‘Nother repost of my response to one of Colleen’s excellent questions over at Chasing Ray. Here’s the question(s):
What is the vamp romance appeal and is it any different from the Harlequin romances and Forever of the 70s? It is one thing after all to lust after a guy from afar but know he is bad news, it’s a whole other deal to spend your time willingly with someone who might accidentally kill you in the heat of passion. Are today’s vamp lovers more passive then they should be? Are these books showing girls a take charge guy that can’t be denied and preventing them from real world boys who might be worth their time? Is there a dirty secret about passivity hiding in the Twilight series?
I’ll confess to so far not having consumed many of the vampire-centric YA novels of the present moment. And to many of my friends’ ongoing dismay, I have also not watched Buffy. So clearly, I’m operating at a distinct literary and pop cultural disadvantage when attempting to think about the appeal of vampires in YA.
I can, though, observe from reviews and commentary that very few current vampire books seem to be purely vampire books. Instead they’re mashups with other YA subgenres: vampire plus school story, vampire plus girl-who-doesn’t-fit-in. One way to think about vampires in YA is simply as a strategy for “adding interest” to a narrative — like a fabulous cloak thrown over your story to tie it all together and keep it looking fresh.
And certainly their now-traditional sexual allure is an important aspect of vampiric popularity. The metaphors are so obvious they hardly seem worth noting: penetration is followed by transformation. After the bite, nothing will ever be the same again. But of course, in real life, that transformation is elusive. A girl who’d never finished a book until she read Twilight told me she wanted a boyfriend like Edward. Then she hastily added: “I mean, I have a boyfriend, but…”
I’ll confess again — the recent vampire narrative I’ve found most compelling was a movie, not a book. (It was based on a book, but I haven’t read the book yet.) The movie: Let The Right One In. In a bleak Swedish winter in the early eighties, a lonely young teen meets another teen, dark and mysterious, who doesn’t seem cold in the bitter night. Does it sound familiar? It’s less so than you might think; the lonely teen is a boy, Oskar, viciously bullied, and the mysterious other teen is a vampire. The vampire, Eli, solves Oskar’s Rubiks cube with dizzying speed, and he wonders if Eli can solve his other problems as well. What I admire most about the film is its unblinking focus on the brutal consequences that life with a vampire would actually entail: murder and secrets, power and the cost of its use.
Read other folks’ responses to the vamps questions, and/or Read the latest post about superheroines.
Diana LaurenceOctober 8, 2009 at 7:02 am
Just commented on the original post at Chasing Ray (brilliant stuff) and wanted to remark here as well. You are correct that “Let the Right One In” was a much more realistic look at teens and vampires, and I loved it too. Vampire romance today serves a different function in my opinion, and it is not anything we should be alarmed about.
As I posted on Chasing Ray:
I just released a vampire dating book directed both at adults and teens. My publisher asked that it serve both as humor and as a self-help book, and I was pleased because I really didn’t want to write something just for laughs. The vampire romance phenomenon is actually serious business.
It was fascinating to me when my book was recently featured on the Web site of the most popular teen magazine in the UK. Almost 200 teens commented, and their obsession with Edward and vampire romance is rabid. The reasons behind this are as varied as the individual girls. Sometimes it is simply a new kind of Knight in Shining Armor fantasy. Sometimes it’s about sex. Sometimes these are “good girls” working out their new, darker inclinations.
At any rate, I agree that in most cases we can trust that today’s teens know when they are fantasizing vs. when they are taking real life actions. I was not afraid to write my book as if all of it was real. In fact, I’m a believer in encouraging the imagination whenever one can. It plays such a huge role in mental health, at any age.
–Diana Laurence, author of “How to Catch and Keep a Vampire” (www.howtocatchandkeepavampire.com)
SaraOctober 8, 2009 at 4:16 pm
Hi Diana, thanks for sharing your thoughts!