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My first copy was one a friend loaned me, but because I forgot to opt out of it after reading the book, I won a second copy in a Goodreads FirstReads giveaway.
(Grab something to eat and take a seat. This is going to be a long one.)
Sixteen-year-old Kylie is sent off to a summer camp after she's caught at a party where drugs and alcohol were found. She and her mom thought it was just a camp for troubled teens, but it's really a camp where supernatural creatures like vampires and witches come to stay and learn how to control their powers.Kylie thinks she's normal and doesn't belong there, but strange things are happening with her that say otherwise. Throw in two new best friends, a love triangle, and the threat of Shadow Falls being shut down and all of this adds up to Kylie's summer.
We'll start with the book's worst point: rampant slut-shaming. In the very first chapter, a girl named Shannon that Kylie never interacts with is at a party with Kylie's ex Trey. Shannon is called (in third-person narration) slutty, a screw toy (twice!), a bang toy, special attention is paid to how short her skirt is and how low her shirt's neckline is, and she is outright called a slut later. What is Shannon's crime? Choosing to have sex with her boyfriend Trey.
Next is Kylie's best friend Sara. She used to think sex was special and lost her v-card to a guy she thought was the love of her life. He wasn't. In the six months after that happens, Sara starts to party and drink, dates four boys, sleeps with two of them, has a pregnancy scare, and then goes on to planning sex with a nineteen-year-old boy once she's sure she isn't pregnant. She no longer talks about sex being special. (Factoid: this book takes place in Texas, the age of consent there is seventeen, and Sara is sixteen.) It felt like her character was being used as a cautionary tale instead of a character. "Don't have sex, girls! Not unless you want to end up like Sara."
In short, this book preaches that girls who are sexual or dress in revealing clothes are looked down upon and are sluts. They're the bad girls and should be hated. The girls who decide to wait for sex are angels. You especially shouldn't have sex because that risks pregnancy. It's not like you can take the Pill or use a condom, right? They don't protect against pregnancy or significantly lower the odds.
How the fuck is this a teen book?! This book and its messages belong in the garbage, not in bookstores or any reader's hands. This is not the kind of book you hand to teenage girls, who get messages from so many sides of society about being a slut if they are even the tiniest bit sexual and only being worth something if they're a virgin. Nor would I hand this to teenagers in general because when they're struggling with their sexuality and new sexual urges, these messages aren't the kind they need to be hearing. These kinds of sex-negative books don't belong on the market for modern teenagers.
(Ironically, I have a print copy of this and I can see the cover model's nipple when I look closely.)
Kylie herself, our darling narrator, is a hypocritical, snobby, rude, jealous brat. I don't make it a requirement to like my main characters, but I know I'm supposed to like this girl or at least sympathize with her, and I don't know why I should. She looks down on people for how they look, instantly classifies them as Goth if they wear any black, thinks wearing black at all is a rebellion instead of a fashion choice, and has to constantly emphasize how girls are clinging to guys if the guys happen to be one she likes, among other things.
I'm supposed to feel sorry for Kylie, but the character I felt most sorry for is Fredericka, the female werewolf that likes Lucas and hates Kylie's guts. She is specifically designed for the audience to hate and gets no depth at all. She's just a piece of cardboard inserted into the story for no reason. She has what has to be one of the worst girl names in the world (I have a feeling she was given that name just because it is so awful and would give readers another reason to hate her), she has a thing for one of Kylie's love interests (and is deluded, also), and--gasp!--has sex! She is so evil! Please.
It does not escape me that both girls in the book that have sex are characterized as bad. Meanwhile, both dudes who have sex are Kylie's love interests. Still preaching. Still disgusting.
The love interests are no better. Trey pressures Kylie for sex, breaks up with her when she won't for a girl that will screw him, comes crawling back, and pressures her more. I don't like guys that play with emotions like that. Meanwhile, Derek fakes having a thing with one girl to make Kylie jealous, and I hate this even more. Lucas is supposed to be a bad boy, but he does nothing truly bad other than initially treat Kylie like an annoyance and get her a kitten. (Speaking of that kitten, how did he get that? It's not like he can leave camp whenever he wants to make a trip to the pet store.)
Kylie's vampire roommate Della was the only character I liked. Her situation of keeping her secret from her family, thereby ruining her relationship with them, and facing pressure from her cousin to join a vampire gang, is more sympathetic and interesting. She has a prequel story of her own, but she deserves more than that. I liked the dyslexic witch Miranda at first, but I stopped liking her around page 200. Trash-talking someone you have no business with is apparently more important to Miranda than saving her friend, who is choking to death on food.
Sometimes, things that happen are downright mind-boggling. How does someone SNEAK A LION INTO A GIRL'S BEDROOM IN HER CABIN AND NOT GET SEEN DOING IT?! Not that building a summer camp right next to a wildlife park with lions and tigers in it is a smart idea in the first place. Don't forget the whole kitten thing mentioned earlier. I don't think camp counselors have permission to randomly take underage campers to town with them while running errands. The Meet Your Campmate Hour was an obvious ploy to hook Kylie up with her boys. It's supposed to build friendship, but it's more like a matchmaking service because they will only pair a girl with a boy. Can't use that hour to make friends with other girls.
Two smaller points: if you're going to use bitch, damn, and shit in your book, you shouldn't be using phrases like "crappers" (from a sixteen-year-old girl!) to creep around cuss words or replace "hell" with "Hades." Hades is not hell--he is the god of the Underworld, which is also not hell--and Hades is not a replacement word for hell either. This book will also talk down to you as if you can't understand that she's talking about a certain person when talking generally.
The plot is like a performer at a club who spends most of their time at the bar doing shots instead of performing. When reminded by its manager Romantic Dilemmas (who is up there performing when no one wants to hear them; they want Plot, damn it!), Plot gets onstage, does a little jig for about two minutes, and then goes back to the bar for more shots. Romantic Dilemmas took over the show and only called Plot to the stage when everyone grumbled about wasting their money and wanting to leave. (Outside my simile-metaphor thing, the pacing was dead slow.)
Books are trains that carry readers and make stops as needed, though the ends of chapters provide stations where passengers can more easily disembark and get back on. The good books stay on track, the decent ones slide off the rails a few times but stay on-track for the most part, and bad books result in a train wreck. Born at Midnight is special. Before you can get to the second station, this train crashes and the cars keep piling up while it slides along on the tracks. Just when you think it can't get any worse, another car adds itself to the wreck. All you're left with is a twisted metal monstrosity at the end of the book, but the crash still isn't over. There will be... sequels! The wreck continues!
This book has damaged my brain. If you will excuse me, I'm going to take my short shorts and go slut it up. I have not had my first kiss or done anything remotely sexual in my life, but I'm still a slut because girls who wear revealing clothes like I do are always sluts. Right, Born at Midnight?