Marked: Typical boarding school book

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMarked by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast YA fantasy book reviewsMarked by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

Zoey Redbird used to be a normal teenager dealing with normal teenage stuff — boyfriends, school, parties — until the day she’s marked with a tattoo right in the middle of her forehead. This signifies her as a vampyre and means that she has to go live in the House of Night, or she’ll die. Nobody knows what causes vampirism — it has something to do with junk DNA and it’s a physiological reaction to puberty hormones in some kids.

Zoey’s parents, conservative religious zealots who are more worried about what the neighbors will say than they are about how Zoey feels, are horrified by the mark. They call the elders of the Faith to come pray for Zoey, but she sneaks out and runs away to the House of Night. There she learns about being a vampyre, makes new friends and enemies, watches kids die when they don’t make it through the change, and discovers that she has extra special powers and a Destiny — someday she will be a powerful vampyre priestess.

Marked, the first book in the HOUSE OF NIGHT series by mother-daughter team P.C. and Kristin Cast, is, in so many ways, just the clichéd private boarding school tale. Pretty girl suddenly finds out she’s special, gets sent to special boarding school, meets new roommate, notices cool clique in the cafeteria (which consists of the most beautiful/popular girl in school with a couple of sycophantic cronies), finds diverse group of outcasts to be best friends with, has conflict with popular girl, defeats popular girl, steals popular girl’s boyfriend, becomes most popular girl, elevates her non-cool friends to cool-kid status.

I suppose it’s a timeless theme because, even though I don’t read much Young Adult fantasy, I’ve read this same story so many times before. In fact, I anticipated not just the big themes in Marked, but also so many of the individual plot elements. Ah, Zoey’s going into the lunchroom on her first day. There’ll be a table of stuck-up beautiful girls and then there’ll be another table with the kids who will welcome Zoey. Yep, there they all are, just where they’re supposed to be…. Zoey’s kissing her old boyfriend, so the hot guy must be watching from a distance. Yep. There he is. Nothing surprised me. Unfortunately the supernatural elements, which are the only place where this story veers from the typical boarding school book, are kind of boring because they involve a lot of Wiccan-type ceremony and ritual (purification, smudging, circles, Merry Meet, etc). Who knew paganism was so dull?

Similarly, most of the characters don’t rise above the role they were typecast for: religious zealot, cowed wife of religious zealot, dumb jock boyfriend, chatty vapid girl, “Okie” with a twang, incredibly hot mysterious guy, stuck-up beautiful girl, stuck-up minions of beautiful girl, token gay guy, token black girl. None of them breaks stereotype. Zoey herself is so “normal” that she’s boring. She likes to say she’s a geek by alluding to Star Wars movies, but it doesn’t really sell.

BUT, with all that said, I feel certain that teenage girls who aren’t yet tired of this story and these characters will feel quite differently about this series. Marked is likely to hit the target audience. Even though they’re locked into their stereotypes, the kids are likeable and their dialogue, conversations and interactions feel real.

Parents, be warned that Marked contains some bad language and the kids discuss underage drinking, drug use and oral sex. Zoey disapproves of these activities (she wants you to know!) but they’re still part of the story.

I listened to the audiobook version of Marked which was narrated by Edwina Wren. Ms. Wren did a great job with Zoey’s character but several of the other character voices were annoying. Some of the teens are whiny, the stuck-up girl has the standard stuck-up-girl voice, the “0kie” has a horrid twang, etc. It’s hard to fault the narrator for correctly interpreting the author’s intention, though.

I bought Marked and the next book, Betrayed, when they were on a one-day Whispersync deal at Amazon. I have read Betrayed and it’s a little better than Marked (a review of Betrayed is coming soon). My library has the rest of the audiobooks, so I will probably continue with the series and hope it improves. If not, well at least I got the books reviewed for our website.

House of Night — (2007-2014) with daughter Kristin Cast. Young Adult. Publisher: The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed. In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire — that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do. It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny — with a little help from her new vampyre friends.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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