7 Rated Books 8 Rated Books Book Reviews YA Appreciation Month

Book Review Double Feature: Evernight & Stargazer by Claudia Gray

Title: Evernight and Stargazer

Author: Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Harper TEEN
Publication Dates: Evernight – May 2008, Stargazer – March 2009
Hardcover: Evernight – 336 pages, Stargazer – 336 pages

Stand alone or series: Books 1 and 2 in the ongoing Evernight series by Claudia Gray.

Why did I read these books: I had been eying these beguiling covers in my local bookstore for a while, and with our Young Adult month I finally decided to take the plunge and pick up the series.

Summary: (from HarperTeen.com)

Evernight:
Bianca wants to escape.

She’s been uprooted from her small hometown and enrolled at Evernight Academy, an eerie Gothic boarding school where the students are somehow too perfect: smart, sleek, and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn’t fit in.

Then she meets Lucas. He’s not the “Evernight type” either, and he likes it that way. Lucas ignores the rules, stands up to the snobs, and warns Bianca to be careful—even when it comes to caring about him.

“I couldn’t stand it if they took it out on you,” he tells Bianca, “and eventually they would.”

But the connection between Bianca and Lucas can’t be denied. Bianca will risk anything to be with Lucas, but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart . . . and to make Bianca question everything she’s ever believed.

Stargazer:
The vampire in me was closer to the surface . . .

Evernight Academy: an exclusive boarding school for the most beautiful, dangerous students of all—vampires. Bianca, born to two vampires, has always been told her destiny is to become one of them.

But Bianca fell in love with Lucas—a vampire hunter sworn to destroy her kind. They were torn apart when his true identity was revealed, forcing him to flee the school.

Although they may be separated, Bianca and Lucas will not give each other up. She will risk anything for the chance to see him again, even if it means coming face-to-face with the vampire hunters of Black Cross—or deceiving the powerful vampires of Evernight. Bianca’s secrets will force her to live a life of lies.

Yet Bianca isn’t the only one keeping secrets. When Evernight is attacked by an evil force that seems to target her, she discovers the truth she thought she knew is only the beginning. . . .

Evernight and Stargazer are the third and fourth titles in our SUPERNATURAL SUMMER book feature from Harper Teen. This week we will bring you five different books by five different authors, including interviews, articles and giveaways.

Review:

EVERNIGHT:

Bianca hates her new school. As the daughter of two teacher parents who have just accepted posting at Evernight Academy, a highly exclusive boarding school, Bianca can hardly demand to be transferred – so instead, she decides on a misguided escape attempt. She doesn’t get far, however, before she stumbles across a teenage boy in the woods surrounding the campus – whom she irrationally fears is chasing her, especially when he starts running in her direction. After their awkward first encounter, the boy from the woods, Lucas, and Bianca become gradual friends.

Once classes formally begin at Evernight Academy, Bianca feels incredibly out of place, uncomfortable with her beautiful roommate and all the glamorous, very rich students at the school. Though Bianca feels like Lucas should easily fit in with his good looks and charm, she soon learns that Lucas is different – he refuses to become friends with anyone save the few new students (Bianca included), and he openly antagonizes any of the popular cool kids. As Bianca and Lucas’s friendship evolves into something more, their relationship grows strained – Lucas has a temper as he gets into fights, antagonizing even Bianca’s parents, all in the mysterious claim that he is trying to protect her. But Lucas does not know that Bianca herself is a little different, nor does he realize just how strained their relationship is going to get.

I have to admit that though the covers for these books kept catching my eye, I was wary of reading this series. I’ve never been huge on vampires, especially now since they are practically everywhere following the advent of Edward Cullen. Also, I’m a huge fan of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series (it’s probably my favorite ongoing young adult urban fantasy series at the moment!), and Evernight sounded very similar.

All I can say is, thank goodness I gave Ms. Gray’s books a try.

Plot-wise, Evernight might sound like a Twilight/Vampire Academy hybrid – but that does the novel a grave injustice. Ms. Gray’s debut effort is a tightly plotted yarn, and stands on its own in the ever-growing teen vampire romance genre.

Though I refuse to spoil, I will say that about halfway through Evernight there’s a very interesting twist to the story – though it doesn’t quite add up with the beginning of the novel, it’s still a noble effort (if clumsily and not entirely adroitly executed). This alone sets Evernight apart from other teen vamp romances like the aforementioned Twilight or Vampire Academy, in a marked deviation from the normal gender roles and conventions. I liked it (even though Ms. Gray wasn’t quite able to pull off), as I liked the rest of this tightly-plotted novel.

Narrated in the first person by heroine Bianca, Evernnight is a star-crossed romance, and a book about self-discovery – with a vampiric twist. Both Bianca and Lucas are flawed characters and they are tested, individually and in terms of their burgeoning relationship. Bianca is shy, uncertain and awkwardly going through puberty – she feels like she doesn’t have anything in common with her peers, which is very true in many ways. Still, despite her self-doubt, Bianca has her heart in the right place and is a dedicated friend. One particular thing I loved about Bianca’s character was her no-nonsense attitude. For example, when Lucas is, frankly, a temperamental jerk, picking fights with locals and telling Bianca not to trust her parents, Bianca is able to step back from his machismo. Instead of passively accepting his erratic, creepy behavior, Bianca distances herself from Lucas until he understands that kind of attitude won’t fly with her. That’s pretty cool to see, especially in a teen heroine. That’s not to say that Bianca blindly follows what her parents say is best for her, however – I loved that this heroine has a head on her shoulders and thinks for herself in all instances, which is admirable. These traits made Bianca completely appealing to me, as a smart, real character who is just beginning to understand herself.

As for Lucas, his character is a bit of a mystery early on – he’s untrusting, abrasive, hot-tempered and stubborn (and Bianca calls him out on these behaviors) – but he also has a raw charm, and is fiercely loyal. As the novel unfolds, we begin to understand why he is so abrasive and contradictory – and, in all honesty, I love Ms. Gray’s choice to make Lucas a flawed, angry teen. Edward Cullen-esque “perfection” can be so very tedious. Lucas isn’t the ideal boyfriend, but he’s tantalizingly vulnerable in a heart-achingly real teen way. What’s more, the relationship between Bianca and Lucas just works. Their attraction feels natural, and wholly believable (although another love interest, Balthazar is a delectable alternative – though not necessarily for Bianca!).

The bevy of secondary characters are similarly well-written – from Bianca’s loving, protective parents, to her self-absorbed roommate, to her other peers like the charming but serious Balthazar, to even the creepy headmistress of Evernight. This is a novel with many layers and interwoven storythreads, all leading up to an action-filled last act and a dramatic finish.

By the last chapter of Evernight I was completely enthralled. Good thing I had book 2 handy…

**********

STARGAZER:

**CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EVERNIGHT – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!**

After the dramatic conclusion of Evernight, separated from Lucas for an indeterminate amount of time, Bianca returns to Evernight Academy for her next year of school. Though she cannot possibly see Lucas or contact him because of his standing as a Black Cross hunter, Bianca misses him something terrible. And, she takes at least some of his warnings to heart – she realizes that headmistress Miss Bethany’s decision to admit a handful of human students after hundreds of years of Evernight being a vampire-only haven is suspicious. So, Bianca breaks into the Miss Bethany’s home while she’s out “recruiting” and attempts to break into her files, trying to look more into what Lucas was trying to discover the prior year. Instead of finding any answers, however, Bianca is confronted by a chilling, ghostly presence – a presence that continues to make itself known to Bianca in terrifying ways with a specific message: “Stop.”

As Bianca grows and becomes more of a vampire, her hunger for blood – especially human blood, after having two tastes of Lucas – increases. Her love for Lucas is still as strong as ever, but she doesn’t know when the next time they’ll be able to meet (if ever), and Bianca turns to vampire Balthazar for friendship and advice about her relationship, the ghostly presence that increases in its strength and severity, and her suspicions about Evernight Academy and Miss Bethany’s motives. Then, a seemingly young, confused vampire girl appears to Bianca, chased by someone in the small town near the school – and at the same time, a string of violent murders have occurred near the Evernight campus. As the revelations and complications mount, Bianca must make a decision that will change her forever.

Stargazer is another second novel that fits a trend in my reading – just as earlier this week with Kelley Armstrong’s The Awakening, this second entry in the Evernight series is significantly better than its predecessor! (And considering that Evernight was pretty good, this is saying a lot.)

All the issues I had with Evernight – the awkwardness of the “twist,” primarily – are dismissed in Stargazer. Now that it has been established that Bianca is a living vampire, one of a handful that have ever existed, and that Lucas is the Black Cross hunter, things flow much more smoothly in this installment. Ms. Gray’s world grows in this novel, encompassing not only vampires and vampire hunter humans, but expanding to include wraiths – diametrically opposed to vampires in a particularly appealing twist to the usual lore. Bianca’s heritage and the story of her birth, coupled with the increasing wraith presence is fascinating and expertly written – Ms. Gray’s hand at plotting is far more deft here as a number of shocking new developments occur. We get a much closer look at Black Cross and the other side of vampires – the not so kind and pretty version that Bianca has been raised to believe in – in Stargazer as well.

As for the characters, Bianca and Lucas’s love story undergoes some strain here through their separation, and a character from Evernight comes up in a big way: Balthazar, Balthazar, Balthazar. At first Bianca and Balthazar are friends (though Bianca does realize that he likes her for some reason) – but as the strain between her and Lucas increases, Balthazar is there for her. They initially feign a relationship so Bianca can sneak off campus with Balthazar’s help, which backfires as Bianca’s vampire parents are ecstatic with her new choice in boyfriend. The relationship between these two is thoroughly explored in Stargazer – and it becomes clear who Bianca picks in this sort-of triangle by the end of this book.

As with Evernight, secondary characters are well-developed in this second novel as well – not only do we learn more about Bianca, Lucas and Balthazar, but we also get a better look at Bianca’s parents, the creepy but strong Miss Bethany, a few other vampire students, and a few of the human students as well. Stargazer ends with a bang – there’s a battle, and Bianca makes a huge decision that I’m not sure I like…basically, I cannot wait for the next book in the series. NOW, please!

Notable Quotes/Parts: Take a look with Harper Teen’s Browse Inside feature for a closer look at Evernight and Stargazer by Claudia Gray:

Additional Thoughts: Make sure to stick around, as we have an interview with author Claudia Gray later today, along with a giveaway of Stargazer!

Verdict: Though I was hesitant to pick up this series (another teen vampire romance), I am so very glad I did. Evernight and Stargazer are engaging, wonderful novels – Ms. Gray adds her own unique voice to the growing YA vampire lit niche, and this strong new series stands proud on its own merit. Highly recommended.

Rating:

Evernight – 7 Very Good
Stargazer – 8 Excellent

Reading Next: Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

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8 Comments

  • elaing8
    July 23, 2009 at 5:14 am

    I love this series.Me and my niece read them together.Too bad we have to wait until the spring for the next book.

  • Wendy
    July 23, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Oooo, I want to read these ones! I didn’t read the complete review, don’t want spoiler! I saw the grades though, cool! I can’t wait to read Gray’s book myself! 😀

  • alana
    July 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I liked them overall, but I hated the ending of the second book. It just didn’t feel like the natural place to stop the story.

    The love story aspect of it bothered me as well. I mean, how many books am I gonna have to read where the characters just “knew” they were meant for one another the first time they met? I know I’m being biased, but I don’t care. As with Twilight, I think these sort of “it’s okay to lie and deceive people as long as you’re really really in love” stories aren’t good for young women to read (similar to the prince on the white horse fantasy we peddle our young girls)

    Wow, that sounded a bit cynical didn’t it? lol

  • Adrienne
    July 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I know there are so many vampire books out there because they are red hot 😆 right now but don’t let that put you off to the whole of the topic (even though there are some vampire stories that are sooo bad, holy cow are they bad) I think we are all on Twilight overload (conventions anyone? Really?)I really appreciate you reviewing this for us and posting your honest opinion. I too have been eye’ing it the book store and was worried it was going to be another “girl meets boy, boy has a strange diet and won’t speak to girl, girl get’s in trouble, they fall in love, end of story”

  • KMont
    July 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Every time I come back during this YA Month, yall are just gonna make my head spin with want – aren’t you?!

  • Kris
    July 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I started reading this series after Thea pimped it the other day. Nup, not an iota of willpower. :mrgreen:

    I enjoyed Evernight very much – great to read a book where heroes don’t brood and sparkle at you – and Stargazer is in my tbr.

  • Dottie
    July 25, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I can’t wait to read these two books, they look and sound great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Dottie 🙂

  • anna
    October 8, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    i love stargazer it was very intense and i just couldnt put it down! it was probably the best book i ever read 😀

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