Author: Veronica Wolff
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publication Date: September 2011
Paperback: 302 Pages
Is life offering fewer and fewer options? Then join the dead.
When Annelise meets dark and seductive Ronan, he promises her a new life-if she has the courage to chance the unknown. Now, she’s whisked away to a mysterious island and pitted against other female recruits to become a Watcher-girls who are partnered with vampires and assist them in their missions. To survive and become a Watcher, Annelise has to beat out every other girl, but she’s determined to do so, because to fail doesn’t mean dishonor-it means death.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Watchers series
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: The book is pitched as a hybrid between Vampire Academy, the television shows Lost and Survivor, with a sort of Mean Girls flare. Of course I was instantly interested.
Anneliese Drew is a certified genius, and a girl desperate to escape her dead end hometown of Christmas, Florida, her abusive father, evil stepmother, and decidedly mediocre classmates. So, Drew is thrilled when she is able to graduate from high school early with a full scholarship to the University of Florida, and she gleefully leaves Christmas miles behind her. When she gets to UF and tries to check in to her shiny new future, however, she realizes that thanks to a bureaucratic mix-up and change of high school policy, Drew hasn’t actually graduated yet and cannot attend classes until the fall of the next year. With nowhere to turn, Drew is crushed and desperate – but then the quiet, hot guy at the registrar comes over to talk to her and offers her the chance of a lifetime. In addition to being devastatingly handsome and bearing a Proust tattoo (which girl genius Drew finds unbearably hot), Ronan is a recruiter for a very special school for special girls – girls just like Annelise. All she has to do is get on his private plane and leave everything from her old life behind – and leave she does, for a remote island in the far north sea. Eyja naeturinnar, or the Isle of Night.
Soon, Annelise discovers that her new home is anything but the nurturing budding-genius environment she pictured. Here, she is one of many beautiful, gifted girls who are training to become Watchers – protectors of their male vampire masters – and failing to pass a test means death.
I wanted to like Isle of Night. I really did. I wanted to find a reason to like Drew, or care about any of the characters in this novel. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. As it is, Isle of Night is a painful exercise in poor characterizations, stunted writing, and willful, unchecked misogyny.
Let’s start with the characters. Annelise Drew is a certified and self-proclaimed genius. In fact, she’s such a genius that she repeats this over and over and over again over the course of the novel. The problem with this genius is she makes a ton of ridiculously idiotic decisions. Getting on a jet with a guy she’s just met, regardless of how hot he is, is not a good decision. When she learns about her new school, the existence of vampires, and how she was basically hypnotized/tricked into going to a remote island away from civilization and help, she blithely, passively goes along with the program, even killing her classmates without any moral dilemma or reflection. When she’s almost killed by a vampire on campus and later gets a good look at how HOT he is, instead of fear she is entranced desperately desires him. This is not smart behavior. For all that she says she has a high IQ and is a supposed genius with crazy book smarts, she never actually shows any intelligence, even in the classroom. There’s one passage where she talks about how awesome cartesian coordinates are like that is some crazy intelligent concept (when in reality is probably on par with a middle school level of basic math).
Plus, there’s also her lovely “self-depricating” descriptions of her appearance – Drew moans about how she’s not the pretty because – and I quote:
My big eyes annoyed me – I thought they made me look like a bug. Between that and my wide mouth, I was fairly certain I resembled some sort of a backward fairty-tale frog that had yet to turn into a princess. And then there was my hair […] long and blonde
Ah, the terrible life of a slim blonde with big eyes and a wide mouth. The problem with Annelise is that she is simply annoying – managing to be both conceited and a whiny, insecure wet blanket at the same time. She willfully goes along with the entire misogynistic ideals of her school without even the slightest introspection.1
Which brings me to the the real problem with Isle of Night: the rampant, unchecked sexism throughout. These beautiful, damaged girls are swooped up by hot dudes called Tracers and whisked away to a remote island, told they have been selected because of their beauty and talents, and then told that they will fight to the death for the honor of becoming Watchers. I am still unclear as to why Vampires need “Watchers” (since Vampires can walk around during the day and are supernaturally strong and powerful), but the girls eat it up with not even a moment’s pause to consider the fact that they have been deceived, cut off from the rest of the world, and forced to kill each other, all for the dubious honor of being a hot vampire dude’s companion/bodyguard/whatever Watchers actually are. Oh, yeah, and there are no female vampires because “to be Vampire is a man’s destiny…to be Watcher is a woman’s fortune.” And to this statement from the Vampire Headmaster, all the women in the school are mindlessly compliant.
Allow me to illustrate further with a different example. There’s the following exchange between Drew and master Vampire Alcantara which occurs late in the book:
“I’m just…confused. I mean, surely there are other girls in the world who know a thing or two about math.”
“None such as you.” He canted his head, and his attentions made me intensely uncomfortable. “You are the full package, as they say. I’ve suffered centuries of dim-witted beauties. Or girls with looks so repellent as to negate minds that shone like diamonds. I seek strength, too, and yet have had my fill of Amazons whose brawn lacks loveliness and grace.”
I stared dumbly. What was I supposed to say to this little revelation. Thanks. You’re smart and cute, too?
The scene continues with Drew basically seduced by the vampire, wanting to kiss him, blah blah blah. THIS is my problem with the book. The entire Watcher-Vampire system is ridiculously misogynistic – that’s fine, there are tons of systems and realities out there that are misogynistic. This could have been an awesome critique of sexism, with female characters forced into this system but finding a way to band together or even just recognizing that their forced servitude is wrong. The problem is that no one, not even our supposed “genius” Annelise, say a damn thing about this effed up school and lifestyle. When Alcantara makes these disgusting statements about “repellent” women Watchers, Annelise doesn’t think anything of it. When she’s introduced to all the other girls in the school and told they will not be vampires because that is for men only, but they will be giving up their lives in some bogus cause they didn’t even choose, no one thinks anything is wrong with the situation. It is this mindless acceptance that I cannot look beyond. NO. I don’t care how hot these guys are, there is something seriously wrong with a book that glorifies in teenage beauties literally killing each other for the approval and desire of hot vampire dudes.
There are other offenses, such as dialogue not making sense with the action (a huge pet peeve of mine) and generally subpar writing.2 But why say any more? Isle of Night simply was not the book for me.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the official excerpt:
“Trouble?” He smiled, and up close I saw he had slightly crooked teeth, but somehow it only made him hotter. Like he’d been too masculine to suffer through something as trivial as braces for something as inconsequential as vanity. “Lift the bonnet for me, aye?”
Oh, God . . . He had an accent. I knew custom required a response, but I could only gape.
He smiled again. His snaggle-toothed accent gave the impression that a young Gerard Butler had stepped off a movie screen and stood before me, live and in 3-D.
“I said, pop the bonnet, love.” He spoke slowly this time, as if I?d fallen too hard off the short bus that morning.
Must respond. Bonnet. WTF is a bonnet?
He just stood there waiting. I clamped my slack jaw shut. High schooler, maybe, but I would not be mistaken for a mouth-breather. I followed the line of his eyes. “Ohh, the hood. Yeah, got it.”
Pop the hood. Check. I got out of the car just as he leaned over to peer at my engine. As I mentioned before, I’m no dummy. I took the opportunity to assess a tight butt and pair of muscular legs. I love a guy who wears just straight-up jeans. No fancy metrosexual nonsense, just an old, worn pair of Levi’s. I wondered whether they
were button fly.
He straightened, and I managed to tear my eyes from his nether parts before he caught me staring. “I think it’s your carb,” he said, clapping the grease from his hands.
“The only carb I know is the bagel I had for breakfast.” My face froze in place, shocked at the idiocy of my own joke. Moron! I am such a moron.
He just stared. Of course he did, since I?d just said the Dumbest Thing Ever. I used to wish I were average, but I took it all back. I wanted to be sparkling and witty and magnetic.
“Kidding,” I mumbled. “I know you meant carburetor. Internal combustion, et cetera.”
He strolled around the car, eyeing it with the indifference one might give a bit of rubbish in a bin. “Shall I arrange a tow?”
Not unless there’s a nearby bank I can rob. “No, thank you,” I told him instead.
He came full circle to lean against the side. He crossed his arms, and I had to pull my gaze from the thickness of his biceps and from the quote tattooed there. “Is there someone I can ring for you?”
“No.” I cleared my throat, inexplicably sad that our little encounter was quickly drawing to a close. Paradis perdu. I had the feeling he’d forever be my lost paradise. “I’ll make it on my own.”
“Oh, dear.” He shook his head, and I thought my heart might pound out of my chest. A man of such gigantic hotness saying “Oh, dear” was just too unbearably sexy. “A fine woman like you, all alone . . .”
Did he just call me a woman? I bit my lip, trying not to blush like a child. I tried to act flip, but my laugh in response sounded more like a weak puff of air.
You can download the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: So, I wasn’t thrilled with this book. But you don’t have to take my word for it – stop by and check out author Veronica Wolff’s guest post for a chance to win a copy of the book and let us know what YOU think of the novel.
Rating: 4 – Bad
Reading Next: Possessed by Kate Cann
Buy the Book:
- She even dubs her bitchy roommate von Slutling (because she’s beautiful and has a fantastic body – ergo, she must be a slut). ↩
- Take, for example, one supposedly nasty joke about Annelise’s throwing stars, or shuriken: “Listen to you, freak. Shur-i-ken…sure-ya-can…sure-ya-can’t.” This is meant to be a putdown. ↩