Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Night Road -- A. M. Jenkins

I'm ambivalent about this book. It's a YA novel about vampires, except they aren't called that. It's considered very unPC to call them that, in fact, and they resent it. They call themselves "hemes," as in hemavores, while we others are "omnis." The hemes don't have all the powers that other fictional vampires have, but they are indeed immortal, and the sun is indeed their undoing.

The novel tells the story of a newly created heme, Gordon, who has to be mentored until he learns the ways of the hemes. The two guys appointed to teach him are named Cole and Sandor, and the three of them go on the road so that Gordon can learn the ropes.

Gordon's not happy with his new condition, and he's eighteen years old, not exactly the best age for someone who needs to respond to authority, give up his old way of life, and conform to the rules of the hemes. So there are some bumps in the night road. Along the way, they also meet with a rogue heme, one who hasn't been socialized. That can only mean trouble, and it also sets up things for the obvious sequel.

This book's a fine antidote to overwritten and badly written stuff like Twilight. It's lean and controlled, and the story doesn't falter and go off the rails. So why am I ambivalent? Well, for the same thing that bothered me about Robert B. Parker's "Young Spenser" novel. Who's the audience for this book? I strongly suspect that teenage girls, who consume the Twilight series by the millions, won't care for it at all. Will teenage boys? I'm not so sure. There's sex and violence, but not much of either. There's plenty of angst, but most of it is Cole's. He's the focus of the book, not Gordon, and don't think most young folks will identify with him.

None of that makes Night Road a bad book. It's a good one. I think adults might like it better than the YA audience, but what do I know? I'm clearly out of touch. Give it a try and see what you think.

1 comment:

Gerard Saylor said...

Some books seem to just end up as YA. I don't read much of them, unlike my wife, but the audience is so wide at about 13-18 years old. To me there are big differences within that age range.

I've just been reading three books that were challenged up in West Bend, WI. One, Perks of Being a Wallflower, is really well written and does not dumb down the vocabulary. It could easily fit in the adult section but the narrator is a 16-year-old writing about his friends. Another, Geography Club, seemed written at the reading level of a 12-year-old.

I don't really have a point.