Happy Halloween, Snarklings! For this visit to the Nocturnal House, I’ve decided to take a break from the usual sort of gruesome and terrifying vampires I prefer to read about, and instead, in the spirit of trick-or-treating, indulge in a sweet and spooky treat.
Now, I read a lot of YA vampire books. (I read a lot of vampire books, period.) But the various YA takes on vampire fiction fascinate me, in part because the YA books often have a bit more plot going on than some of the “grown-up” market vampire novels. Probably because YA authors don’t have the easy narrative drive of vampire sex scenes.
(An aside: hey, I’m all for well-written vampire smut! WELL-WRITTEN being the key words there. There are certain authors who rely a bit too heavily on sex scenes, with the end result being kind of boring, and there is nothing sadder in a vampire novel than tedious, yawn-inducing smut.)
Anyway! YA vampire books! There are a couple of series I read which cause me to eagerly wait for the newest volume to be released. My very favorite series has earned a place on my comfort reading shelf, and the first book of the series is one I indulge in when I need cheering up.
Vampire Kisses, by Ellen Schreiber
This book is adorable. It’s a cloud of pink and black cotton candy; fluffy, sugary, but with a sweetly spooky overtone. Here, maybe the opening will show why I mentally draw glittery hearts and bats around this book:
It first happened when I was five.
I had just finished coloring in My Kindergarten Book. It was filled with Picasso-like drawings of my mom and dad, an Elmer’s-glued, tissue-papered collage, and the answers to questions (favorite color, pets, best friend, etc.) written down by our hundred-year-old teacher, Mrs. Peevish.
My classmates and I were sitting in a semicircle on the floor in the reading area. “Bradley, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mrs. Peevish asked after all the other questions had been answered.
“A fire fighter!” he shouted.
“Uh”¦a nurse,” Cindi Warren whispered meekly.
Mrs. Peevish went through the rest of the class. Police officers. Astronauts. Football players. Finally it was my turn.
“Raven, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mrs. Peevish asked, her green eyes staring through me.
I said nothing.
I shook my head.
“Nuh, uh,” I said.
“A flight attendant?”
“Yuck!” I replied.
“Then what?” she asked, annoyed.
I thought for a moment. “I want to be”¦”
“I want to be”¦a vampire!” I shouted, to the shock and amazement of Mrs. Peevish and my classmates. For a moment I thought she started to laugh; maybe she really did. The children sitting next to me inched away.
I spent most of my childhood watching others inch away.
How could I not fall in love with the book at that point? Vampire Kisses is about sixteen year-old Raven Madison, the only goth girl in the small town she calls Dullsville. Her parents, little brother, and best friend Becky love her, but don’t necessarily understand her black-clad, vampire-obsessed ways. There’s her nemesis, soccer jock Trevor, who loves to torment her. Then, on Raven’s sixteenth birthday, a family rumored to be vampires move into the haunted Mansion in town!
“I saw a Mercedes parked at the Mansion!” I informed my family at dinner. I was late as usual, this time for my own birthday dinner.
“I heard they looked like the Addams Family,” Nerd Boy said.
“Maybe they have a daughter your age. Someone who doesn’t like to get into trouble,” my mother added.
“Then I’d have no use for her.”
“Maybe she has a father I can play tennis with,” my father said hopefully.
“Whoever it is will need to get rid of all those old mirrors and crates,” I added, not realizing what I had said. They all looked at me.
“What crates?” my mom asked. “Don’t tell me you’ve snuck into that house!”
“It’s just something I heard.”
“Raven!” my mother said in that disapproving mother tone.
It seemed no one in Dullsville had seen the new owners. It was wonderful to have a mystery in this town for a change.
Over the course of the story, Raven gets into assorted scrapes while trying to find out the truth about the Stirling family, including run-ins with golden boy Trevor, a stint in an after-school job to pay for her dad’s tennis racquet, which she lost on Halloween night (why yes, she dressed up as the scariest thing she could think of – a preppy tennis player), sneaking into the Stirling Mansion, and finally, finally meeting Alexander Stirling: seventeen, nocturnal, home-schooled, and the handsomest Goth boy she’d ever dreamed of.
Gothy girl meets Gothy boy, Gothy girl still suspects that her spooky dreamboat really is a vampire. Gothy girl also has to deal with the harassment from Trevor, the gossip around Dullsville about the weird Stirling family, being nervous about asking Alexander to the Snow Ball dance, and why is Becky being so unenthusiastic about the Snow Ball, anyway?
Yes, it’s a teen romance. But Raven rings true as an outcast babybat teen girl longing for a more spooky world. I’m self-aware enough to know that if Vampire Kisses had been around during my adolescence, I would have identified with Raven so hard I might have vanished into the book. As fictional characters to identify with go, Raven isn’t a bad choice. She’s fiercely loyal to her family and friends, she’s determined to be herself in a town full of people who think she needs to fit in, and she refuses to be a doormat. No matter what taunts Trevor throws her way, she returns fire with snarky wit, frequently showing him up as the insecure jerk he is. In fact, the only thing that I didn’t like about Raven is that she’s not that interested in school. Every Goth I’ve ever known is some flavor of bookworm; maybe not everyone liked school, but we all liked reading and learning about the world. When you’re yearning for a darker, more glamorous world than the one around you, books offer a glimpse into other, possible worlds.
As teen romances go, it’s a better one than most. Raven doesn’t make Alexander her whole world, and decides that the reality of having a sweetheart she can relate to is better than her dreams of being swept away by a darkly handsome vampire prince. But because it’s a teen romance, there’s a big scene at the Snow Ball, confusion, and a Big Reveal at a party. Not to mention that Raven may have to revisit some ideas she once held dear, especially ones about vampires ”¦
He walked me to the door and playfully bit me on the neck with his vampire teeth.
I laughed and tried to pull the fake teeth out of his mouth.
“Ouch,” he exclaimed.
“You’re not supposed to Superglue them on!”
“Raven, you don’t still believe in vampires, do you?” he asked.
“I think you’ve cured me of that,” I answered. “But I’m going to keep the black lipstick.”
As I said at the beginning of this post, the entire Vampire Kisses series is a sweet and spooky treat. Each book is just as charming as the one before, and Ellen Schrieber explores some interesting ideas in between dollops of gothy teen romance: Should you change your life to be with the person you love? What about keeping secrets? How difficult is it to live in the daylight world when your heart belongs to the night? My favorite of the series is probably Vampire Kisses 5: The Coffin Club, but as it is a book set primarily in a Goth club with a secret vampire club in the basement, how could it not be?
The Vampire Kisses series is in no way scary, and the vampires aren’t that monstrous. But I find the books adorable, and I re-read them when I am in need of something sweet, comforting, and adorably gothy. What are your favorite dark or spooky comfort books?
If you want comfort reading you’ve got to try the house of night series. Although the characters cannot be classed as Gothic by any stretch of the imagination, and indeed sometimes call us freaky and weird, there is just so much Goths can relate to. The clothes, stylish, mainly black and elegant, the inability the characters (who happen to be vampires) have to fit in, and being shunned by narrow minded people. I like this series because the vampires are not monsters but normal humans with exclusive schools, their own government and laws… and who just happen to drink blood.
Oh! D. Gray Man and Umineko no Naku Koro ni both have fabulous dark elements as well (Umineko is very bloody and violent though, not for the squeamish). Chobits as well, though you have to look very hard for it.
my girl friend and i are both avid readers. she absolutley fell in love with it and carries it verywher 🙂 thinking im going to get ther the rest of the series for her birth day. 🙂
Hm. Honestly, I don’t know how much I’d like Vampire Kisses. I’m not a big fan of romances, personally – especially if they are YA vampire romances. But that’s just me.
I’ve seen a few commenters mention some really fabulous books, though only one of them – Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman – has a vampire-like character.
Neil Gaiman is a treasure trove of dark and wonderful stories. Coraline is popular, and so is The Graveyard Book. I’ve read quite a lot from Gaiman, and I’m a fan of it all. (I’ve actually just finished American Gods.) In an anthology of short stories, he wrote a poem titled “Vampire Sestina” and a short story called “15 Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot.”
Someone mentioned Terry Pratchett. I think that it’s appropriate to mention, since I was just talking about Gaiman, that they co-wrote a book, Good Omens. Good Omens is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. It’s a humorous take on Armageddon, and it’s one of those books you really want to keep coming back to, just for a comfort read.
And Poe, Snicket, Black, Carringer, and Funke are all wonderful writers who were mentioned by commenters. I totally agree that they’re worth reading.
I really hope i can convince my boyfriend to get me those books! cx anyways i love books from spookily adorable YA, to the old classics like Poe. But my FAVORITE series of all time would be hands down The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. it’s also a teen romance, very actiony with insights on what it’s like being a teen vampire 🙂 well, half vampire anyway. i’d VERY much recommend this book to anyone who likes spooky books portrayed in modern times. I love Heather Brewer<3
Another series of books to consider is the novels based on TSR’s Ravenloft setting. Some deal with Ravenloft’s Dracula analog: Count Strahd von Zarovich.
I’m pretty sure I would hate that book, I may be a teen girl but romance, especially teen romance, is just plain irritating to me 😛
I have read the series over and over again and I still love it!
During my sophomore year of high school a friend of mine, while we were both in the very begining stages of finding our inner goths and bringing them out to meet the world, gave me the second book in this series because she was cleaning out her closet and, on most occasions, does not re-read books. I brought this as a get-away, safe-haven to Christmas dinner with my family and read through it in just under a few hours. I fell absoultely in love and have in the last year procured all but one of the currently released books (still in search of lucky #7). I am currently a junior, still a baby bat, and every once in a while having Raven to relate to is wonderful and gives me more confidence to deal with the people who disaprove of goth and can’t politely keep their rather rude comments to themselves. Since most of my book shelf is stocked with things like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Rice, and even Bram Stoker, I find this a nice rest when I don’t want something quite as in depth, long, or that requires more concentration (refering more so to Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Yes, the book isn’t written in magnificent vocabulary and discription, but it is a lovely little comfort book with a goth protagonist who doesn’t fit the classic anti-social, depressed, and self-harming-for-attention, untrue cliche. Yes it’s not perfect, yes it has flaws, but I will admit to having stayed up on some insomnia filled nights with a cup of hot chocolate eating this book up like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.
Annette Curtis Klause’s “The Silver Kiss”. An absolute must-read for vampire romance fans. Basically set the template for many other teen vampire romances to come, but with much more depth, feeling, and darkness. Also deals with teenage grief, loss, and loneliness. I read it every autumn.
Yay!! You finally did a review of my all-time favorite vampire romance series!! Raven (besides Jillian of course) is my goth idol!! When I first started reading the series, I absolutely loved Raven’s style and confidence, not willing to take any crap from anyone and always being true to herself. Alexander is a dream, the perfect goth boyfriend(and being a vampire helps too). I resent the other comments about how this is more for teenagers when I am 19 and STILL read the books over and over again, blushing when reading Alexander’s parts. I have all eight of the books and all four of the manga which I love too. The manga is extremely good and the gothic fashions in there are killer, the most coolest and creative goth clothing ever!
Ohhh, I’ve been waiting for Vampire Kisses to show up on your list! 🙂 As far as vampire books go (and I have read a lot/continue to read a lot of them), Vampire Kisses is my favorite. There’s just something about the utterly sweet way Raven’s point of view is portrayed. And I also LOVE the way Alexander and Raven are near opposites in personality, like how Alexander is so reserved and cautious while Raven is really outgoing and adventurous. Every time I reread these books (at least the ones that are currently out), I get in a really good mood. It’s such an adorable series. Love these books to death.
P.S. Maybe you should try looking at the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. I like the later books better (the first and second are OKAY, but the rest are AMAZING, especially when they leave the academy). It’s for a young adult/adult crowd, it’s really heartbreaking and cute and funny and witty, it’s amazingly well-written, and it sucks you in to Rose’s world completely. I even had the immense pleasure of meeting Richelle Mead at a book signing. She’s an amazing person. 🙂
I am a fan of the series as well. The books are cute and interesting, and a pleasant way to spend the afternoon reading for a couple of hours since each book isn’t very long. It might be teen romance, but I still think that there are also other things going on in the book where people won’t be completely bored or irritated by the romance that is in the books.
Ahh, Mrs Manners, your Nocturnal House section, coupled with the books you recommended in Gothic Charm School book have increased my reading list somewhat (I literally always have a book on the go) Something Wicked This Way Comes, Lost Souls and Edward Gorey’s Amphigorey series are now on my must-read list, after I finish reading Phantom Of The Opera. I love your website, it’s so inspiring.
Sounds like a book I need to add to my wishlist. X)
“The Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett has been one of my favorite comfort books since I was little. It’s a lot darker than the various movie versions, what with all the child abuse and Sara’s parents being dead. Plus she has a certain fondness for pretending she’s a prisoner in the Bastille, which I think any spooky child with an interest in history can relate to on some level. The best part is that it isn’t so dark that it’s depressing, which is great when the majority of your book collection is a bunch of classic novels where all the characters you actually want to live don’t make it.
Oh, just as a suggestion you should defenitly do a review on the amazing morganvill vampire series by rachel caine. it is the best comfort book ever but the main person is not a goth her wonderfully amazing best friend eve is.___
I know I’ve already posted once, but I realized I had something else to say when looking back at this!
I kind of have something to add to your post. Just so people are aware of this and if they’ve enjoyed “Vampire Kisses”: Ellen Shreiber has also come out with a manga series (of which I happily own and enjoy) for Alexander and Raven’s adventures. The manga is called “Blood Relatives.”
Another thing that I recently remembered is that “Vampire Kisses” was the first book I read (I was maybe 10 years old) that got me into writing for a hobby. Writing is now my creative outlet. Once I read “Vampire Kisses,” I knew I wanted to write about “vampires and goths,” which sounds a little odd, but this was the series that inspired me the most, ever since the beginning (I’m now 15 years old), even though mine and Schreiber’s series are very different now.
Again, sorry for the extra post! Love this series! I’m really glad you mentioned it!
I have one favorite book and one series that I like to read over and over. ‘Oh My Goth’ is the first one and I like it because the main character Jade learns some lessons.
Next I love the Manga series, Skip Beat, it is really hilarious. I like how Kyoko has a lot of time spent on getting her revenge on Shotaro Fuwwa. It might not be healthy in real life,but it is just manga.
for all you other anime fans, after reading the novels, i found that they have a manga series as well! 😀
of course i’d suggest reading the books first
just letting you all know
I have read this series and I have fallen in love with it time and time again and I feel compelled to put in my most cherished book list. I also indulge in the manga and am very happy to put this series on my comfort-shelf as well.
I totally have to read this! It sounds divine!
My favourite comfort book, which I finished in a week (all five books, when I first read them), is Souless, and others in the series. It is a book set in an alternative Victorian England with vampires, werewolves and souless men and women! I won’t give away the plot for you but I will just say it had me up all night and swishing my lacy black skirts with excitment. From airships to terrible hats to absolutely killer parisols which fire numbing darts this series has it all!
Ive read all of the series actually this series is the best nd changed my whole
Perspective it made me want to know more bout the gothic world i think
raven has and will always will be my gothic idol n role model if i were to be
somebody i would be her n have that hot vampire boyfriend ^~^
Belated response, I know, but I’m surprised no one mentioned these yet. My absolute /favorite/ comfort books- The Gemma Doyle trilogy, by Libba Bray. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing. They’re not quite as “hardcore” gothic, but they’re set in the 1800’s and have lots of delicious Victorian trappings. The characters are wonderful, the plot is gripping, and it’s got plenty of yummy themes of empowerment and strength and choice that make bad days less bad.
(The only downside- the subject of self-harm is brought up, and dealt with very clunkily, which I imagine could be frustrating with people who’ve struggled with it. But otherwise, lovely.)
I positively love and adore this series! I discovered it when I was but a Babybat. I wound up buying the 4th book, “Dance with a Vampire,” first and now I own the entire series (for those of you wondering, my dears, the entire set spawns 8 lovely books).
My only complaint is that they got rid of the old cover art, although some might find the new cover art delectable. Personally, I prefer the older art, with the exception of the new cover art for the first book! It is of a choker. I’m going to covet a copy of said choker for my wedding day.
Anyway, at least from my humble point of view, this series is quite exceptional. I reccommend and enjoyed it! If you do decide to read, do have fun!
Infinite x’s & o’s,
I simply adore these books!! I agree with one of the other top comments I also really enjoy the Gemma Doyle Trilogy.
I love any vampire book but vampire kisses is the best book I have ever read. 🙂 :):):):)
Omgosh this book sounds so cutley gothy!
I always enjoy reading Vampire Kisses. I appreciate how Raven stays true to herself and her dream throughout the series. Her style is to die for! Especially in the manga. The lack of cursing and gore have made me feel comfortable when recommending it to younglings. I do believe that my favorite character is Jagger. I know he’s not Alexander but dang! (*Daydreams about his eyes.*)
My favorite vampire/spooky books, other than Vampire Kisses, are Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (not exactly comforting but certainly spooky), the Splintered series by A.G. Howard (a little bit on the punk side, but Morpheus is oh so tricksy/delicious!), Peter Pan by Sir J.M. Barrie, Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Hunt by Andrew Fukada (not goth-y but there’s a TON of vampires), Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, and And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich. I know for a fact that I forgot so many, but I hope this suffices.
I must admit that I have spent the past several nights (and dawns) going through your blog and catching up on all your posts. Your advice, warmth, and humor have gotten me through a few rough patches, and put a smile on my face. Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderfully spooky night!
I read all of the Vampire Kisses books, and I was not a fan. It was really cringey and childish in my opinion. I’m not a teenager anymore, so that’s probably why. I prefer the old classics! But I am now reading The Bloody Red Baron, and while I’m not liking it as much as Anno Dracula, it’s not bad!
The English-language manga trilogy “Re:Play” by Christy Lijewski was pretty good.
Izaak, a homeless man with no memory, ends up being recruited by a small-time punk band as their new bassist. (Mainly because their very ADHD lead singer hears him out busking and impulsively hires him on the spot.) The guitarist is suspicious of him, and discovers strange and terrifying things about Izaak…
Meanwhile, love is brewing, the transphobic bassist from a rival band (who is also the drummer’s brother) makes trouble, and two members of a mysterious organization appear to be observing Izaak’s behavior for some reason. (Not gonna spoil it.)
While it’s not very Goth, it is a pretty fun bit of vampire fiction, and I’ve never regretted buying it back when it came out. Plus, the series tagline, “Forever Never Dies,” is exactly the kind of sappy Jack-and-Sally kinda thing I go for.
Because it was published by Tokyopop, it’s not something you’re going to find easily in brick-and-mortar stores, but you can still get copies on Amazon. Here’s a link to the first volume, if it intrigues you: https://www.amazon.com/Re-Play-Christy-Lijewski/dp/1598167375