CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2008.
261 pp., pbk., $14.99.
Grades 9-11 / Age 14-16.
Review by Jennifer Draper.
Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.
It started in my mouth. I felt a sharp pain in my upper gums. Something moved against my front teeth. The taste of blood, my blood, was in my mouth… My eyes locked on the buck's neck. An instant later, it was dying with my fangs in its throat. I have heard people say that the best part of the hunt is not the kill but the thrill of the chase. Well, I'd bet my last pair of running shoes that none of them ever killed anything larger than a horsefly. Sure the chase was fun, exercise and all that, good for the heart. But the meal at the end was tops. It frightened me actually, how intense it felt to surrender to that killing urge and feed.
Fifteen-year-old Zack has been living a cursed life. Losing both his parents at a young age, he ends up in the foster care system. He is also plagued by an unexplained illness that is accompanied by allergies and sun sensitivity. The foster care system cannot handle his health requirements. When this is combined with a belief that he has mental health issues, Zack is sent to live in the mental health ward of a Peterborough, ON, hospital. His social network includes his childhood friend Charlie and his favorite nurse. Life is boring, and he spends most of his time exercising and trying to keep Charlie out of trouble on his visits.
That is until a wild haired old man drives a stolen police motorcycle through the front doors of the institution telling him to flee. This man kidnaps Zack and takes him to a safe house where he reveals that Zack is a vampire. The problem then becomes that Zack is being hunted by the uber-vampire that killed his father, and it turns out that Zack's uncle is the number one vampire hunter in the world. Throw in a new girlfriend, some plot twists, and you have a good and gruesome read.
The premise of how vampires are made is a tried and true one – it's a viral infection that usually leads to madness. Zack as a character is believable; he seems totally lost in the world outside of the ward. He has no idea how to handle members of the opposite sex, is lost on pop culture knowledge, and generally leans on his friend Charlie to provide him with news of the outside world. The book pokes fun at its own premise – that anyone who believes in vampires must be crazy – and at the vampire legend in general.
Night Runner is at times gory, which should appeal to blood-thirsty YA readers, and has just a hint of romance and sexual awakening. It is a good effort for a vampire novel, not spectacular, but recommended for purchase. It will keep the YA's satisfied until the next Meyer book is published.
Jennifer Draper is a librarian/children's literature aficionado living in Oshawa, ON.
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