I start this review with the utmost trepidation because... well here's a book that pretty much every YA reader on the planet loves. It has crazy amounts of crazy fans and, well, I didn't think it was fantastic. It wasn't bad either. It did make me want to bash my head against the wall at some points (we'll get to that), but some other points were genuinely good. But did it have me jumping out of my chair, bursting with joy, ecstatic about the awesome? Far from it.
Let's add some context of my reading situation, because I don't want to lead you on. I am not a vampire fan. In fact, I'm pretty much a vampire hater. I get creeped out by them, I don't think sucking blood is sexy, it's just not for me. So I was planning to just avoid this, and never read it (as with all books with 'vampires' in the title/synopsis), but no. *tsks* My friends couldn't leave well enough alone. They were all like:
And the awesome Judith made me an offer I couldn't refuse (ha) by sending the book to me so I wouldn't even have to buy it or find some other place to borrow it. So obviously, I had to read it. But by that time I was curious. I mean, I might like it. I might hate it. Curiosity was getting the better of me. So while I was still very skeptical about it, I set off on my reading journey, deciding to liveblog it on Twitter (#vampirehaterreadsVA) to provide some LOLs or impressions.
My problem with Vampire Academy surprisingly is not the vampire aspect. Usually, I'm, like, vampires?
And I was scared, when I started reading, that already on page 3 there was a "feeding" scene. I thought it wouldn't end well. But the vampire aspect is rather tame, to be honest. As Rose herself is not a vampire but a Dhampir, a half-blood vampire bodyguard, that typical stuff is kept largely out of the picture. In fact, I quite liked these vampires. Much better than Twilight, in any case. These vampires are harmed by the sun, can wield elemental magic, and have an old fashioned monarchical, classist society. I do kind of dislike that their saliva is like a drug to the people they feed on, but... I managed to ignore that for the most part.
So what was my biggest problem with Vampire Academy? What made me want to throw the book across the room and bash my head against the wall sometimes? Rose. Yes, I know, you're all gaping at the screen right now. "How could she say that??? Rose is the most badass character ever!!!" Well, tough.
You should already be proud of me that it's not the vampire thing bugging me. But here's the thing with Rose. Everyone says she's badass. Sure, she's reckless, loud, honest and won't take shit from anybody. But. There's a fine line between being awesomely badass and being obnoxiously cocky and conceited. And I feel like Rose crosses that line many, many times. Some examples of what I mean:
The incident had given me a dangerous reputation, in addition to my smartass one. The story had gained legendary status, and I liked to imagine that it was still being told around campfires late at night. - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Natalie was nice but also one of the most uninteresting people I knew. - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
I knew I was pretty, but to Moroi boys, my body was more than just pretty: it was sexy in a risqué way. - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
He was boring, yes, but safe. Just like Natalie. How come all the harmless people were so lame? - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
I knew perfectly well that there weren't a lot of girls at this school who looked as good in a bra as I did. - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Now, okay, you're all probably still glaring at me. Because, yes, to a certain extent it is refreshing to have a main character with a bit higher self-esteem than most. But when it's page after page of comments like this... Seriously, in some parts, on each page Rose was belittling different characters in her narrations, particularly Natalie - all the time. I got sick of her attitude. I wanted to throw the book across the room. It's a brand of cocky I can't take. Now, I want to be perfectly honest: had I not borrowed this book from Judith, and had it not had all this praise from everyone who's read it, I would have given up. That's how badly she pissed me off. All the time I was reading, I just kept thinking...
Luckily... I can say that she did seem to have grown a little by the end of the book. But I'm still extremely weary of her. She still needs a reality check and a slap across the face. (Also, the way she's so flirty and devil-may-care with her sexual reputation really bothered me for the fact that she was still a virgin.)
So I kept reading and kept reading... I didn't really know why. It's a really simple read, compulsively readable, one might say. I was sometimes annoyed by the juvenile narrations, but I set that aside, just because it read so quickly. But yeah, the writing style leaves more to be desired.
The plot never really hooked me either. I kept waiting and waiting to be sucked in or blown away, but it never happened. I had no clue where the story was going (and not in the good way, in the "where the hell is my plot?" way) and there was no real mystery sucking me in either. I was reading this just to read it because I'd promised friends I would. The plot was just... boring? average?
However, this negativity all out of the way, there were things I liked too. I liked Christian - he was probably my favorite character, because his devil may care attitude closely resembled my own attitude while reading this. I gradually warmed up to Dimitri, though I am not a screaming fangirl for him by any means. Lissa was really intriguing to me, and I think she's mostly why I kept reading, all things said and done. Her friendship with Rose was... interesting. I like it, for the most part.
The last quarter of the book was truly enjoyable though. Things finally started happening - interesting things (and not childish boarding school bitch wars). The romance between Rose and Dimitri certainly is hot. There's no getting around that. It definitely caught my attention, and I enjoyed it. And, as I said, Rose appeared to have grown a little. Action-esque plot things happened, some reveals were made, but nothing really blew my mind. It was fun to read, but, turning to the final page, I was still waiting to be wowed.
This is... a guilty pleasure read. Certainly, it has mass market appeal, proven by the screaming fangirls and glowing reviews. While it did have points of merit, I'm still not blown away. It was an all right read, but, to me, not really worth of all the hype. It's a fast and easily digestible read, there's hot boys, but Rose remains a stumbling block for me.
Will I continue with the series? I honestly don't know. I've heard it gets better and better, and the third book is particularly amazing, but I don't know if it's really worth my time if I'm not convinced here. And I don't know if Rose will really grow or if she will just continue to irritate me. Maybe I'll pick the second book up when I have cleared out my to-read list, have some free time, and want some nice romance on a rainy day. Because, yeah, I'd probably just be reading it for the romance.
Err... I don't know. I'm probably the black sheep here. Most readers would like it.