Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Book 1) by Richelle Mead
Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school--it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's - the very place where they're most in danger...
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi - the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires - make Lissa one of them forever.
Thoughts: This is - truly - a brilliant book. I had thought all the hype around it was over-the-top... I was so wrong.
Vampire Academy is not like most YA novels - hell, like any novel I've read. Although there is plenty of teenage realism - mean girls, cliques, and inappropriate kissage - the characters are at the same time very, very different to us. What we consider normal is not what they do - and where we place our priorities also differs from them. It's odd, to not agree with a character but still understand them.
In fact, there was a lot of that in this book. Our main character, Rose, is exactly what I wasn't in high school. She flirts with everyone, goes out partying all the time, and makes out with guys she doesn't even care about - just for the thrill. This reckless edge does settle itself a bit in Vampire Academy, but it is still there even when she is behaving. You could say she is of the "punch first, ask questions later" variety. And even though I don't personally understand this, I understand her.
Another really unique feature of Vampire Academy was the relationship between BFFs Lissa and Rose. You get this right from the start as Mead opens with a scene of the two of them. Although I literally swooned over both Dimitri and Christian, the Lissa/Rose bond was by far the strongest in the book.
The vampire universe also had a really nice twist to it. Mead managed to incorporate all sorts of issues - politics, drug abuse, and social class - into the verse without it seeming too contrived. She also managed to work in discussion about mental illness - which was an unexpected surprise. It is something I am very sensitive about, and I really appreciate authors who make an effort to get things right when they include it.
Bottom line? An amazing, addictive read. Mead creates gives a unique twist on vampires, and creates kick-ass characters to boot. Even if you are not a YA fan, go get yourself a copy!