The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week

A Hardcover Honey Review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black

Although it's the first work of hers that I have read, Holly Black is a well-regarded YA author, with several series to her name.  "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" (what a terrific title!) is a stand-alone book and a good introduction to her work.  Things get off to a running start when our heroine, 17-year-old Tana, wakes up in a bathtub after spending the night at a raging party.  She stumbles into the living room and finds the other party-goers murdered, scattered around on a blood-soaked carpet.  Cell phones ring unanswered in a nice spooky touch.  Tana discovers two other survivors in a guest room where the windows have been carefully covered with heavy trash bags.  One is her on-again off-again boyfriend Aidan, who is tied to the bed - the other a boy she's never seen before, gagged and in chains and with bright red eyes.  

Black makes a quick sidestep here to explain this world to us - a vampire outbreak when Tana was 7 that quickly went worldwide and the formation of "Coldtowns" where the vampires are (hopefully) contained in order to prevent massacres like the party Tana was attending.  In this rendition, being bitten by a vampire renders one "Cold" - a cold where body temps dropped, senses spiked, and the craving for blood became almost overwhelming."  If the Cold person drinks human blood, they come back as a full vampire.  There is only one known cure to becoming Cold - the victim must be kept from drinking human blood until the infection is flushed out of their system, which can take up to 88 days.  Tana's own mother turned Cold when Tana was ten, and after listening to her screams and pleadings from the basement, where she's been restrained in heavy chains, Tana made a fateful decision that ended in tragedy for her family.  She bears the scars, both literally and figuratively.  Now she lives in a world where vampires have their own TV shows and are glamorized and repellent in equal parts - an "Eternal Ball" rages inside of Coldtown and it's not just the vampires who occupy these towns, but runaways who want to find a place to belong, strays, and the like. Once you've entered a Coldtown, whether human or vamp, Cold or not, you can't leave.  Ever.

Back in the present, she quickly realizes that Aidan has been bitten and is Cold now and that the unknown boy is a full-fledged vamp.  She removes his gag and he warns her that other vamps are close behind.  She learns his name - Gavriel - and repays his warning by agreeing to take him along as she and Aidan go on the run.  Before they can leave, two vampires break into the room, and on her way out the window, Tana's leg is just barely grazed by a sharp set of teeth before she makes it outside.  With Gavriel rolled up in a sun-shielding blanket and tossed into her trunk, and Aidan just across the seat from her as she's driving, looking at her hungrily, they hit the road, with no destination in mind.  

Tana knows if she can make it a day or two without any symptoms, she will be OK, but she worries that she may be Cold and unable to resist the lure of blood.  When the car stops for gas, she and Aidan are drawn to the gas-station TV showing clips from the nation's largest Coldtown, which happens to be nearby in Springfield.  Aidan notes that it would be the perfect place to hide out and Tana is reminded that there's just one way for an uninfected human to leave Coldtown - by turning in a rouge vampire and receiving a marker.  She agrees to head for Coldtown.

Along the way, Tana's little group picks up a pair of goth-y teens, a brother and sister who have dubbed themselves "Midnight" and "Winter" (if you get confused about which is which, don't panic, it will all work itself out in due time).  They are vloggers obsessed with Coldtown and headed there themselves to get themselves bitten and become eternal.  Woo boy, I remember being a pretty dramatic teenager, but I don't think I would have offered myself up as a vampire snack.  In this world, though, lots of the humans are eager to attract vampires to them - one friend-of-a-friend of Tana's even cuts thin lines on her thighs with razor blades before she goes clubbing, hoping vampires will be drawn to her.

Approaching Coldtown, the group stops at the "Dead Last Rest Stop" - the highly touristy giant convenience mart that is the literal last stop before Coldtown.  This part of the book really shone for me - it was like I could see the Rest Stop right in front of me.  Black does some great detail work here describing the food court, the pay showers and the ever-ubiquitous truck stop t-shirts - in this case, with sayings like "I Bite On the First Date" and "I'll Take My Coffee With Your Blood In It". While there, they see more broadcasts from Coldtown, including the most well-known host (picture a sort of Hugh Hefner type, but undead........wait a second.........), Lucien Moreau, a golden-haired vampire who hosts an amazing party every single night.    

They eventually do make their way into Coldtown and Black does some nice world-building here (a coffee shop called "A Shot of Depresso") in her descriptions of the people they encounter on the inside.  At one point, Tana and Aidan are locked in a room together with a bowl full of blood (in the hopes that they will go full vamp) - Black describes the blood such "The scent of it was iron and basements and losing baby teeth so her big-girl teeth could come it.  It was skinned was smeared walls and staring eyes".  <shudder>  

As always, I don't want to spoil anything for you, so I'll just say here that they do eventually find their way to Lucien Moreau's Eternal Ball and that things don't go as planned (they never do, right?).  Also, if this is your first YA book, don't be surprised by the romance angle.  Books for young adults that feature a female protagonist, even one as kick-ass as Tana, always have a romance angle.  Please don't let it turn you off from reading this worthy entry into our Horror Honey reads!

Hardcover Honey Verdict: Three bloody bookworms out of five