I had come across the House of Night series a few times on my Amazon recommendations (I read a lot of books in the paranormal genre) but had never picked it up because I was worried it would be too juvenile. I immediately thought of it when choosing titles for the genre study. My choice was further solidified because it is an ALA 2008 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers (Retrieved July 19, 2009 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/quickpicks/annotations/08qp.cfm) and Untamed, the fourth book in this series, is a nominee for YALSA Teen Read Week Teen’s Top Ten List 2009 (Retrieved July 19, 2009 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/teenreading/teenstopten/ttt09.pdf).
Series Title: House of Night
Author: P.C. Cast
ISBN-10: 0312360266 ISBN-13: 9780312360269
City and Publisher: New York: St. Martin’s Griffin
Copyright Date: 2007
Author’s Website: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/
Reader’s Annotation: When Zoey Redbird is marked to join the House of Night, an academy for fledgling vampires, she has no idea of the changes that will come. She must struggle to make sense of the school’s strange rituals and her own even stranger powers.
Plot Summary: Zoey Redbird is an average sixteen year old until the day a vampire tracker shows up in the math hall and marks her to join the House of Night, an academy for fledgling vampires. Although she counts herself lucky to escape from her overbearingly religious family, she will miss her grandmother. She has a strange vision when she goes to say goodbye and ends up a starting school looking a little different from her fellow fledglings. Zoe’s strength and integrity allow her to make sense of the school’s rituals and wind up changing things for everyone.
Critical Evaluation: Marked is an “open-world” vampire novel, where humans know that vampires exist. While the world, the physical setting, and the plot of Marked are all intriguing, the writing itself is a little trite and stilted at times. The authors seem to have watched a few too many superhero movies, even trotting out the line “with great power comes great responsibility.” Zoey is remarkably self assured for a sixteen year old with an unsupportive family, and her inner doubts are resolved almost as quickly as they arise.
Nevertheless the book is very entertaining. Skimming over the more cliché moments helps. The authors include some interesting descriptions of Wiccan-style rituals, although readers who have seen The Craft might already be familiar with them.
Reading Level/Interest: Age 16 and up
Curriculum Ties: Marked is primarily a just for fun read. If a class were discussing portrayals of Native Americans in popular literature, Marked would be an interesting addition.
Booktalking Ideas: Read the passage on page seven that describes what happened to the boy who was marked at Zoey’s school last year. Then read the above plot summary.
Beasties and Supernatural Elements: Vampires, Wiccan Practices, Native American Spiritualism, General Magic and Occultism, Runes and Mystic Symbols
Influences from Other Genres: Horror, Magic Realism, Mythology, Gossip Girl Novel
Challenge Issues: In chapter seven, Zoey walks in on a senior female student, Aphrodite, attempting to perform oral sex on a senior male student. The situation is compounded by the fact that they are all destined to be blood drinking vampires. This moment is definitely adult in nature, and parents who wish to shield their children from any such ideas may wish to have them choose another book. However, the moment also serves to help establish that Aphrodite’s character is Zoey’s nemesis. Aphrodite represents the perversion of Zoey’s values, and part of the lesson in this book is how a person must stand up for what’s right.
About the Authors: The House of Night series is written by P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin. P.C. Cast has written two other series, Goddess Summoning and Partholon. She also teaches high school. Kristin is a communications major at the University of Tulsa. (More details at http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/yearbook.html)