by Mari Mancusi, fantasy (2006)
JAM, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-425-20942-4
With the recent boom of vampire romances for teenage girls, Mari Mancusi's Blood Coven series has only been revived from premature cancelation but the older books are also reissued with covers that are designed to appeal to the Twilight crowd.
Judging from Boys That Bite, the first book in the series, however, readers will find a story that is as far from Bella Swan's romantic hoochie lottery show as can be. Boys That Bite doesn't take itself seriously - there are plenty of humorous elements here that poke fun at the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tropes.
Sunshine "Sunny" McDonald and her sister Rayne are identical twin sisters. Yes, they know about their names and they have heard all the jokes already, so cram it. Sunny is the more serious one while Rayne is the wild Goth chick gone wild. The fun begins when Rayne drags a reluctant Sunny into Club Fang. It is only when Sunny gets bitten by a vampire called Magnus that she realizes a few things. One, Rayne isn't kidding when she says that those creatures exist. Two, Rayne wants to be a vampire and has even done all the paperwork and undergone all classes needed to become one. (Yes, these vampires are very strict about humans becoming prepared to join them. They even carry out personality tests to pair the future new vampire with his or her "blood mate" - the vampire who will turn the human and eventually become the new vampire's eternal spouse.) Three, Magnus had assumed that Sunny was Rayne when he bit her.
Sunny doesn't want to become a vampire. She just wants to lose her virginity in a beautiful moment to Jake Wilder, the football jock, preferably by prom night next week, go to college, and eventually lead a happy suburban life with a perfect husband and perfect kids. But if she doesn't do something, she would become an undead, ugh. Still, as she and Magnus race against time to reverse her transformation, she realizes that there may be some unexpected perks to letting things be, especially when Magnus becomes more attractive the more time she spends with him.
Sunny, like all 16-year old girls, can get whiny and silly here, but she never grates on my nerves in the process. In fact, she's too much fun to follow. As someone who scoffs at the whole vampire fandom culture, she is the perfect protagonist in a story that pokes playful fun at the culture. She may be the good twin, but Sunny isn't some frigid had with issues. She is better at her studies than Rayne, but that doesn't mean she is immune to members of the opposite sex or she isn't above breaking the rules now and then. Sunny is not considered a popular kid, but she doesn't dwell on that matter or let it break her self-esteem.
Magnus is as far from brooding vampire as can be - he is, in fact, rather non-tormented instead of emo and dark, a fact that Rayne points out with some degree of disappointment, heh. The romance is as shallow as one can expect when a 16-year old girl is involved, but it's fun to read. The story has me laughing out loud at many moments, especially when Gandalf is involved. Don't ask - just read for yourself.
Boys That Bite is a light and very entertaining read that has me laughing out loud so often. Reading it is a very nice way to escape from real life for a while, especially when it offers the added bonus of humorously lampooning some of the more popular tropes of vampire romances in both subtle and blatant ways. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a hilarious breezy read. Just don't be misled by the packaging into expecting a vapid melodrama like Twilight!
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