on earth had that thought come from? He wasn’t a puppy; he was a walking Happy Meal. Had she really just worried about how her snack felt? Seriously?
She sees her own reflection---and my fucking god...she can step into the sun without dying in a blaze of fire.
Colored light tinted her pale skin, and Pearl raised her arm and turned it over to watch the stained-glass light dance over her blue veins and bring hints of color into the whiteness, as if her skin were Formica.
Well, look at that, she thought. I’m a sparkly vampire.
The Family isn't too happy to find out about this, but there's the problem with The King coming to town. They have to provide the entertainment. They have to provide the food (aka HUMANS OM NOM NOM). And now their daughter, Pearl, can step into sunlight and not die a fiery death. Hm. HMMMMMMMMMMM. This may be useful.
“You want me to find the king’s dinner in daylight?” Pearl guessed.
“Precisely,” Mother said.
Daddy smiled. “We want you to attend high school.”
Because there's nothing more delicious than a schoolful of teenagers ^_^
So Pearl's going to go to high school for the first time in her life, huzzah! She already knows a couple of kids, too, there's sweet, friendly Bethany, and super nice guy with a hero complex, Evan.
He’d chosen a chair by the window. Sunlight streamed in, illuminating the dust to create distinct rays so it appeared as if he were highlighted by a halo of angelic light. If he’d been trying to stage it to catch her eye, he couldn’t have planned it better.
The school is...interesting, and for a vampire used to dominance and power play within the vampiric hierarchy...it's a piece of cake. There's your usual cliques, there's the Queen Bee...of whom Pearl isn't the least bit scared.
She watched as Ashlyn strode across the cafetorium with all the confidence of a vampire...and Pearl wondered if that was it, if it was the confidence that she radiated that was the source of her power.
If that’s all it takes, Pearl thought, then I’m going to rule this place.
Pearl is fucking awesome. She's got the strength. She's got the looks. She's got the swagger. She's got the confidence. Within the first day, she's insulted and upstaged an aggressive teacher, she's scratched Queen Bee's car, and Greenbridge High School doesn't know what hit it.
“Are you kidding?” Bethany said. “She’s, like, a hero!” With shining eyes, she turned to Pearl. “You are exactly what this school needs.”
“How convenient,” Pearl said, “since this school is exactly what I need.”
Everything would be perfect if she's starting to...feel things for the pesky fucking humans. Everything would be perfect if she weren't so busy that she doesn't have time to eat (drink, rather), or sleep. Everything would be perfect if SHE WEREN'T BEING STALKED BY A FUCKING UNICORN.
As the sun sank into the horizon, Pearl trudged home without having seen a single sparkly hoofprint or rainbowed poop pile. It wasn’t as if she’d expected unicorn wuz here graffiti...Okay, yes, that would have been nice.
Pearl's hunger soon gets the better of her...and in the midst of gaining control, Pearl makes a mistake. And now, it seems like her meals---aka, her human friends---are the only ones to whom she can turn.
Hating herself for what she was about to say, Pearl blurted out the words: “I need help.”
So softly that Pearl was certain she wasn’t meant to hear it, Evan whispered, “And lo, Hell freezes over.”
In the end, who will Pearl become? The bloodsucking, cold-hearted creature of vampire lore...or someone who's only too human?
She swallowed hard and tried to force the achy feeling to stop. No matter how lovely the words were, these people didn’t understand, and she couldn’t stay.
Staying could destroy her more thoroughly than a stake through the heart ever could.
Upstairs was the perfect suburban home: couches and TV in the living room, marble counters and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, and color-coordinated lacy bedrooms. Downstairs, hidden from human view, was a catacomb of tunnels and rooms that included sleeping chambers, training rooms, torture rooms, a few storage areas, and the treasury.
This is a modern US setting in which vampires exist unbeknownst to humans (and so do other supernatural creatures, like zombies, but they're rare. Unicorns, naturally, are just imaginary, duh!).
This vampiric society is dominated by powerful families, Pearl's family, the Sanges, are dominant in their region.
Their clan was rising in prominence. Daddy owned real estate throughout western Connecticut, including multiple businesses in Hartford, and Mother had a head for business that rivaled any CEO’s.
Her father is a "shark." Her mother is ruthless.
You didn’t sit down to tea with someone you were about to punish, but then she’d once seen Mother wait an entire week before slicing off the toe of a distant relative who had crossed into their territory without permission.
And their entire family, however eccentric some members, are to be feared. Of course, they're not without their sense of humor. Like family dinner nights, in which the food...is human.
Their dinner had been presented on a bed of lettuce. Carrots had been stuck in candelabras on either side of the boy’s torso, and his hands had been positioned to hold a decorative cabbage as if it were a bride’s bouquet. He wore a bellhop uniform.
Their society is dominated by power, power play, and mind games of dominance...which makes Pearl's personality so much more interesting.
Pearl didn’t want to adjust. She wanted humans to revert to being merely meals again. She wanted to stop pretending to fit in. She wanted to return to being the ordinary child she was born to be, not a special miracle charged with this impossible task.
I fucking loved Pearl. She has such a strong personality, without weakness as a vampire who sees humans purely as food, which makes her all the more realistic when she finally...due to the stupid unicorn...starts feeling emotions. Pearl is exceedingly intelligent, you don't get to be an idiot being raised in a family in which survival of the fittest is the motto, and therefore, Pearl is so, so tough and cold initially. She's been raised that way, and she can read people like a book. Which is how she knows to interpret the cliques and power structure at her high school.
Others around her nodded wisely, and a few laughed outright. Pearl realized what she was seeing: a shift in power. Ashlyn had shown weakness, and others were jockeying for her position. She wondered how malleable the social hierarchy was and how far Ashlyn would tumble.
Pearl is confident. She is strong, she is beautiful, she is powerful, and she knows it. When a girl threatens her relationship with Pearl's vampire boyfriend, Jadrien...well, Pearl knows how to stake her territory without saying a word (no pun intended).
...She elected to simply wait the girl out.
It didn’t take long.
Every time Jadrien swung Laurie, his eyes sought out Pearl. Every time he nuzzled her hair, he looked at Pearl. Every time he curled his lips and pulled her close, he watched only Pearl. After a few minutes Laurie noticed that Jadrien’s attention was fixed elsewhere.
And just that, the power structure is shifted. Pearl is so confident and strong in her identity, that I loved seeing her finally expose her vulnerability when she realizes that humans, unlike her vampire compatriots...are not going to stab her in the back. She doesn't have to constantly watch herserlf.
Pearl left the office feeling dazed. Mrs. Kerry at the front desk waved at her as she half walked and half stumbled back toward class. Glancing over her shoulder multiple times, she watched for an attack that never came.
“What’s wrong with me?” Pearl asked. How would she ever undo what she’d done?
Evan touched her shoulder. “Maybe it’s not that there’s something wrong with you,” he said. “Maybe there’s something finally right.”
There is a love triangle in this book, and it doesn't hurt. The romance is so light that it's barely there at all, in the context of an YA book. Pearl is "betrothed" but not formally, to a vampire boy named Jadrien. They have fun together, he is a smooth talker, they're not best friends. Jadrien and Pearl have a playful, flirtatious relationship, they train and fight together.
“Surrender?” she said.
“To you,” he said, “I surrender my heart and soul.”
She rolled her eyes. “Very romantic, considering you have neither.”
Their relationship---like most in the vampire community---is fraught with tension, power plays, and mind games.
“I’m tired of games, Jadrien,” she said. “I play them all night and now all day. But you know what?” She stepped closer to him. “If I have to play...I play to win. You should know that about me by now.”
And it's just Jadrien who will be her future until she meets Evan. The human boy who is unexpectedly kind. Who understands Pearl more than she expected.
“How about you?” she asked. “You seem to have everything under control. What are your issues?”
“At the moment just you.” His voice was serious. “I have a bit of a hero complex, you see, and you need saving.”
Their relationship is well-built, well-drawn. There is no insta-love. There is distrust in the beginning (he is food, after all). The romance is not overwhelming in the least.
Overall: Such a lovely book, the humor is spectacular. I had a blast reading it. There are imperfections in the book, but overall, I enjoyed it so much that nothing else mattered.