So, I was reading this book before class the other day and my teacher looked over at me and said, "What are you reading?" To which I replied, "The Coldest Girl In Coldtown." And he said, "Ooohh, sounds ominous." And yes, this book is.
The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black is set in a world where vampires have ravaged the world to the point where whole cities have been sectioned off called Coldtowns. In them humans, vampires and the infected mingle together under the glare of cameras streaming everything, the death, the gore and the decadence, to the outside world. The story centres around Tana, who flees to a Coldtown after surviving a vampire massacre. She must survive in a chaotic city built on blood.
In the acknowledgements of this book Holly Black states that this book is an ode to her favourite vampire books and what an ode it is. It examines the root of what makes vampires the blood fuelled monsters they are. Is it because of the infection, the nature of being a vampire or are humans really monsters when they're given the right tools and when their inhibitions are taken away? Do we find out who we truly are when we're given the freedom to do anything?
I liked that this book made it completely and utterly clear that vampires are monsters. No matter what the reason and no matter what degree of control they have, they are monsters. It does go into how vampires can be charming and what people will do to become immortal and/or famous, be we're hit time and time again with the death and destruction these creatures have brought upon humans. There's no sugar coating or excuses, murder is murder and that's that.
I loved Tana and her resilience throughout this crazy book. Any other person might have flaked or even fallen for the idea that being a vampire is fun and easy, but not Tana. She fights even when she knows that she could die.
I also enjoyed reading about Gavriel. He managed to be utterly creepy and charming at the exact same time which is not easy to pull off.
Bringing this book into the current century is the reality show aspect of the story. It really hits home how we as are society are fascinated with people watching, even if it means watching people live and die in Coldtowns. It kicks this whole story up to an entirely new level.
I must admit that this book was entirely creepy and gory and everything you'd expect out of a vampire book. The tone of the book was reinforced by the quotes at the beginning of each chapter which were about death. At first the whole vampire aspect seemed a bit light, but as the chapters went on the quotes really hammered home that this book is not light or fun. It's about the darkest aspects of what it means to be human and it sought to make the reader uncomfortable. It definitely make this reader uncomfortable at times.
This may seem random at first but I read this book that centered around a card game. Every time it mentioned something really technical that wasn't necessary to enjoying the book as a whole, there was a picture of a whale. So, just pretend there's one here. The star rating will come at the end of this post.
I did have one problem with this book. I wasn't going to mention it but not mentioning the problems defeats the whole purpose of analysing this book.
So, there's a character in this book called Aiden and it's mentioned that he likes, "boys and girls." but his sexuality is never mentioned. Not once. Think now, to current movies and television shows that have lesbian or gay characters. It's clearly stated that they're gay/lesbian. In fact, I'm sure they use the word all the time. Now, think of when characters sexualities are given a name in a positive and normal way when they're like Aiden. Can you think of any? Any at all? No and neither can I. It bothers me because essentially, not mentioning his sexuality as being bisexual (or pansexual) is erasing a part of his identity. Sure, he's not shown in a bad way at all, in fact, I'm glad Holly Black chose to make him bisexual/pansexual. But, not mentioning his sexuality is like sweeping it under the rug as something that's shameful, when it's not. It makes his sexuality something that he does that's charming or something that he does to make people laugh. It makes him that straight guy who kisses boys for fun. When, in fact, bisexuality is a very real orientation who a variety of people identify as. I know that sexuality is one part of a character, that we are not defined by our sexualities, but imagine sweeping the words lesbian or gay under the rug. You take away a persons power of owning and understanding a part of themselves and identifying with someone like them and everyone needs to be able to do that.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this book (besides the problem I had with it) and I recommend it to people who love gritty vampire films or books that look at what it is to be human.
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Anjulie Te Pohe
Founder of Koru Mag | Mookychick contributor | Avid reader and writer of YA | Takatapui (Maori & bi/queer) | She/Them | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org