for comparison’s sake: S.P. Somtow’s “The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter”

Just to prove that it’s NOT true I dislike all modern YA fiction1: I did like S.P. Somtow’s The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter, not least because it doesn’t seem to me that the author meant it to be taken entirely seriously. I’m not a member of any of the cultures which form pivotal parts of this book, so I can’t judge how well the author described them2–I know there are readers out there who scrape through books with fine tooth combs for errors–I would, however, guess that this is intended to be a sendup of…not the Indians, but of all those ghastly books that misinterpret Native American culture to fit their own books’ ends. For example, the family garners an enviably huge book deal when the grandfather speaks up about his culture:

Five years ago, my grandpa started talking. He talked before, of course, but only like, “Pass the salt,” or “This is a damn fine piece of steak.” All my life, he would only say one or two sentences a day, and then, just like that, he turned into Mr. Motormouth. My mom, always the hardworking anthropologist, wrote it all down, and you’ve seen the book in the front of every chain bookstore in every shopping mall, the one with the Sitting Bull clone on the cover.

How can I take this with less than a giggle?

Johnny Shapiro, half-Jewish and one quarter Native American and unable to bridge the gap between his multiple cultures and that of modern America, is dragged to Los Angeles by his mother just as he hits the peak of his Teen Angst period. His father disappeared when Johnny was but a lad. His Lakota grandfather is living in their garage, having adapted it to a tipi, and his smart aleck little sister (Norwegian father, who also ran off when his daughter was a child) is just hitting puberty. At least in L.A., his classmates have worse identity crises than he, most particularly Rebecca. Her father is vampire Vlad Tepes, while her mother was human, and Rebecca herself is approaching her sixteenth birthday when she must choose whether to remain human or become a vampire.

It turns out there is a gang of vampire teens running loose in L.A., complete with teen hangouts where they can order Bloody Maries (what else?) if they’re ‘of age’, including the ‘bad seed’, Jeremy, who’d become a vampire when only a boy before the age restrictions imposed by the vampire community3. Johnny becomes better acquainted with this side of the city’s youth, just as he takes Rebecca around the mortal teen hangouts in L.A., including the last drive in movie theater in the area. In the end, both Johnny and Rebecca do go through their respective ‘rites of passage’ and join the adult portion of their respective cultures: devivification for her, sweatlodge purification for him.

The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter is short, and I expect would have been a quick read for me even if I were in the target demographic. On the other hand, this means there’s no padding, no wailing and tearing of hair, none of the emo angst ridden scenes that bothered me so about Stiefvater’s Shiver and Lament. Johnny and Rebecca date a few times, get to know each other and then must separate. Johnny feels her absence, to be sure, but understands it could not have been any other way: she had her family and culture which she must join, just as he has his. As with all the other authors I’ve read for this blog, I’ll try to read another book by this author, to make sure this wasn’t just a one-off, the only book of his that I liked…but I have to wait for it to come through ILL. I’d recommend The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter for anyone who finds Stiefvater’s books excessively emo.

1well, comparatively modern. The book was published in 1997, and therefore before the younger readers in the books’ demographic today were born.
2so far as I know, the author doesn’t belong to any of them either…
3no creating/becoming vampires prior to one’s sixteenth birthday


2 thoughts on “for comparison’s sake: S.P. Somtow’s “The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s