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Book cover image: Title: Ninth Grade Slays (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

Author: Heather Brewer

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Freshman year stinks for Vlad Tod. Bullies still harass him. The photographer from the school newspaper is tailing him. And failing his studies could be deadly. A trip to Siberia gives a study abroad a a whole new meaning as Vlad connects with other vampires and advances his mind-control abilities, but will he return home with the skills to recognize a vampire slayer when he sees one? In this thrilling sequel to Eighth Grade Bites, Vlad must confront the secrets of the past and battle forces that once again threaten his life.”

Thoughts: When it comes to vampire novels, I admit I am rather easy to please. Give me a plausible back story as well as a creative twist on the vampire myth, and I am happy. So, to say that I enjoyed a vampire story is not a surprise to anyone. Yet, when I can gush about a vampire story, now you know the story is special. I gushed about Eighth Grade Bites several days ago, and Ninth Grade Slays is just as deserving of any praise I may bestow.

Dark but fun, with enough Buffy references to make a Buffy fan like me happy, Ninth Grade Slays picks up where the other left off. This time, Vlad delves a little deeper into his vampire nature, understanding why others feel he is so special and why he is in danger all the time. As denotes most sequels, especially in middle grade novels, the story itself is rather formulaic, but it is still fun because of all the new information we get about Vlad’s father, about his vampire family, and about his emerging powers. While more information is held back in the interest of the series, Ninth Grade Slays is the first book where the reader actually is made privy to this information. It definitely helps flesh out Vlad and Otis and the entire vampire society, making them more life-like and dangerous as only full disclosure can.

Any book that references Buffy, the TV show and NOT the movie, gets a special recommendation, and Ninth Grade Slays is full of references. There is something particularly hilarious about any story that references such a campy, but excellent cult hit because you know the author is not taking him/herself too seriously. I could spend an paragraph or two making comparisons between Buffy and Vlad, but then I would be doing a disservice to both because it means taking them both too seriously. Vlad is supposed to be fun, and it succeeds quite well.

Ninth Grade Slays leaves the reader wanting more, which is exactly what you want in a series. Vlad is vulnerable in his loneliness but shows remarkable growth as he learns more about his destiny. Otis, Nelly and Henry compliment Vlad’s teenage angst. The end result is a novel that is a quick read but extremely charming and utterly addicting.

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