Vampire books stake claim to teens

"Eclipse" is at the top of the hardcover best-seller lists. Teenage girls nearly got into fistfights over advance copies of Stephenie Meyer's last vampire love story, "New Moon," after they arrived at the Carnegie Library in 2006.

Eclipse by Stephenie MeyerThis month, with the release of the third book in Meyer's series, publishers Little, Brown did not issue the galleys again, as they traditionally do to build buzz (though not necessarily bookworm fisticuffs) about a title.

"They didn't do that with 'Eclipse' -- they didn't need to," said Karen Brooks-Reese, the library system's teen services coordinator.

Released Aug. 7 2007, "Eclipse," a 629-page story about teenage Bella and her complicated relationships with vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob, shot to the top of hardcover best-seller lists.

The popularity of the title points once again to the enduring popularity of "paranormal fiction," with bloodlines running from Bram Stoker through Anne Rice, to more recent authors such as Meyer and Scott Westerfeld, another specialist in science fiction for the young set.

The roots of that fascination go even deeper, to the often grisly fairy tales we hear as children, said Kitty Lagorio, an author and children's literature professor at Chatham University.

Fairy tales "push the edge of horror," she said. "Why do we go into the dark? Especially with reading, it's always safe and you can close the book.

"At the heart of the matter, kids enjoy being scared."

Add those thrills with the palpitations of teenage romance -- often among social outcasts, in Brothers Grimm-like high school hallways -- and you've got yourself a sure-fire witch's brew for a best seller.

In Meyer's Twilight series (named after the first book in the series, from 2005), Bella's parents are divorced, and she has moved from her mother's house in Phoenix to her dad's place in Washington state.

"It's a dreary gray place. She has feelings of isolation. She has trouble fitting in because she's so different from everyone else there. She's very clumsy and doesn't look like anyone else, so has feelings of self consciousness," said Brooks-Reese. "They're all things teenagers can relate to, even if it's not something they're experiencing themselves."

"Also there's the adolescent appeal of who's more alienated and unlike their peers than someone who's a vampire?" said Lisa Dennis, the Carnegie Library's coordinator of children's collections. "There is both the sense of this person would understand what I'm going through because he really doesn't fit in, and also the appeal of someone who's really different."

The Meyer books are also easy to swallow for parents: They contain no graphic sex or violence.

Meyer isn't the only author feeding readers' tastes for young adult fantasy books that take a walk on the dark side. Scott Westerfeld has tapped into the literary trend with "Midnighters," the best-selling "Pretties" series and his apocalyptic tales of teen vampires, "Peeps" and "The Last Days."

Many others tap the paranormal romance vein, including Maryjanice Davidson, Laurell Hamilton and Charlaine Harris. (Like Stephenie Meyer, they also share oddly spelled names.)

Then, of course, there's J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, in which teen angst and an epic good vs. evil struggle have combined for a seven-book series of runaway best sellers.

Much has been made lately of "Eclipse" knocking "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" into second place on the best-selling fiction lists, but that may be overstated. The Potter books have a proven universal appeal, while the romantic angle of the Twilight series is largely targeted toward girls age 14-17.

Last week there were more than 120 readers on a Carnegie Libraries waiting list to get one of the 30 library copies of the book countywide -- a very high and "pretty unusual" number for a teen novel, said Dennis. Still, the Carnegie had some 700 readers waiting for its 194 copies of "Deathly Hallows." (At the bookstore the "Hallows" list price is $34.99, while "Eclipse" lists at $18.99.)

But Meyer, a 33-year-old Mormon mother of three from Phoenix, is working hard to close the gap. She writes ferociously -- the fourth book in the series, "Breaking Dawn," is set for release next fall -- and is a savvy marketer who keeps in touch with fans via MySpace.

Just how confident is Meyer in her book-writing abilities? Another book is planned through the point of view of Bella's vampire lover Edward, and Meyer has already posted a rough draft of the first chapter on her Web site (, with the following warning to fans:

"Enjoy it for what it is, but know that the final copy will be infinitely superior."



Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Timothy McNulty


Fanged Films

Japan, 1974
The Evil of Dracula / Bloodsucking Rose / The Bloodthirsty Roses
USA, 1943
Dead Men Walk

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 85
Mannie Get Your Ghoul
Vol. 3 No. 3
The Deadly Sky