Character Connection 32
It is easy to recommend anything with "classic" status to a friend looking for good books. Time and consensus have done half the work for you. So a couple of weeks ago, when I suggested the 1979 novel Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry (See my Reading Diary entry!), I was merely adding my inimitable contralto to a chorus of thousands. Which is not what this diva is about. (Am I going to regret writing that line?) And I've since realised that the real challenge of what I'm calling "Operation Eleven" is to find new books that merit the same accolades as the old.
So ever since my first friend with the eleven year old daughter (not to be confused with the second and third friends who have their own eleven year old girls . . . and possibly a fourth who hasn't chimed in yet) asked for suggestions, I've been going through all the books I own that are at least as young as she is. So far, only three of them have passed with flying colours--and as they happen to be part of the same trilogy, they only count as one.
Today's featured character from those books helps make the case for the wholehearted Nihil Obstat they have earned from me.
Vampire Island "Trilogy"
by Adele Griffin
"'And if my stocking hung too high,/ Would it blur the Christmas glee,/ That not a Santa Claus could reach,/ The altitude of me?'" quoted Lexie, who loved the words of doomed poets.
Today she was dressed in white, in tribute to doomed poet Emily Dickinson, as she held her breath and reenacted the tragic drowning death of doomed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
This game always dragged on too long, since Lexie could hold her breath indefinitely.
Lexington Livingstone--"Lexie" for short--has always been the good one in her family of transplanted, recovering vampires. Soulful and sensitive (Some might say, "emo"!), she identifies with "doomed poets" so much that she longs to be human again in order to join their ranks someday. And she sticks closely to the prescribed vegan diet that will restore her family's lost mortality and makes sure that her younger siblings do the same.
Her brother and sister may be more ambivalent about the change, but that is because Hudson can still morph into a bat and Maddy likes being naughty and intimidating everyone. Lexie's own vestigial vampire traits--prehensile tongue, bodybuilder strength, and double-jointed limbs--may seem like cool "superpowers," but they tend to bring her more trouble than they're worth and she wouldn't mind losing them for good.
Yet there is little virtue in choosing the right merely because the wrong seems more unpleasant. The real test would involve choosing the right when you can clearly see the advantages of choosing the wrong. And Lexie is finally subject to such a test in the third Vampire Island book, V is for . . . Vampire.
A smear campaign was low-down, dirty politics at its best. And, Lexie promised herself, she played fair by the smear rules. She had been vicious. She had been underhanded. She'd used her vampire powers only a little bit and only because they seemed to be itching for her to use them.For example, she'd called on a few of the mice that lived in her [her school's] kitchen walls to tear down some of Mina's posters last night, while the school was closed. No rodent would dare disobey a vampire's command. Even if Lexie was rusty in her animal-language skills, she knew the word for "destroy."
The temptation comes when Mina, the meanest girl in school, takes their rivalry one step too far, stealing pages from Lexie's private PHOLD notebook ("PHOLD stood for poems, hopes, opinions, lyrics, and dreams") and passing Lexie's work off as her own. Lexie responds by running against Mina for class president, intending to steal the coveted position from Mina's devious hands. It's pure vampire vengeance on Lexie's part, and as she starts tapping into her dark nature on a daily basis, she finds that her old bloodlust has returned.
And this is Adele Griffin's best twist. Note that Lexie isn't doing dark things because she is a vampire and can't help herself--for she clearly can help herself. But she is regressing into vampirism anyway because she is doing dark things of her own volition. (That is: vampirism is not the cause; it is the effect.) And although she promises herself that she will stop being so mean as soon as the election is over, there is always the risk that it might be too little, too late.
There is something very moral about Lexie: not in the sense that she always makes the right choices, but in the sense that she can measure her actions against a standard that is bigger than what she might want at the moment. Her sister Maddy may be adorably impish enough to get away with murder (almost literally!), but Lexie knows--even when she's trying not to remember--that there are some ways that should be chosen, simply because they are the right ones.
Image Sources: a) Vampire Island by Adele Griffin, b) V is for . . . Vampire