The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 3, 2013
Genres: young adult, urban fantasy, fantasy, paranormal, vampires
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Well, crap. This was spectacular.
I just read it for the second time, and it was still really hard to put down.
This is not a warm, fuzzy book. It is violent, bloody, gory, and dark. And it’s a lot of fun.
The premise for this book, in my opinion, is brilliant. So, vampires have found their way into the human world, and have caused some pretty bad damage. To contain them and everyone infected by a vampire’s bite, the vampires are put into quarantined cities called Coldtowns. You’d think this would be a pretty miserable existence for its inhabitants, but Coldtowns have wild, extravagant parties every night, and the vampires there live in luxury. These parties are filmed and broadcast to everyone in the outside world via television. It’s a twisted, dark play on the modern-day reality TV show craze, and, in my opinion, it’s really, really well-done. (The idea of vampirism equating to fame and what that means in this world is explored and developed, as well as how far people will go in order to gain such fame and glorified immortality. It’s really morbid and sad, but also pretty cool.)
Anyway, our main character, Tana, wakes up after a pretty wild party in the outside world, only to discover herself in the midst of a vampire bloodbath. Upon looking around, she discovers only two other survivors: her ex-boyfriend, who’s been bitten, and another boy who may not be exactly what he seems. In order to protect those she loves and these other two boys, Tana will need to travel to Coldtown with them. And that journey might just be as dangerous as Coldtown itself.
Your enjoyment of this book will largely depend on how much you like Tana and how much you approve of her choices throughout the book. Right from the beginning, she endangers herself by putting herself in the proximity of her infected ex, Aiden. She does this knowing Aiden is turning and dangerous, Tana herself having experienced this danger firsthand after she got too close to her own infected mother when she was young.
A lot of people would call this a stupid mistake, and would be upset that Tana didn’t learn her lesson. But I wasn’t bothered by that at all, really. Both people who were turned were people she loved (at one time, at least). If you encountered your parents/sibling(s)/best friend as a zombie during the apocalypse, wouldn’t that mess with your reasoning a little? Wouldn’t you be vulnerable around them, even if you knew they were dangerous to be around? Your attachment to them might cloud your judgement. Having something that traumatic happened to our loved ones sometimes makes us forget our common sense, and, in my opinion, that’s what happened to Tana.
SPOILER: Granted, she does make some not-so-smart decisions (such as letting Gavriel, the other boy [if you could really call him that], and Aiden tag along with her when it’s obvious she could be infected by either one of them, as well as letting Gavriel kiss and bite her when it will infect her), but every character makes mistakes, and I was surprised to find that Tana’s only endeared me to her further. It made her seem more human to me.
So, yeah, to reiterate: If Tana’s decisions would bug you, you’re probably not going to like this book, because she makes several decisions like this. But, if that’s not an issue for you, you should really enjoy this book.
On another note, I really enjoyed reading the dynamic between Tana and her ex, Aiden. It’s the we’re-not-lovers-and-I-don’t-think-we’re-friends-either-but-let-me-help-you-out-anyway dynamic, and it was so entertaining to read–just the right amount of awkwardness and camaraderie. It made for some great comic relief. Also, Gavriel was hilarious. He’s probably my favorite character.
Granted, this isn’t a perfect book. The dialogue felt a little wonky at times, as did the characterization. But overall, this is a darkly seductive, fun read and a solid standalone.
I loved this book. But, if you’re unsure about whether it’d be something you enjoy, check out a preview or get it from the library to see if you like Tana and can justify her decisions. And, honestly, I hope you love it, too. I need someone else to fangirl with!