Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Teenage Losers, Vampires, Nigella Lawson, and Amanda Hocking's 'My Blood Approves.'
In 'My Blood Approves,' seventeen year old Alice Bonham falls in with a family of vampires. The first half of the book is mainly about when is she going to realise they're vampires, and then it's all about which of them will she devote herself to, and how will a possible vampire life conflict with her human life and her family.
The plot is neatly built up, and you want to know what happens next. The book's great strength, I think, is the authenticity of the teenage voice. The moods, the turns of phrase and the pop culture seem to me to be absolutely dead on.
The thing that bugs me about this is the thing that bugs me about other vampire stories: Why are teenage vampires so amazing? Why are they always beautiful, cool, smart, fearless, and supremely athletic. And I reckon it's some kind of wish fulfillment. As a teenager, school can be a complete jungle and I think writers get a lot of success with vampires, because they've invented the 'Superteenager.' Readers visualise these beings and think 'if only that was me, if only somebody bit me and I became a hero.' Vampires even have the 'not bothered' quality that teens admire. They're amazing, but they don't even care. Edward Cullen and his family are prime examples. I suppose stories with amazing teenage vampires are the ones that sell, but I'm still looking for the story with the vampire who never gets asked to the prom, or gets his lunch money stolen.
This is because teenage readers are continually being let down. It's not possible to be a school prince or princess by being a vampire. The message I wish writers would give them is one I got from Nigella Lawson. 'It's not possible to be a 'superteenager' but don't worry. You'll get through it, and then you'll be brilliant.
I was terrible at being a teenager. I didn't get any of it. I always looked two years younger than I was, I was scared of the opposite sex, I liked answering questions in class, I didn't know what was fashionable, I wasn't interested in music or other teenager interests, I had a stupid haircut... (I could go on). And for years afterwards, as I learned how to make life work, I was regretful that I had messed up my schooldays. And then Nigella spoke to me. Or rather, I read a quote of hers in a newspaper article, where she described herself as something like 'not very good at being a schoolgirl' (I can't remember her exact words, if you track it down please let me know). And that was actually no big deal, she was much better at being older. My proof is the video above. Look at her. She is a marvel of decadent food and downright sauciness. The ten seconds of Wham is just a bonus...
So there it is, my message to Alice Bonham and all the teenage losers out there, courtesy of Nigella Lawson: You don't survive teenage years by becoming a vampire. You do it by just waiting. I know it seems like forever, but in fact it's not that long and you get far more mileage out of being a Superadult than a Superteenager. Pass it on.