I confess that the vampire craze has passed me by. I tried to read the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer but couldn’t make it halfway through the first book. The fascination with blood-sucking vampires is just something that hasn’t bitten me. However, I did enjoy this book about current-day vampires living in London, trying to be just like the neighbors. British author Matt Haig brings to life the struggles of a family that just wants to be “ordinary” like the other neighbors. The parents have abstained from blood-sucking, whether it be each other’s blood or that of ordinary humans, despite the ill effects it causes: headaches, weakness, rashes. They just don’t feel well. But they (especially the wife, Helen) think it’s more important to abstain than to feel healthy, so they do. In fact, they’ve been abstaining so long and so successfully that they’ve never told their children that they are vampires. Although their son suffers from rashes and abnormally pale skin that burns in the palest sunlight, the secret must be kept -- until their daughter decides to become a vegetarian. She can’t understand why animals always run away from her and think maybe this will help. Unfortunately, depriving herself of all meat has a tragic side effect. When a boy starts to molest her at a party, she bites his hand to get away … and then she can’t stop. Before she knows it, she’s killed him and ripped him apart, eaten his flesh. Horrified, she calls her mother. Her parents rush to the rescue. And, of course, they end up confessing their secret to their children.
The plot unwinds from there as the parents try to keep their daughter safe from the authorities and all four struggle to figure out how to mesh their “normal” lives with their vampire cravings. After all, how long can you really deny who you really are?
Although I’m not a vamp lit fan, I enjoyed this quick read because some of the plot twists were surprising and yet felt exactly right. The characters were easy to identify with, and it was a pleasant trip into another world. Isn’t that what all good books should be?
The Radleys by Matt Haig (Canongate Ltd., 2010)
My rating: 4 stars