So usually, I stick to a rigid format but not today. After reading Bella Forrest’s A Shade of Vampire, I cannot treat it like the other books I have received simply because this book is not in their league. So instead, I’m going to highlight what to avoid when writing Young Adult Fiction – using her debut story (I am NOT calling it a novel!) – as a case study.
If you’re going to write for teens, creating a new world for your readership and getting them to like and enjoy it is going to be difficult, especially if you make your plot too simple and linear. Sometimes, linear works well – in the case of John Greene – but for a supernatural, rollercoaster romance/adventure, I want a bit more… bite (no pun intended). Here’s some issues I have with Forrest’s PLOT:
- We don’t get to see her world and so there is nothing to compare the Shade with and then capitalise on how different they both are
- I get no real sense of backstory or background with Sofia
- The plot would benefit from a three-act structure – a beginning where we meet Sofia (perhaps in her world), a middle where we Sofia faces a series of obstacles, each greater than the previous one and an ending that’s satisfying and given the story, something with a bit more pow.
- Somehow, when Sofia is escaping, she finds a elevator in a forest to help her get down from the treetop penthouse (because vampires use elevators?)
In terms of plot, I score this novella as follows:
The NARRATION is all over the place:
- The story changes between Sofia and Derek with no consistency (we might have six chapters of Sofia and a meagre half-chapter from Derek)
- There’s no real distinction in narrative voice between both characters
- Vivienne narrates the epilogue which I find a bit bizarre (and the quality of writing is mediocre at best)
- The prologue is unnecessary. It does nothing to whet my appetite or get me excited and moreover, the writing is shoddy.
- Forrest constantly refers to Derek as that “kind of man” (73) but he’s a vampire!!
Don’t use too many voices as it jars the reader and unless you can make each voice distinct, the reader will not want to continue reading when you suddenly insert new narrators along the way with no real justification for doing so.
Some examples of the lapse and inconsistency in her narrative voices:
- Sofia: “If my goal was to not go insane, this sure was not helping make meet my objective.” (8) Inconsistent with contractions
- Derek: “As I finished my fourth glass, I found myself longing to check on how my beautiful captive was doing.” (53) Clunky and no real distinction between Sofia’s voice.
- Vivienne: “Neither Derek nor Sofia had any clue of what they had up against them. Truth be told, I didn’t fully understand either.” (142) As clunky as Sofia’s and Derek’s narration.
I give Forrest a generous:
In relation to CHARACTER, what character? There’s no consistency, no real depth to the characters. In fact, the characters are cyclical and their thoughts don’t even reflect their situations.
- When Lucas enters the dungeon where she is being held, she notices the room rather than her kidnapper who could potentially torture, maim or murder her.
- Referring to the vampire Derek kills, Lucas – a 400+ year old vampire – calls the dead vampire a “pathethic loser” (67)
- Sofia also says “sup”/”supping” repeatedly which is wrong on so many levels – not just on the basis of character
- When you read the story, you realise that the same words are repeated a lot. Sofia is always “gasping” or “dared” (47) or “desperate”. Boy, is she desperate! And “predicament”.
For coming up with character names alone, I give Forrest:
Quality of Writing:
In my reviews, I will now be commenting on the QUALITY OF WRITING so what better place to start than here. Some examples:
- “We’d made plans to keep our residences atop the redwoods, because of what a nuisance the wildlife had turned out to be.” (38) Also, the wildlife is a nuisance to vampires? Really?
- As Sofia is threatened by a bloodthirsty creature, her magical thought is: “What is it with these people and shoving me up against hard surfaces?” (32)
- “He set his focus straight on me.” (68)
- “‘You are a marvel.’ I had to smile at this ridiculous statement.” (85)
Forrest is awarded a single mark for pressing the buttons that churned out this monstrous (no pun intended) story. There’s also a huge inconsistency in capitalisation. “Prince” sometimes gets an uppercase “P” and other times, a lower case. And more than a dozen times, Forrest forgets words.
With regards to SETTING, everything is blandly labelled, the Catacombs, the Residences, Lodgers (the list goes on). The “Shade” is the only inventive term. The setting is very basic, the descriptions are cliched. Forrest refers to The Great Wall of China as the wall of China at one stage. The setting is nothing to be desired and there’s a massive amount of tell in this piece and not nearly enough demonstration of information through actions and speech.
And for COMPARATIVE LITERATURE, well, there’s nothing original and Forrest is nowhere near the same league as her competitors. I give her a single and very generous point for coming up with the “Shade”.
This story has the construction and thought of a ten-storey building stablised with toothpicks.
Books You May Also Like:
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – great world building and evolution of character
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead – great world-building, a likable, funny narrator and quality writing
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – funny narrator and fantastic world-building