Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Three Viewpoint Thursdays: Eighth Grade Bites

Welcome to a great day on the blog! It's time for a new feature, and what a great way to start us off!

It's Three Viewpoint Thursday, where three of us at YA Lit Review sit down and chat about one book. Sort of like a bookclub meeting online. For the first one, Aly, Renee and I chatted about the first book in Heather Brewer's Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

Eighth Grade Bites follows Vladimir Tod as he starts to learn about his vampirish past, and we look to the future of the series as he discovers things he might not want to know. It's an amazing series for boys and other reluctant readers, as well as anyone who enjoys a good vampire tale.

Vilate: to start off...

Vilate: Did you like or dislike the book?

Aly: I really liked the story... It was easy to get into and I really liked the characters.

Renee: I liked it, but I didn't LOVE it. I usually prefer a little more focus on romance/teenage hormones, but the plot was very enjoyable!

Vilate: I enjoyed it, myself. I liked that it was short and had action and humor in it. I thought it was all well thought out. Even the ending was good, and I'm usually a little disappointed in endings!

Renee: I thought it was very funny, without being crude or offensive, and the dialogue sounded very realistic.

Aly: I think we need to remember that the first one Vlad is in 8th grade and I expect that as the books proceed you will get more hormones and possible romance.

Renee: I think so too... I think I will continue with the series, even if it is a little outside what I usually go for. I really fell for some of the characters.

Aly: I also liked many of the characters and I liked that the adults weren't all portrayed as terrible. The Aunt, Mr. Otis, etc.

Vilate: So true! I don't like books that portray adults as bad, as much as I dislike books that make them to be all great. Vladimir Tod seems to strike a good balance with all of the characters.

Renee: I also liked that the adults were not just people in the background who kept interfering with the young protagonists, but they helped the cause sometimes and were interesting on their own.

Aly: I also liked the significance of Vlad's parents' death in his life and that he had a good relationship with them. What do you think of how she did with establishing her "world" in the first book... I wasn't sure if I had too many questions I still wanted answered or if it was okay since she (author) had 4 more books planned in her mind???!!!

Vilate: The world felt very realistic. I think there are still lots of questions I have, but I wasn't unsatisfied with the world. I thought it worked to give the story some good ground.

Renee: Same here. It had a kind of "Harry Potter" feel, where I was given what I needed to know for this book, with the promise for more developments and expansion in future novels in the series.

Aly: I think when I heard her speak and realized that she had the idea for all 5 books at once then I felt more "at-ease" about the unanswered questions because I realized that she would likely reveal things as she went and probably didn't want to spoil anything.

Vilate: yes! She even told the audience at the signing here that *all* questions will be answered, so no one will wonder about anything. Having her know all five books at the beginning is great. I think that helped her establish the world and make it feel supported and realistic.

Vilate: okay, so going back to characters for a moment, let's talk about Vlad and Henry's relationship. Henry is popular and Vlad is decidedly not. What works and what doesn't for the two of them in terms of their friendship? Why does Henry still like Vlad?

Aly: It is interesting that Henry is the popular one but in some ways Vlad is the power in that relationship. Also, I think Vlad underestimates his abilities or doesn't quite see himself in the right "light" and that his confidence will grow in time. Henry is just kind of a typical 8th grade popular boy in my mind... adds some humor, you want to at times punch him in the arm, but he is loyal and good to have around.

Renee: I think the nice thing about Henry, is that behind the "good looks and charm," he's just an average boy who sometimes says the wrong thing, but is very loyal (as you said) and just wants to be a friend. He isn't painted as a stereotypical attractive jerk, and with Vlad he can just be himself without all the bluster.

Renee: I like that she didn't make him the obvious good looking mean kid.

Vilate: I second that, Renee. I like the interplay of having an unpopular main character and a popular "sidekick." I think it helps show that not all kids are the same and even "popular" kids can identify and enjoy the story, since they aren't all made out to be mean.

Aly: I liked what Heather said at her SoCal signing about writing about what she knew which was being an unpopular kid and I think she nails it well without making Vlad seem like a wimp or whiny. I think if you saw him as a wimp then that would be annoying. However, when you read about him there is something that you connect with.

Aly: Now about the boy interest in the books...that was amazing to me. More than half the audience at Heather Brewer’s signing in Southern California was male. Mostly 8th to 10th graders. And not just geeky boy readers but some definitely more untypical boys for a book signing... what is up with that?

Renee: I think the book was nice, in that was very action-oriented. A lot of books spend a lot of time pontificating and spending a lot of time considering everyone's feelings and thoughts, and while I do think some guys appreciate "thoughts," I think a lot of males (esp. young ones who are not big readers) prefer to see things actually happening.

Aly: I would tend to agree with Renee, as well as it is a boy main character

Vilate: I think it's definitely easier for boys to identify with a male main character, but I also think it's the shorter length of the book as well as a lack of "romance" that helps. There are several things that all work together to make this such a great read for boys. Like the Percy Jackson series. It's got humor, action, vampires, blood, and mystery. A good combo for reluctant readers of either gender.

Aly: I think boys tend to be reluctant readers and so short is a good start, action is always good. Also what surprised me were the adult males that were obviously big fans. So not just adult females who tend to still read this genre.

Vilate: I loved that, at the signing, the boys were all very eager to ask questions and basically declare themselves fans. It's Percy Jackson and Vladimir Tod that are making it okay for them to do that.

Renee: Also, the boys in the story had a lot of "power" and didn't rely on adults (or females - excluding for Vlad's daily blood needs) so it gives male readers a sense of independence and control.

Vilate: Good point! I also think the theme resonates with them a lot. That it's okay to be yourself and it's okay to be different than other people.

Aly: What did people thing about the underground/or alternate vampire "universe"?

Vilate: I love the idea of Elysia. It also reminded me of Harry Potter, but not so much that I felt like it was a trope. It felt natural for the vamps to have their own little world.

Renee: It did have a very magical feel to it, but it also fit very into the real world. I could imagine a place like that existing that we just have no access to or knowledge of. In many ways, it didn't feel very fantastical.

Aly: I liked that the alternate world Elysia wasn't some weird thing but represented more of a typical power base.

Vilate: Okay, any last thoughts?

Aly: To end things for me... I am eager to read on...

Vilate: Me too!! ^_^

It was a fun chat and we look forward to continuing with this! If you'd like to participate, please send an email to us at for more information.

Until next time, go read something good!

~ Vilate

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