Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: It Sucks to Be Me

Sucks to Be Me

Mina Hamilton is your ordinary 16 year old girl who has ordinary problems.  She is worried about her Chemistry test, whether she can get Nathan, the boy she has liked since forever to like her back, or even notice her, there is Prom coming up and oh yeah, her parents are bloodsucking undead creatures of the night. accountant and a middle-school teacher, but still undead.
Yeah, Mina's parents (an her weird uncle) are vampires.
And now she has to decide if she is going to become one too.
In a few weeks.
Or else.

And that begins the tale "It Sucks to Be Me" by new(ish) author Kimberly Pauley.  I got the chance to read this book while on vacation and frankly I was very, very pleased.  Ok a few disclaimers out of the way.  Yes, I know this book is aimed squarely at the Young Adult crowd, and I do know Kim.  But all that aside, this is a really good book.  Lets look into it.

Ok, the hero of our tale is Mina Hamilton the aforementioned 16 year old.  Her parents are vampires, something she has known all her life (it happened just after she was born) and it no big deal to her.  It becomes a big deal when the Northwest Regional Vampire Council (think the Camarilla with more red tape) finds out.  Now Mina, on top of everything else, has to decide whether or not to become a vampire.  She has to take Vampire Classes (not even remotely as cheesy as it sounds, and it is supposed to sound cheesy) and learn all these laws of the undead.  All the time she can't even tell her BFF about it.  Sure it's teen girl melodrama, but Kim really  makes it work well.

I will be honest here, I liked it. A lot.  I am not the target audience, and neither are many of the people that read this blog, but it was a well written, funny book that never takes the vampire myth too seriously but you can tell that Kim really knows her stuff.  I bet she could turn out a vampire tale worthy of Laurel K. Hamilton or Anne Rice and be a thousand times better than Stephanie Meyer.  But I get the distinct feel that that is not where her muse or interests lie.  I think it is obvious that Mina here is running the show so to speak.

Mina is an interesting character.  Like so many Urban-Fantasy-Supernatural / Chick-Lit books out there today Mina is a strong female-or at least she is going to be.  She is still only 16 and all the insecurities and hang-ups related to that. She doesn't know all the answers or even really what the questions are.  She is not entranced by the whole "vampire culture", thinking that some of it is kinda gross, and is more concerned with what and older heroine my consider trivial.  That though is her charm really, and the cleverness of Kim's writing.

Things I liked, in no particular order.
- Weird Uncle Mortie.  One day I need to ask if he is based on a real person, her characterization of him was too vivid. I know exactly what this guy looked like from the moment he left his giant yellow Cadillac.
- Mina's book report on "Dracula".  Very clever and I actually wanted to read more of that.  But that is the teacher in me.
- The author of the vampire books.  She was a kook and she was the one who wasn't a vampire.
- The Black Talons. Are we going to see more than them?  They are certainly not kiddie fare and closer to something like a "Black Court" vampire.
- Can't wait to see more of Mina in the next book.
- Great debut novel.  Some novels from first time authors read like a lot of really cool ideas strung together with a thin plot.  Not this one.  The plot gets into high gear right away and brings you along for the ride.
- I loved that Mina's family was so central to the tale.  I get tired of books where the family is missing, underused, or outright killed off.  Mina's parents (and Uncle Mortie again) are just as important to the tale and to Mina.
- A quick and easy read.  Perfect for vacation or just a nice afternoon with a book.

So. what can you, the older gamer, get from these books?

Well there is a bit actually.  It is good to see a new(er) take on vampires that does not make them into some sort of fetish object or make them sparkle.  In fact this book pretty much dismisses those points of view completely.  Ok, so Mina's parents and uncle are not the vamps from Dusk till Dawn (her favorite movie) either, but they certainly seem the exception rather than the rule.  Or, maybe they are just laying low.  It is easy to see that this book could take place in a larger universe similar to that of any modern supernatural game.  My own "Mayfair's" would work well as a "Blood Bar" in this universe too.

But most importantly I think the book is just a fun read.  When the kids have graduated Harry Potter, and they haven't yet (or won't) moved on to Twilight, then this is perfect.  Actually this is much better than Twilight.

This book is the perfect antidote for angsty, sprakly or otherwise gothier-than-thou vampires.  I look forward to more of Mina's (mis)adventures and a whole new list of why it still sucks to be her.



Deb Pauley said...

I loved your review and totally agree. I would have sworn I would never, never have read any book about vampires, but when your daughter-in-law spins one out you feel sort of obligated. I truly loved the book! (I am soooo far past the young adult stage, also I loaned my book to a friend aged 79 and she also really loved it. Maybe we should not target only the "young adult" or teen readers!) I am amazed at the quality of the 1st novel, and anxiously awaiting May 11 when I can fianlly get my hands on the sequel, "Still Sucks To Be Me". I would feel the same no matter who the author, but am very proud to be the MIL to such a talented and gifted person. (Did I mention that Kim is 1/2 reaponsable for a very adorable grandson? Thank You Kim.)
Deb Pauley

Timothy S. Brannan said...


And I loved your DIL's book quite a bit. I am also looking forward to "Still Sucks..." too.

Simon said...

Small world - I just recently discovered your great blog, Tim, and have been reading back over it. And Kimberly Pauley is in my 4e D&D Forgotten Realms group! She plays Lirael Sirocco, a cool Archer Ranger. :)