Tamara Summers,
Never Bite a Boy on the First Date
(HarperTeen, 2009)

Let's play a word association game. I'll begin: vampire romance. If scenes from the Twilight movies are consequently haunting your head like a favorite nightmare, I wouldn't blame you. But the Twilight series is not quite what I had in mind.

While Tamara Summers' Never Bite a Boy on the First Date isn't exactly a carbon copy of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling books, many similarities exist. The complexities of dating between members of the living and undead, identity crises and high school drama are but a few of the many resemblances. However, it is the way that this book differs from those of the Twilight series that makes it noticeable.

Protagonist Kira November doesn't remember much about the night she became a vampire. Only vague glimpses of her memory of the event remain intact. She knows there was some kind of car accident, but not much else, leaving her new vampire family's version of the truth to fill in the blanks. Drawn by the scent of her blood, Kira's new family of the undead discovers her dying in the middle of a road. The only way to save her is to turn her into one of them. This results in Kira having to discard her old identity and take on a new life.

While there are many perks of being a vampire (being able to eat all the food you want without it affecting your appearance, never dying, etc.) there are also the inevitable setbacks. One such negative aspect includes constantly having to move from place to place in order to keep your identity disguised. Kira quickly discovers the transition from human to vampire is harder to adjust to than one might think, and there are certain urges that will sometimes get the better of the newly converted. Kira learns this the hard way after biting a cute boy, consequently adding him as a member of the family only to find out how much she really doesn't like him.

So when a boy is murdered vampire-style at Kira's new school and all signs point to Kira, her family automatically assumes the worst. Fearing her lack of discipline and maturity will only lead to more deaths, Kira's parents threaten to lock her in a padded coffin for a few centuries until she can learn to adjust to her new lifestyle. That is, unless she can prove her innocence. While attempting to clear her name, Kira finds that she is more involved with the murder than she might think, even linking it back to that murky night of the car accident.

Although the plot revolves around the murder of a high school student, Never Bite a Boy on the First Date was written by a whimsical, light-hearted hand. Steering very clear from dark, serious conventions, the story is full of humor -- Kira frequently makes vampire jokes at her own expense -- and young romance. From the first page the reader is gripped by mystery and suspense that refuses to let up until the last page is turned.

Summers doesn't add anything new to the vampire scene, yet manages to create a short, fun read that can stand on its own. Even vampires shouldn't take themselves too seriously.

review by
Justin Tenley

12 December 2009

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