Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Review: Holy crap, you guys. I’m not sure how to categorize The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but it sure was gripping.
I read Coldest Girl while I washed dishes and while I ate and while I was supposed to be paying bills and basically if I could accomplish a task with one hand, the other hand was holding the book. What I’m getting at here is that if you’re gonna read this book, clear your schedule for a day, ‘cause all you’re going to do that day is read, read, read.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown has a sort of a love story in it, but the love story is not the focal point of the book and it’s definitely not a romance novel. It’s also not part of a series although I’m longing for a sequel. I guess I would catagorize it as YA Horror. It’s nominated for a Andre Norton Award For Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (an award given out during the Nebula Awards ceremony by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Here’s the plot:
Tana, our narrator, is a teenage girl who goes to a wild party and wakes up in a bathtub (clothes on). She stumbles out of the bathroom to find a house full of bloody corpses. Everyone at the party is dead, except for a vampire who is wrapped in chains and Tana’s ex-boyfriend, who is tied to a bed. The sun is about to come up, the ex, who was bitten, is getting hungry, and Tana keeps promising herself a nervous breakdown but she just doesn’t have time to have one.
Tana tells her infected ex that if he tries to bite her she’ll beat him to death with tire iron, and she throws the vampire in the trunk, and she takes off towards the nearest Coldtown, but she’s not sure what she’ll do when she gets there. Coldtowns were set up by the government in an attempt to control vampire infestation. Anyone who is a vampire is exiled to a Coldtown. Anyone else who wants to go to a Coldtown can. You don’t need permission from your parents and a lot of teens end up running away to Coldtowns hoping that they’ll be turned into vampires. Once you enter, you cannot leave, ever, unless you posess a special marker and are not a vampire. You can earn a marker by, among other things, capturing and turning in a vampire.
A lot of this book involves deconstructing the idea that vampires are glamourous. There’s a lot of blood and gore. There’s also a lot of filth and trash and just depressing stuff. Internet feeds from Coldtowns make them look like one long glamourous party, but in real life a lot of time is spent looking for squats that have no running water, and trying not to be killed. It’s true that there’s some wish-fullfillment going on in the text – Tana always seems to end up with flattering clothes although a running joke is that she destroys every outfit she gets within no more than one day. I would have liked to have seen more about the infrastrucure of Coldtown, but because Tana is hoping to leave as soon as possible she only turns her attention to matters of immediate survival and eventual escape.
These days anything vampire-y gets compared to Twilight, especially if there’s a vampire/human romance. But this book is very different from Twilight. Vampires lead lives that involve horrific levels of violence, even though they can feed without killing. Meanwhile, Tana is pretty messed up, but she knows she’s messed up, and she’s disturbed by her attraction to the vampire she allies with, Gavirel (he’s the vampire from the party). While there is a hint of a happy ending, the nature of the relationship between Gavriel and Tana is left up in the air.
If I were going to compare this book to anything, and appartently I am, it would be a cross between the Interview With a Vampire books and the Bordertown books, with a little Quentin Tarentino and Gus Van Sant thrown in. As far as romance goes, the relationship between Tana and Gavriel is confusing and compelling and sexy and disturbing. I found the end to be touching as Gavirel tries to do what a human friend would do to support Tana through a difficult time. Honestly, it’s their friendship that interests me more than their romance. What I loved most was watching Tana try to figure stuff out. She’s often an idiot in exactly the way I would picture a teenage girl being, but she’s so freaking stubborn when it comes to survival, and she’s so determined to save whoever she can, however she can, and I loved that about her:
She was the girl who went back to try to do the impossible thing…and if she could go back and do all these crazy, impossible things, then maybe she could be crazy enough to go forward to save herself, too.
My guess is that this book isn’t for everyone, but if you like it at all, you’ll like it a lot. I liked it a lot. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m a long time fan of the author and I think this is one of her best books and a great deconstruction of vampire lore. I’m Team Tana, all the way.
Buy it here: