One of my favourite books from last year was Abigail Gibb’s debut YA novel, The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire. Needless to say I couldn’t wait for the next installment – Autumn Rose.
Whilst waiting for my copy to arrive in the post, I browsed through some of the reviews on Goodreads out of curiosity. They were mixed. Some loved it, others were disappointed; primarily because of the lack of Kasper Varn and Violet Lee – the two characters who had us enthralled in Dinner with a Vampire – some appeared to dislike it intensely. So it was with some trepidation that I bent back the front cover and started to read.
If, like me, you have a fondness for YA fiction even though you technically left that age bracket behind way over a decade ago, then you will not be disappointed. Here are my ten reasons why:
1) Autumn and Fallon – I could empathise to a point with the reviewers who mourned the lack of Violet and Kasper. The reason we all fell in love with Kasper in the first place was because he is a bad boy. The kind of guy you know you shouldn’t go anywhere near but yet draws you in like a magnet. He is not the kind of guy you can take home to meet your mother. Violet was feisty and stood up to him, trying desperately not to fall for his bad boy charms. But if I am honest, I much prefer Autumn and Fallon. The latter is a preppy charmer, the boy next door and a guy you wouldn’t be ashamed to introduce to your parents. And I imagine he has a very cheeky – and dangerous – smile. The former is vulnerable, trying her best to do what is right although not entirely sure what that is. Trying to do her best in a world she doesn’t quite fit in whilst mourning the loss of her Grandmother. When Kasper and Violet do finally appear towards the end of the book I found I was completely indifferent about them. Violet is weak, not adjusting to life as a vampire in the slightest it would seem and definitely no longer feisty. And there isn’t really enough of Kasper for me to make comment on. All in all, it is Autumn and Fallon all the way. Violet and Kasper who?
2) A significant reduction in typos and proof reading errors – my main bug-bear with Dinner with a Vampire was the number of errors in it. At one point a whole paragraph was repeated. I found them distracting and frustrating. Autumn Rose contains one or two little whoopsies, but no where near as many as Dinner with a Vampire, for which I am very pleased. It allows you to enjoy the story and Abigail’s writing so much more. However, there were a few American-isms, such as ‘realization’ instead of realisation and ‘sidewalk’ instead of pavement (I just couldn’t leave it alone, could I?).
3) The sexual tension – seriously. Abigail is a master at creating sexual tension. She did it with Dinner with a Vampire and she has done it again with Autumn Rose. Lingering flirtatious looks, fluttering hearts, smouldering eyes and brushed – almost kissing – lips. I think her books should come with a fan to help with our flushed cheeks!
4) The Cunning Linguist – it made me laugh out loud, but I am not saying any more!
5) Magic – the ability to change your clothes, do your hair and apply your make-up with a flick of a finger? Yes please, where do I sign? And the ability to hex people who annoy you? Double yes.
6) References to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca – maybe I noticed these because I read Rebecca for the first time last year. Maybe it is because the story stuck with me because there were a number of similarities between the protagonist and me (not all of which I liked). Autumn Rose contains a bully called Valerie Danvers, a large stately home called Manderley and a protagonist who is living in the shadow of someone called Rebecca and whose story primarily revolves around growing up, leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult.
7) The swearing – I am not a huge fan of profanity, but am not above uttering the odd expletive myself. There are not excess amounts of swearing in Autumn Rose, and each time it happened it did take me slightly by surprise, however I found it refreshing to read a YA book that does contain the odd swear word. It seems to be a little bit of a taboo thing to do, but honestly, have you heard teenagers these days? Even the little year sevens, who look as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, can spew forth a string of expletives, most of which are words I have never heard of before.
8) For making you want to take a sneaky look at the back to see if there is a snippet of the next installment – I managed to resist, but just to let you know, there isn’t.
9) Multi-tasking in the extreme – let’s take a moment to applaud the fact that not only has Abigail written two great books, but she has done so whilst attending Oxford. Proof that women are the masters of multi-tasking, even if sometimes we have to drop our heads into our hands and sob uncontrollably for 5 minutes before taking a deep breath and telling ourselves to get a grip and step away from the edge of the insanity void that we are about to disappear into.
10) Inner conflict – just as with Dinner with a Vampire, I raced through three quarters of the book, only to find myself slowing down towards the end in order to savour the last quarter and make it last as long as possible, despite the fact that I desperately wanted to know what happened.
I am already looking forward to book three, although, Abigail, should you by some fluke see this, please don’t rush it. Please don’t go insane trying to do all the things in all the world all at once. Take your time. We can wait. But don’t take too long, okay?
NB – it is not imperative that you read Dinner with a Vampire before reading Autumn Rose, but given that the two run parallel with each other, you may find it helpful. In hindsight I would have re-read book one before reading this one, just to remind myself of exactly what happened.