Though Twilight brought the sexy-vampire-romance genre to the forefront of the happening teen literary scene, it's a genre that's probably been around since Eve ate the apple. (Some theologians now believe the serpent enticed Eve with the promise that, should she take a bite of the forbidden fruit, she would be immortalized as Stephenie Meyer's initial source of sledgehammer symbolism.) A year before Twilight graced bookstores, however, R.L. Stine was busy proving that sexy vampire romances targeted at pubescent girls are generally doomed to be steaming piles of trash.
Let's face it: It's one thing when your sixty-something grandmum tries to identify with you by sampling a generous platter of local young 'un slang. It's another event entirely when your sixty-something grandpa actually writes a book in which he tries to identify with your plight for sexual awakening and juvenile titillation.
Such is the trouble with Dangerous Girls 2: The Taste of Night, written by R.L. Stine and published in 2004. I picked this one up at my local library as part of a buffet of teen vampire fiction I worked my way through in the false hope that Twilight would prove to be the nadir of the genre. "This is by R.L. Stine," I thought. "He's a cult favorite," I thought. "Surely he can write a vampire novel for teens that will provide legitimate thrills and chills," I thought.
Blind to the emo tear of blood on the cover and the title font that looked as though it had been bludgeoned by a novice graphic designer with a weakness for gradients, I dove in. It quickly became apparent that R.L. Stine, conscious of the fact that he was writing to a young, female demographic, did his research; he appears to have discovered in short order that the female psyche is primarily defined by
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the heroines of Dangerous Girls 2: Generic Emo Subtitle spend a gratuitous amount of time
a) applying makeup
b) chasing boys.
Granted, this is generally what females do in cheap teen fiction aimed at the fairer demographic. However, all of these exploits as detailed in Dangerous Girls 2: We're Not Really As Bad-Ass As This Title Wants Us to Be are written, as I mentioned earlier, from the point of view of a sixty-something man attempting to imagine what it would be like to
a) wear makeup
b) pursue teenage males.
It's all very flat and self-aware; even the horror elements feel phoned-in, from the tired and obvious cliffhangers to the routine plot. I'm guessing this was hammered out in a night or so for an insistent publishing house and a dollar or so.
I feel sorry for R.L. Stine. I really do. I have tried to put myself in that stereotypical teenage prattle queen mindset and found it terribly difficult as well as frightening on a number of different psychological levels. Perhaps he should have written about something more easily grasped and authentically written, such as nuclear physics or brain surgery.
Read These Instead: Scott Westerfield's Peeps and The Last Days. Both are humorous, inventive YA vampire novels that manage to successfully combine gross-outs with romance and preserve a level of vampire creepiness without forsaking the sex appeal fictional vampires today are so good at flaunting.