Bloodthirsty

By Flynn Meaney [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Finbar Frame is pale, skinny, broody, and allergic to the sun – but it’s not until a vampire-novel-obsessed girl on the train mistakes him for a vampire that he decides to become one. Or at least pretend to become one. After all, girls dig vampires, right? But when his masquerade gets underway, sorting out who he really likes, who really likes him, and why – not to mention figuring out who he really is – gets a little more complicated.

Okay, this book isn’t technically fantasy, but I’m reviewing it here because it plays on the most popular trend in YA fantasy right now. (And because I haven’t read anything else remotely applicable recently and I need a blog post. Shh.)

When my friend gave me this ARC, I was more than a little leery. Now, I don’t particularly care for vampires in general, am waiting impatiently for the current vampire trend to be over, and despise Twilight with all of my soul. But at the same time, these are female fantasies written for teenage girls by women (for the most part), and when I looked at Bloodthirsty, I saw a man trying to make money off of teenage girls by making fun of that fantasy. “Hey, girls! That thing you like is dumb! Give me money.”

And yes, that is part of what’s going on in this book, but that aspect wound up not bothering me as much as I thought it would. Partially this is because it turns out Flynn Meaney is a woman – whoops, initial preconceptions! But mostly this is because the vampire parody is…rather defanged, if you’ll pardon the expression. While she tears into romance novels (which pissed me off, because guess what? I read those too, and there are excellent ones out there) she mostly just references Twilight, True Blood, and the like, rather than mocking them. So it’s mercenary, but it’s not necessarily any more mercenary than a straightforward book about vampires would be – it’s just cashing in on a trend.

I was bothered more as I read by the Nice Guy issue. Finbar repeatedly describes himself as nice and sensitive and blames the fact that he doesn’t get girls on these characteristics. Well, fine, except he doesn’t actually behave in a nice fashion. When he says “nice,” what he really means is “tries to hard and comes off creepy,” like when he has a disastrous first meeting with a girl he knows on the internet. She asks him to meet at a coffee shop. He gives her the address of an expensive French restaurant instead and brings a present, turning a casual meet-up into a formal date and blindsiding her. I don’t blame her for no longer wanting to have anything to do with him, but all he can think about is how much money he spent and how horrible she is for not appreciating it. Um, no, dude, you’re creepy.

He also spends a lot of time comparing himself to his twin brother Luke, who is handsome and athletic and popular, and blaming the fact that he’s not as popular on his skinniness and intelligence – but Luke is generous, cheerful, and selfless, while Finbar spends an awful lot of time taking potshots at his brother’s learning disability in his head. Yes. That’s very nice.

Shockingly, Finbar eventually actually kind of realizes he’s not always nice and thoughtful. He’s spent the book in pursuit of the beautiful, cool Kate, while palling around with the geeky Jenny, who obviously has an enormous crush on him. Finbar doesn’t twig to this until the end of the book, though, at which point he realizes how obvious it was – and that if he was really the thoughtful, caring person he always believed himself to be, he would have noticed. It’s actually kind of an amazing revelation, given how incredibly common Finbar’s character type is and how rarely they realize that they’re actually self-involved, whiny jerks. So kudos to Meaney for that.

So the “cashing in on a female fantasy” issue wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and the Nice Guy issue was actually dealt with a little. And yet the book infuriated me. Why?

Well, remember that beautiful, cool Kate? She tells Finbar she transferred to their school because she wanted better AP classes. show

On top of the appalling, misogynistic slut-shaming, there are also a handful of casual transphobic jokes for no reason, and a couple of lines make light of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. Because these things are all hilarious, you see. It all fits in with the prose of the book, which is 20% legitimately funny, 80% trying too hard. Example: at a fantasy convention, a guy is described as wearing a mask with devil horns “the color of foreskin.” I don’t know what that means, but I do know Meaney is trying way too hard to be shocking there.

There were nuggets of good in there – Finbar’s semi-realization of his own jerkiness, and a handful of good jokes. But that doesn’t overcome an obnoxious narrator and the infuriating resolution of the romance, and that’s why Bloodthirsty gets two cupcakes.

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    One Response to “Bloodthirsty”

    1. Carolyn says:

      Ew. Sounds (and looks) gross.

      …that’s all.

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