I’ve been slowly working my way through the backlog of Speculate! episodes, and in one older episode the hosts were discussing The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. It wasn’t until recently that I got to read it for myself and experience Black’s fascinating take on vampires. When I first started the novel, I thought that maybe it was a dig at Twilight and its sparkly, essentially non-threatening vampires, but as I read on, it didn’t seem to be specifically targeting Twilight—which is nice, because despite Twilight’s many faults, I think there’s enough room in the world for both Twilight’s sparkly vampires and the more traditional Dracula-esque vampires. What Coldtown‘s vampires seem to be critiquing is the idea of romanticizing danger. As Holly Black said in an interview with Parade:
For me, I think one of the key things I wanted to explore in the book is the idea of our love of danger—and what we do in the face of it on such a staggering scale. That’s where the reality TV aspect of it came. We like watching people get hurt—on TV, on YouTube. There’s that vicarious thrill. I wanted to take that to an extreme and see what happened. What would it really be like if we had a world with vampires in it, given our iPhone, camera-obsessed culture? We like the idea that we could get close to danger and survive. And also the idea that someone else could get close to danger and not survive.
The book does have some potentially meatier themes about being a human vs. being a monster, but unfortunately, much of it wasn’t followed through in a way I found satisfying. What I did find satisfying was the ways in which Black uses her vampires to examine the horrifying consequences of the media sensationalism that we have to deal with in the real world.
Spoilers for almost the whole story below the jump.