The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
By Holly Black
Published by: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 2013
NOTE: My review is based off of an ARC I obtained through a friend. We both work in publishing (well, I intern in publishing), but neither of us is affiliated with Little, Brown and Company.
Every attempt has been made to write a mostly spoiler-free review of the book, but a few minor ones may have slipped in.
Official description (from amazon.com):
“Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.”
As I described to the man at a local pizzeria, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is about a teenager (a girl named Tana) who goes to a party and wakes up to find everyone dead, brutally murdered by vampires. Everyone except her ex-boyfriend Aiden and a mysterious vampire boy who are both respectively chained up in a bedroom with blackened windows. In Tana’s world, vampires are very real. They live in quarantined cities called Coldtowns, where they are equally feared and celebrated, and Aiden has been bitten by one. When they bite you, an infection spreads throughout your body, you go “Cold”, and get a bit of a craving for blood. If you’re Cold, and you drink human blood, you become a vampire. Now, I don’t read vampire novels (the Twilight series is actually the only “vampire” series I’ve ever read), but I’ve seen a lot of vampire (and zombie) films, so I thought this discussion of the actual process of turning into a vampire quite interesting and different.
If you can’t tell already, I loved reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It was a welcome and positive change from the last book I’d read: City of Bones. Perhaps because this was not Black’s first venture into fiction, the writing was neat, polished and to-the-point, but she still managed to paint a complete picture of the world Tana lives in. A world both glamorous and terrifying, and yet one not so different from our own.
From the first chapter to the last, I honestly found this book hard to put down and it’s really hard for me to pinpoint what I liked best about it. It might be the fact that the main character, Tana, isn’t some empty airhead of a character. Admittedly, she spends a good deal of this book in shock (to be expected), but she’s clever and determined. And while she may have a thing for a certain vampire, it’s not her defining characteristic. She’s every bit the heroine I’ve been waiting for. She doesn’t expect to be rescued or wait around for anyone else; she’s a young woman of action, and she’s pretty badass, even if she doesn’t realize it. The other characters (with the exception of Tana’s friend Pauline, who literally “phones it in”) are all completely fleshed out, and yet they’re not all weighed down with heavy descriptions and clichés. Even the vampires are interesting and, pardon the pun, have had new life breathed into them as a concept.
I’m trying very hard not to give anything away about this book, because it was such a great reading experience. In fact, another thing I liked about it was that I didn’t see all of it coming. The plot really did keep me guessing, and I didn’t figure some things out until Tana did. I felt kind of like the main villain must have at the end, and it was certainly a welcome feeling.
In addition to the standard “likes and dislikes” I had for this book, as a former student in media studies, one of the most fascinating parts of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was the commentary on celebrity culture. Here is a world where vampirism is celebrated and romanticized, seen by America’s youth as a glamorous, eternal party. As a nation already obsessed with youth and celebrities, I liked how Black introduced a realistic vision of a vampire-aware United States. Half-feared, half-adored, people follow along like they’re reading the latest celeb news from Perez Hilton or E!. These vampires are deadly Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies. Ethereal, beautiful, ageless, but with a thirst for blood. Kids stream live feeds like they’re watching the Academy Awards, have posters of the undead in their lockers and on their bedroom walls. Twelve-year-olds (like Tana’s younger sister Pearl) get sucked in to the glitz and glam, not aware of the dark side of the celebrity. There are characters who don’t want to accept the truth, even when it is harshly thrust upon them, those who want to be special and feel like they were made for different or better things. The world reminds me of True Blood, in a way, but thankfully less fetishized and sexualized (that wouldn’t do for a YA novel anyway). Black isn’t afraid to bring the vampires back to their bloody roots, making the reader aware that not all is as it seems.
Whew, with all that rambling semi-deep stuff said, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is fantastic, realistic and full of blood, gore and action. I literally could not put it down, and when I was finished, I was sad there wasn’t more. Overall, this was an amazing reading experience, and I think I’ll go find more books by Holly Black to read.
My rating: 8.5/10
As always, I welcome any thoughts, comments, rants, and book recommendations you all might have.
For more information about Holly Black and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: