The Vampire Underground is a 2012 young adult novel by American author Brian Rowe, and is the first instalment in Rowe’s new series Grisly High. I already know Rowe after having read his Happy Birthday to Me trilogy which had an enjoyable blend of normal teen life and the supernatural. I am hoping this new series will be similar. I reached for The Vampire Underground as Autumn arrived some weeks ago now and I was yet to read any horror. Autumn is not the same without a creepy tale and for me there is no better creepy tale than one that involves vampires.
The Vampire Underground is led by film buff teen Brin and her best friend Ash. Brin and Ash for once are eagerly anticipating the start of term at Grisly High because they have both signed up for the new film class. Expectations are high but for Brin they are to be shattered when she finds they are to study her least favourite genre, horror! To make matters worse they are not only going to watch them, they have to make their own horror film. Stuck in a group she neither knows or likes very much Brin finds herself being shipped out with them in a battered old van to the deserted Bodie Ghost Town to film. Things couldn’t possibly get any worse right? For Brin things are going to get a lot worse when they arrive at Bodie…Meanwhile back in Grisly only Ash seems to feel something is wrong and so embarks alone on a rescue mission to find his best friend.
The group that end up heading out to Bodie with Brin are a classic mix of characters. We have Brin herself the alternative girl, Anaya the fat girl, Chace the jock, Lavender the pretty popular girl, Sawyer the geek, and Dylan the handsome homosexual. A bit of a stereotypical start but as the story progresses the reader and the other characters do start to see there is more to each character. Opinions of each other drastically change as they have to band together to survive and people’s true colours are shown. For me some of these true colours didn’t ring true, character continuation wasn’t always smooth. Another important character is Ash, Brin’s best friend since they were small children. Ash is also an alternative lad with a passion for horror films. He is very loyal to Brin and it was a nice change from the group scenes to follow his personal journey to find her. My only quibble with Ash was the ongoing joke about his full name being Ashley. It appears in the US this is mainly a girl’s name, here in the UK however it can be both and in fact all the Ashley’s I know are boys. So I’m afraid the point was wasted on me.
I loved the setting of Bodie Ghost Town a full-sized frontier town completely preserved and open to tourists in the summer months. Brin and her film class mates led by Anaya decide to sneak in during the winter months but it turns out they’re not the only visitors there. As the title The Vampire Underground suggests vampires are involved. So no big surprise but the transition from regular teen angst plot to horror was well done, and boy when the horror arrived it really did arrive. Not sure what I was expecting but what I got was thrills, spills, and a good dose of gore to boot. The vampires themselves are a mixture of traditional with a few modern elements thrown in. What I liked the most about them was the ‘underground’ element where some of the later action takes place, I won’t say anymore though incase you haven’t read this.
Overall The Vampire Underground wasn’t perfect but it was good. A fun and easy read for while I was ill, and it brought a bit of horror to my reading which I feel Autumn wouldn’t be complete without. I have the second instalment of the Grisly High series, The Zombie Playground ready to go on my kindle. Rowe still hasn’t managed to surpass the excellence of his first novel Happy Birthday To Me for me yet though.
I received a free digital copy of The Vampire Underground from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.
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