Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Murray

First published in 2010 by Penguin

Picked up Saltwater  Vampires after falling in love with Eagar’s Raw Blue. For me, this one was not in the same league. But there were lots of things I enjoyed and appreciated about it.

Saltwater Vampires is like a weird mesh of old-world type vampires invading the very contemporary Rocky Head music-festival scene – an old-school sensibility meets a young, hip awareness complete with all the typical modern teen emotions. For me, it wasn’t quite a perfect match, and that was my main problem with the book. I appreciated it, but I didn’t really get it. I felt there was perhaps a little too much going on. The way the three distinct story overtones overlapped was all a little too complicated, with the different stories becoming distractions from the other stories to the point where I couldn’t really commit to any of them.

I liked the ‘contemporary YA’ overtone the best, and this is what I think Eagar excels at. Jamie and his gang of friends and vamp-busters are all funny and likeable and totally cool and all the rest, and their interactions are true to life and affectionately written. I liked where Eagar was taking their emotional stories, but the nature of the book – with all it’s time-jumping and shifting perspectives and what-not – means I never really got involved, like I did with Carly in Raw Blue.

This is a book all unto its own genre – it’s not a conventional vamp story, especially as we’ve come to know them from YA, and it’s not quite contemporary Aussie YA-lit. I do feel that with everything that was going on, it was more suited to an adult readership. Of course I’m all for YA pushing conventions, but I felt the plot, pacing, stories, scope, etc, would just be a better fit for ‘adult fiction’. But I did enjoy its novelty, and also the fact that these vamps were ugly and nasty – something to be scared of, disgusted by, instead of romanticised and smitten by. The whole book had a good grittiness to it.

Aussie setting is used well – the beach, the coastal town, the music festival – in a way that’s familiar but then, as Eagar works her word magic, into something strange and atmospheric and full of the unknown. Particularly the night-surfing scene and when Jamie’s bike breaks down in the national park – fantastic stuff.

I enjoyed the final big ‘showdown’ scene at the end – it provides a nice pay-off, gives the whole book a sense of urgency, and is fun to read. I found the final ‘dealing with the vamps’ (at the festival) a bit weird but that’s a minor quibble – I guess I’m just used to vamps crumbling to dust or something.

Also, a teeny bit long. Weird and wonderful and well-written but not quite perfect –kept me entertained, but just a little too much going on. 

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