I wasn’t sure I was the right target audience for HOOKED when I first received my copy. After all, HOOKED bills itself as young adult paranormal romance thriller. I’m a middle-aged man who only occasionally dabbles in young adult fiction, doesn’t like paranormal romance fiction, and detests the very idea of sparkly vampires. Why did I read it then? Two reasons: (1) I knew that Michaelbrent Collings does great horror thrillers (see my review of THE LOON here) and (2) I heard that HOOKED had vampires. I like vampires a lot, at least the traditional, monstrous (read: non-sparkly) kind. I quickly realized that I was wrong about not being the right target audience for HOOKED. Despite the “young adult paranormal romance” marketing blurb, it was right up my alley. I don’t want to spoil the surprises that Collings has in store for you in HOOKED, so I will avoid being too specific, but Collings has found a way to craft an entirely new modern vampire mythology – and one strikingly different from everything I’ve seen before – that resonates with the classic fiction with which we are all familiar.
Some minor plot spoilers follow.
Eve is the quintessential outcast teenage girl: she’s from a broken home, is virtually friendless, and is constantly bullied (in fairly brutal fashion) by her fellow students. That all changes when a new boy who calls himself Rocky arrives at Eve’s school and, against all odds, befriends her. Then it becomes clear he’s also interested in her romantically. Eve’s life starts to change, becoming more exciting, and she even comes to have a measure of revenge on her bullies. Then Eve meets Jacob, a mysterious man who has just moved into her apartment building. He seems equally compelling to Eve, and it’s clear that there’s also chemistry between the pair. Eve moves from outcast to desirable young woman caught in a love triangle. Things are so simple though, because it rapidly becomes apparent that both of Eve’s suitors are far more than meets the eye and are intimately connected with her family’s dark secrets. (Note that I’ve glossed over the specifics here, along with references to supernatural elements, because your enjoyment of the plot really would be damaged by too much information. Trust me on this.)
Michaelbrent Collings is a strong writer who has managed to create an exciting, fast-moving, scary vampire thriller that should be appealing to both teens and adults alike. The romantic aspects of the story are well done and not at all sappy (as I had feared they might be). It’s a genuinely dark story, with very real – but not gruesome – violence. HOOKED’s backstory and mythology are likewise intriguing, and there is clearly much more that could be said about these characters and the supernatural elements explored in HOOKED. I thought I had seen it all when it came to vampire stories. I enjoy them, but it’s hard to have a truly new and interesting take on vampires. I was pleasantly surprised that Collings has some new things to say about vampires, and that alone was worth the read. I hope we see a sequel to HOOKED soon. Recommended for adult and teen fans of horror and paranormal romance; even if you’re not normally a fan of paranormal romance, give this one a try.
Review copyright © 2013 J. Andrew Byers