Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.
Do you love vampire books?
Are you burned out on vampires?
Do you think that you'd never, ever love a vampire book?
Are modern-day vampires too sparkly and innocuous for you?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, then I have a recommendation for you!
I suppose I should feel a smidgen guilty for recommending a "big" book on Recommendation Tuesday, but I don't because Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one of the more original, captivating novels I've read in a long time.
Better yet. it's a darn near perfect audiobook, mixing in atmospheric music and Chistine Lakin's understated, but effective narration.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown's protagonist is Tana, who lives in a world much like our own, except in her version of our world, vampires and some humans are quarantined in walled cities known as "Coldtowns." Once someone enters a Coldtown, it's nearly impossible to leave, because it's important to contain the spread of vampirism.
One morning, Tana wakes up in a bathroom after a night of partying, only to find the house full of dead bodies. She's seemingly the lone survivor until she finds her frustrating ex-boyfriend, Aidan, tied to a bed and a mysterious boy, Gavriel, chained in the room with him. Tana frees the boys and the trio goes on the run--right to the nearest Coldtown.
While this is a vampire book, there's something about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown that reminded me of gritty post-apocalyptic novels. Survival is not guaranteed and even for those who survive Coldtown, it's a hard, risk-filled life in the walled cities.
Gavriel and Tana's backstories are revealed through flashbacks, and I really liked this device, which is usually not my favorite.
For whatever reason, it worked for me. I think it's because each flashback is very atmospheric and inform the characters' present, but also are well-paced and had a fair amount of action.
And while the romance is a relatively small part of the story, Gavriel and Tana's chemistry sizzles more than I've seen in any vampire book, adult or YA. The relationship doesn't progress beyond kissing, but wowzers, it is smoldering.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown also reminded me that Holly Black is incredibly skilled at creating a diverse cast of characters and subtly exploring identity, even though it's not the main focus of her novels.
Most of the humans who go to Coldtowns are on the fringe, or misfits in some way. Many are marginalized and looking for a place to belong. Online videos make the walled cities seem exciting, and even glamorous, places where everyone can be special.
In the hands of a less-skilled author, Tana's journey into Coldtown, and some of the more convenient plot contrivances would annoy me, but Holly Black made me believe every twist and turn. I was wholly surprised by a major twist and found myself wanting a sequel, despite that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is solidly a stand-alone novel. How often does that happen?
This is one of those novels that I feel comfortable recommending to readers of all inclinations--it's simply that enthralling. If you're an audiobook listener, this is one you're going to want to put on your to-listen list. I kept taking the long way home so I could keep listening to this rather lengthy audiobook.