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.


  1. I'm still waiting to be super. I think it must be waiting for my 40s!

  2. Nice review, though I really do not care for Amanda Hocking's books. Glad you enjoyed it, though :)

  3. Nice post. I watched my son go throguh the awkward times and even though I knew in his head he was going "What do you know, mom?". I still told him to not worry about trivial things.

    Work on your grades, think about what you want to do when you're an adult. Let's face it. Who knew exactly what they wanted to do at 18?

    One thing my son did listen to, however, is me telling him to march to the beat of his own drum. Don't do something because everyone else is. Do it because you want to.

    Aren't the teenage years awkward enough without trying to live up to someone else's expectations of what they want you to be?

  4. I feel you, Joe. I was very awkward in High school and never really fit into a specific clique. Ended up resenting the place and never got involved. Looking back, I'd have done more sports, been more proactive, etc, but that's the annoying thing with life: you get no do-overs.

  5. @ kastil, Caspar and RC. I think that's the middle road. Know teenage years for what they are, practice for the real thing. Thanks for commenting!

  6. JD, what a great post. I don't think I've ever read better advice for teenagers. I've never agreed with people who claim the high school years are the best of your life. Even though my teenage years weren't bad, I still like being an adult much better.

  7. Dear Joe, I really enjoyed your analysis of teenage vampires ... and yes, I see like you do that teenagers dream of being as these perfect and invincible beings. It is common to all, good and bad, smart and less smart. Every teenager does not accept him/herself as he/she is,at least in part, because since it is the transition to the adult world they want to be better.
    The only thing I disagree with your post is the suggestion you give them: just wait.
    They must not stand just waiting it to pass, they must live this time. They must commit and do many things, they have to love art, sport, music and need to have a thousand interests!
    They also need to start cultivating relationships, friendships ... they need to go wrong and learn from their mistakes and this can happen just if they do something.
    This is the way to become adults ... is not purely a question of age.
    What do you think?

  8. @Stephanie. Imagine if your school days were the best of your life... Downhill from then on. How dreadful...
    @Lucia. I think the key is they have to make mistakes, and not worry when they do...

  9. I love this post so much! It always bothered me how being a teenage vampire seemed all the rage and the best thing on earth, but when you think about never actually getting the chance to look forward to an adulthood, I don't think it would be that great. High school was tough for me too, but if it wasn't, I wouldn't be enjoying the rest of my life so much.

  10. @unforgettable.
    nice slant, of course, being a teenager forever is rubbish...