Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising

Henderson, Jason. Vampire Rising.

Since I am weary of all things vampire, this book stayed on my shelf for quite some time. What a mistake! It is the perfect book for students who have read all of the Darren Shan Cirque du Freak books and are wanting something new.

Alex was kicked out of his boarding school for beating up a classmate, so is sent to Glenarvon Academy on the shores of Lake Geneva. He has a hard time fitting in and sleeping, and starts to take walks at night... and ends up fighting off vampires! When his language arts class starts studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, he finds out that her group of writers met very near to the school. When he's attacked again on a midnight outing and rescued by his language arts teacher, he finds out that he really is a descendant of the famous vampire hunter Van Helsing, a fact that his parents have hidden from him. One especially evil vampire, known as the Icemaker, is after Alex, and intent on grasping more power by raising a vampire bride. Only Alex has the ability, and the guts, to stop him.

Oh, what a difference between this and Theo Boone! Compare the first sentences for each:

"Alex Van Helsing ran. He ran instantly and without a second thought in the direction of the scream, bursting from the side of the road into the trees as fast as his legs could move, rubber soles churning against the soft earth and leaves slick with dew."

"Theodore Boone was an only child and for that reason usually had breakfast alone. His father, a busy lawyer, was in the habit of leaving early and meeting friends for coffee and gossip at the same down town diner every morning at seven."

Which one will make a student want to find out more?

This is Jason Henderson's first young adult novel, and I must say, it is the strongest entry I have seen in a long time. Alex has been trained to hunt vampires but doesn't know that is why his father has had him participate in all of these activities. There are great laugh-out-loud lines, like "pep rally for the damned". Alex evolves as a person, the supporting characters, both good and evil, are well-drawn and compelling. The action is nicely balanced with back story. Drawing in the story of the creation of Frankenstein is inspired.

Really. Wow! Definitely buying two copies of this title, and it will never be on the shelves. Make sure you visit Alex Van Helsing: The Blog for updates. I hope the sequel comes out soon, and I would LOVE to see Alex's sister brought into the picture.

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