The Dead Girls’ Dance (Morganville Vampires, Book 2) in the Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine…wow. It’s marketed as a young adult book. Amazon even suggests it for 9-12 year olds! I’ve read some of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books so I knew that Caine knows how to deliver the plot-goods. And in this book? Did she ever.
The main heroine is 16 year old genius Claire who has moved into a house in the town of Morganville and out of the dorms of her university because the sadistic, psycho daughter of the mayor has tried to injure and kill her Just Because.
In the Morganville Vampire series, violence is a fact of life. There are no Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret moments. There are two rape attempts on the two main female characters. One follows closely after the murder of their roommate and is a reward for the hatchet man, and the other is instigated later by the psycho mayor’s daughter. The attempts remain just that-but neither girl seems affected by the near-rapes, nor are the attempted rapes brought to authorities or mentioned except to their roommates (who are the ones to save them–the guys, that is). Not exactly girl power, although perhaps realistic in the world of an adolescent. At least neither girl is shamed or acts ashamed of the assaults. In the dark microcosm of Morganville, an attempted rape is simply brushed off.
Shane and Michael, the boyfriend/roommates, keep telling the girls what to do and to stay out of danger. Eve in particular repeats that neither boy has any business telling her or Claire what to do, or what not to do, even if it’s to save their lives. In at least one instance, one of the boys locks Eve in her room. The girls in turn go ahead and do what they need to do and end up saving the boys. Claire turns down the title of”hero” that her boyfriend gives her later, though, even after she’s earned it.
The boys even decide (especially in 16 year old Claire’s case) about sex. They seem to know when the girls should or should not have sex better than the girls themselves! Claire and Eve have healthy sex-drives. The reader knows this because they keep describing Shane and Michael as Hot and we hear how Eve is planning Michael’s seduction. It’s a reversal of the Girls Are the Guardians of the Loins cliche with the added bonus of making the boys more honorable than your typical teen who might just go ahead and have sex with a willing partner. It also prevents Claire and Eve from being labeled as easy. Who knew?
It’s an odd tension. If the boys are perceived to be taking advantage of the girls, then they’re no better or worse than the rapists or male authority figures in the book. The murderous father of one of the boys points out that Claire is “jail bait” and mocks his son about it even as he sends his goon in to rape Claire and Eve a short time later.
Caine is a master writer of incredible hooks and plots, careening her characters in and out of danger with personal, very human, motivations. But as much as the girls in the book give lip service to being independent they’re still rescued by Michael or Shane or a friendly vampire named Sam when they’re in sexually dangerous situations. Claire and Eve do some rescuing, too, but there’s a constant sense of them being able to do so only if they sneak around and “disobey” the males in the book. The second rape almost happens because Eve and Claire went to a party when they were told not to go. I hope that changes in the later books.
Rip-roaring plotting, some fun characterization, but some weird stuff going on with the sexual/violence aspects of the book. It’s an early entry into the series-there are five books so far (with the sixth one arriving on June 2nd and the seventh on November 3rd), and I haven’t read them yet. I have mixed feelings about this entry into this very successful series.