"The tan carpet was stiff and black with stripes of dried blood, spattered like a Jackson Pollock canvas. The walls were streaked with it, handprints smearing their dingy beige surfaces. And the bodies. Dozens of bodies. People she’d seen every day since kindergarten, people whom she’d played tag with and cried over and kissed were lying at odd angles, their bodies pale and cold, their eyes staring like rows of dolls in a shop window."
There's a lot of blood in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. There's a lot of fangs-tearing-throats-out, stringy gore and insides exposed to the world. But beneath it all is fluff. This book is built on a foundation of fluff. And as far as I'm aware that is not a very stable building material.
Tana wakes up after a night of drunken partying to find the bodies of all her friends torn apart by vampires. But then in Tana's world, vampires are a constant threat. An outbreak of vampirism has swept the globe leaving humans afraid to leave their homes after dark. With her infected ex-boyfriend and a random stray vampire in tow, Tana heads to Coldtown - one of many quarantine areas where all vampires and all infected are legally required to go to keep the rest of the population safe. What follows is a confused fumbling for some kind of point to what has happened and a rather half hearted romantic story line with some mild threat along the way.
Tana is a pain in the ass. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is written in the third person so it's kinda difficult to grasp what the fuck is actually going through Tana's brain when she puts a live and bloodthirsty vampire in the trunk of her car and then drives around with him just hanging out in there. Her judgement drops down a further notch from "insanity" to "officially brain-dead" when she invites him to drive while she falls asleep on the passenger seat. These are not the happy-clappy sparkling-in-the-sunlight, drinking-deer-blood vampires focussed on family unity we all came to know and hate when we had Twilight foisted upon us. These are dangerous, vicious killers. Tana had her arm ripped open by her own infected mother:
"That was seven years ago. The doctors told her father the memory would fade, like the big messy scar on her arm, but neither ever did."
And yet, Tana shows zero caution when dealing with this creature. Ditto for her recently turned and highly dangerous ex-boyfriend, her being perfectly happy for him to waltz around a very busy tourist destination on their way to Coldtown and giggling it off when he lunges for her throat multiple times. Tana spends a lot of time giggling inappropriately, like when people have died, when people are about to die and when people are in the process of dying. Death is treated with a lighthearted chuckle throughout this book. But this makes no sense. Tana has witnessed the seven years long grief of her father over the death of her mother. Why doesn't she hold more value in human life ?!!
"If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic."
Uhm. Okaaaay. I guess as long as Tana manages to have a right good laugh before she's dismembered and fed upon by a savage creature of the night, it'll all work out fine. For a book so packed with descriptions of open wounds, blood geysering from torn arteries and brutal stabbings there really isn't a whole lot of menace or urgency because death is dealt with so casually. I felt no more than a sense of mild alarm from most of the characters throughout and this really took the edge off the tension.
There's the usual relationship drama - girl falls in love with a murderer. You know what I'm talking about. I'm getting real tired of this shit. Shit like this:
"Allow me to explain how my whole life has prepared me for this moment. I am used to girls screaming, and your screams - your screams will be sweeter than another’s cries of love."
What. The. Fuck.
This is how Gavriel - the random vampire Tana brought along for the ride - rolls it seems. Gavriel is an ancient Russian vampire. He has killed countless people. He is self-centred, vindictive and aggressive. So Tana falls in love with him. Natch. What's with all these chicks making eyes at criminals?!! What's with all these girls who have no care for their own self preservation?!! I don't get it. Am I missing something ?!! Is there something hot about dating a guy who could jump up and murder me when I least expect it ?!!
But, hey !! In this reality - murder is cool. It's glamorous. TV shows and Youtube videos are being made about life inside Coldtown, depicting it as one epically rad non-stop partay. These Coldtown vampires are celebrities, admired and loved by all for their bloodlust and swagger. I really don't get this either. These creatures have torn the world apart, have killed loved ones and destroyed communities and yet there's message boards and forums and whole websites for people who want to be just like them. Why ?!! Please help me understand - why would anyone aspire to hunt down and savagely kill people by biting them to death ?!! I'm very confused.
I'm also very confused about what the fuck actually happened about two thirds of the way into this book. The story seemed to implode into a giant black hole of nothingness. It became very convoluted with a lot of flitting from one place to the next without actually getting a whole lotta shit done. And the twist ?!! Crap. Epically crap. One of the most boring surprises (if I call it that) in literary history. I did not give a single fuck. Not one. Behind all the gore and all the atmospheric lighting there's really not a whole lot going on. The plot moves at snail's pace because there's not enough of it to drive the story forward. There's a helluva lot of info-dumping, long and meandering backstory and running, just running without any substance. Extra characters were thrown in, it appeared to try and add some urgency but really no. Just no. This only made for a poor attempt to grasp at some meaning and reason for Tana's ridiculous actions. I wasn't buying it. Especially as the conclusion basically added up to Tana murdering a guy and then immediately heading down the disco with all her mates to party the night away. What the actual fuck was that ?!!
My two stars are awarded for Holly Black's great writing. The description was awesome and the dialog was tight. But other than that this read a lot like another tired, well trodden story of a bunch of "cool" vampires prancing around and chowing down on humans with little consequence. I was not amused.
See y'all after !!