Tuesday, June 02, 2009

NIGHT ROAD by A.M. Jenkins

A friend of mine who writes YAs suggested I read NIGHT ROAD by A.M. Jenkins. Two chapters in I saw what he was so excited about.

This is one of the most unique vampire novels I've ever read. If it doesn't have the power and range of I AM LEGEND it does offer the reader a freshly constructed underground world in which "hemovores" (though they drink blood they do not consider themselves vampires because there is a scientific explanation for their condition) function on the edge of contemporary society. The main character Cole is hundreds of years old but looks eighteen as do many of the "hemes."

While there are various groups of "hemes" around the world, Cole is part of one that is housed in New York City and operated by the legendary Johnny on whom everybody relies for guidance and help when in trouble. The book opens with Cole staying a night in Johnny's house. He immediately feels claustrophobic. He is used to wandering. He also dislikes the hangers-on, the non-"heme" girls who allow themselves to be fed on ("hemes" can feed safely is they're careful) and the goth wanna-bes who are ludicrous to watch and listen to.

There's a young man named Gordon who's just been turned. He doesn't want to face what he's become. He mourns the memories of his girl friend and his town and the future for himself. He also refuses to to learn how to feed properly and how to live without normal people recognizing him for what he is. For this reason Johnny asks Cole and Cole's best friend Sandor to take Gordon on a long road trip. By the end of it Gordon will become an acclimated "heme."

This is a picaresque novel, one adventure after another. It is also a novel of character. The three central people become fully realized by novel's end. Jenkins gives us the world of night in eloquent detail. There are several startling scenes of violence and three long set-pieces that are especially suspenseful. Jenkins is a literary writer and settles for none of the genre's cliches. The writing is fresh, stark and burnished with the secrets of a shadow world.

One of the most accomplished YAs I've read in a long, long time.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Does seem like a lot of good writing is taking place in YAs right now.