Evernight by Claudia Gray
Release Date: February 10, 2009
Bianca wants to escape. She's been uprooted from her small hometown and enrolled at Evernight Academy, an eerie Gothic boarding school where the students are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek, and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn't fit in. Then she meets Lucas. He's not the "Evernight type" either, and he likes it that way. Lucas ignores the rules, stands up to the snobs, and warns Bianca to be careful—even when it comes to caring about him. "I couldn't stand it if they took it out on you," he tells Bianca, "and eventually they would." But the connection between Bianca and Lucas can't be denied. Bianca will risk anything to be with Lucas, but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart . . . and to make Bianca question everything she's ever believed.
First of all, I'm just going to start out by saying that it is the best feeling to start a new series that has been around for a while (I know, a bit of an oxymoron, but I hope you understand what I'm saying). This means, that after I finished the first book, I could immediately buy the second, and the third, and the fourth, which was WONDERFUL. Especially because this is the type of serious that I just want to devour (no pun intended).Also, you should know that before reviewing this, I did finish the series. My review contains no spoilers, but you should know that these are also my reflections upon the series.The first day of school, Bianca wants to run away. Bianca was dragged to Evernight by her parents and despite their determination and promises that she'll love it, she's not so sure. Then she meets Luke. And Balthazar. And Racquel. While stranger things keep happening at the school and soon she realizes that she doesn't know what she believes in, or who she can trust anymore.Anyways, I loved the beginning. I loved the entire book, but the beginning was cleverly started. Instead of starting at school on the first day like many other books, it showed Bianca trying to run away. This book wasn't only for my reading pleasure, but I also looked at it as a writer. (What did she do to keep the reader's interest? How did she advance the plot with dialogue?) My first Claudia Gray book was Fateful, which was a paranormal romance placed on the Titanic. I had originally thought that I would pass this up because the vampire trend is dying out, and it seemed like a similar story. I was craving a paranormal romance, and a boarding school book, so this one seemed perfect. Plus, I was going to the bookstore the day after so I could always get the sequel (which I did).Bianca was a likable character and while her story is similar to many others, it was pulled off in a way that made her truly memorable. We didn't find out about the vampire aspect until halfway through the book and it came as a lovely surprise. Bianca thought freely and was interesting, but still was relatable as having many of the same thoughts as I probably would have had in her position. She's very sweet, and a bit shy, but has enough fire to keep things going.Luke was likable too. He did come off to me as just a standard, hot, love interest. It annoyed me a bit, just because I couldn't sink fully into the story. I didn't get why Bianca would want to sacrifice anything for him. I saw him as more than a friend than a love interest, but he is enough like one that most people might see him as one as well. Personally, I liked Balthazar, but then it's good that Bianca likes Luke so that I can like Balthazar!Balthazar was a classmate of Bianca's, and while he doesn't strike her fancy as much as Luke does, he's still cares about her. He is strong, and opinionated, and caring. He's definitely one to watch. He's the type of person that is loyal and sticks by Bianca. While he hopes it would be as a boyfriend, he's still willing to be her friend as long as he can be around her. I want a friend like Balthazar. He's the type of person who is popular, but friendly to everybody. He stops and says hello in the hallway to people he is acquainted with and is one of my favorite characters in the series.I hardly ever make Twilight comparisons, but bear with me while I use the analogy (just because it's common reading material and the love triangle works in this, okay?). Anyways, Balthazar is to Jacob as Luke is to Edward. My issue is that while Balthazar makes a pretty great Jacob, Luke comes nowhere close to Edward. The reason people usually like the main love interest is because he's passionate or absolutely "the soul mate". I just wasn't feeling it with Luke. If the roles were reversed, I would probably like it better. By the way, Twilight and Evernight's love triangles are different and complex, but the sort of best-friend vs. love interest aspect works in this scenario.Raquel and Vic were great supporting characters. Raquel is shy, a shrinking violet, and wants to leave. She is a human scholarship student who befriends Bianca. I liked Raquel and her character was complex, which was nice to see. It really supported the story. During the story, she has a vampire stalking her and that arises as one of the conflicts. Vic was tied with Balthazar for favorite character. Vic was Luke's roommate.Vic was the type of outgoing, comfortable with himself, absolutely goofy best friends that I just love to see in every book. He wears hula-girl ties, Hawaiian shirts under uniforms, is extremely smart, funny, and just doesn't care what anybody else thinks about him other than his friends. It is thoroughly refreshing.The "popular kids" were actually great characters too. We learn some backstory about some of them, and their contrasting natures make them entertaining. Bianca is on the fringes of them, and her roommate Patricia was one of them. It is through them that she meets Balthazar and they definitely play a part in the book. The relationship between the popular kids and the normal kids reminded me of the similar hierarchy in Hex Hall between the various species. Some of them we like, some of them we hate, and some of them are ones that we can't decide how we feel about them.I loved how Bianca's parents played a huge role. In most paranormal romance books, not to mention the boarding school books, the parents are not at all important. They're there to show how alone the protagonist is, or to add some background information. I love it when an author has the parents present, and an actual part of the story. Bianca's parents were teachers at Evernight, and they were always there to support her. They lived in a faculty apartment, which Bianca popped into for a lot of the time when she needed advice or just a place to stay. Bianca's parents were almost like Cammie's mom in the Gallagher Girls series. They had Sunday dinners with Bianca, and were there for a lot of the conflict. Bianca's parents influenced her as a character and were a large part of her character development, like the parents should be in YA.The action in this book was unbelievable. I thought that there would either be a lot, or none at all, but it wasn't first-book-syndrome at all. Usually in first books, it will just set up the story or it will be all action, all the time. There was a nice balance between backstory, tension, and action, and it was all very satisfying. There was conflict scattered throughout the book, but one main conflict at the end (there's my writer voice coming through) and the writing format was a great choice. Anyways, I was always entertained.I finished this book really fast, because I was so intrigued. Once I finished this book, the next morning I went to the bookstore and bought Stargazer, the sequel. After that, I bought the next two on my Kindle and finished three books that day. This series is the type of series that you simply keep reading until you're done. I had Balthazar for review so I'm very glad that I did read the series, especially after Balthazar became one of my favorite characters.The way that the knowing-about-vampires angle was spun reminded me of the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I love it when being a vampire is treated like a normal thing. It wasn't so much in this book, but there were parts of it that were treated as average, and was very cleverly written in a way that I really enjoyed with the series.There is one antagonist who is very complex - Mrs. Bethany. She's the headmistress of the Evernight school, and we can't tell whether she's good or bad, or bad with good intentions. She has character traits that prove both ends of the spectrum. I think that I like her, but I also hate her sometimes, so I don't know. She's an old vampire who is afraid of change.The idea of being afraid of change was very prominent throughout the book. We meet vampires who are completely up-to-date with modern technology and others who don't know a thing, depending on when they were turned. We meet one vampire - Ranulf - who is completely confused by the ideas of iPods and computers. I loved how Modern Technology was a class, with homework of how to play Xbox games and to listen to music on a computer. Things like that made it wholly entertaining to see how the culture of being a vampire changed.Change was both a good thing and a bad thing in the eyes of the vampires, as it is for most average people. Mrs. Bethany did not want vampires to change, and Evernight was both a way to help vampires change and a refuge from the modern world. It was fascinating to see how this plotline developed and "change" did contribute to a lot of character development.Towards the end, Bianca was an unreliable narrator and that worked for her. She wasn't sure who to trust and based on her situation, it was a realistic place to be. Her confusion at who she should believe in and their motives for lying to her was interesting to see how it impacted her character development. She changed her mind several times and that worked for her.There was a lot of tension and romance in the book. There wasn't necessarily as much as I would have liked to see, but again, it is the first book and it was enough to stay interesting while placed in between the action scenes. The characters all contributed and I look forward to seeing them develop even as the series develops. The writing was absolutely fantastic! I want to write like Claudia Gray! Take a creative writing course with these online college classes.The culture of the school was utterly riveting. I loved hearing about the history behind it, and the things that vampire characters said made it known that they had been around for a while. It was also amusing to see how they reacted to being thrust into a modern world, with all our technology and strange habits. I found myself laughing as vampires puzzled over how to work an iPod, or casually remarked on wars that happened in the 1400s. I can't wait to see more of it.That same culture is part of what gave Mrs. Bethany her drive, and part of what fueled the book. The boarding school part of the book was pulled off perfectly and made it so enjoyable to read. I loved how Gothic the descriptions of the castle were and the dark descriptions scattered throughout the books that made it known that Claudia Gray has talent! I loved her writing; clear but descriptive, it wasn't flowery, but was dripping in tension.I also really loved something that was really random: Bianca loving stargazing. Her interest in astronomy stemmed from such a beautiful reason that I absolutely loved. Not only is the interest incredibly cool, but the reason was even better.Overall, Evernight is a promising start to an already-established series that I can't wait to sink my teeth into (yes, that pun was intended). Claudia Gray is skilled at twisting tensions, writing complex characters, and delivering a dark and fun adventure filled with romance. While I don't necessarily like the main love interest, the supporting characters are fantastic and the protagonist is solid. The Evernight series is one that should definitely be read.Recommended for anybody who loves: Hex Hall; House of Night; vampire books; boarding school books; etc,.Possible book club questions:Do Bianca's observation about the school and the changing beliefs reflect on her growing as a teen and learning how to think independently or reflecting on her situation?Does the fact that the usual "paranormal romance" scenario is reversed (human and vampire) work for the story or against it?How do Bianca's parents influence her decisions? Do you think her actions throughout the book would have changed if they weren't there?etc,.