Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publish Date: September 3, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Supernatural
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
Published over a year ago, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown gained almost instant popularity here on Goodreads and in the booktube community. I had initially dismissed it, however, due to the mention of vampires in the book summary; I am the first person to admit that I’m sick and tired of the YA vampire novel fad that seems to have started with Twilight and
should have died out a long time ago shouldn’t have even happened in the first place. I could go on for a century or two, but I think you get the point. I had expected the novel to be the stereotypical vampire love story, but when I finally decided to pick it up, I was shocked. I thought I had read every possible variation on vampires, but I was clearly wrong because Holly Black took an entirely different approach to the subject, which I quickly fell in love with.
Popular and fun-loving Tana awakens in a bathtub the morning after a party, having passed out there the previous evening. To her horror, she stumbles out of the bathroom and discovers a room of dead, blood-drained partygoers – many of whom were her close friends and classmates. The only explanation: vampires. Which are still lurking somewhere in the house. Tana barely manages to escape with her life, relying upon the assistance of the only other living being in the house, her ex-boyfriend. In the decades preceding the incident, nearly every continent had been overrun by vampires. Vampirism spread quickly – once a human was bitten, they developed an insatiable hunger for blood; satisfying this hunger would permanently convert them into a vampire. Initially, Coldtowns were established as an attempt to contain the disease; vampires and infected individuals were confined within government-funded towns. The outbreak continued to spread, however, turning Tana’s world upside down. During her escape, Tana believes she may have been infected when she received a light scratch from a vampire’s canine; unsure of whether or not the “Cold” will set in, Tana grapples with the challenging decision of whether to travel to the nearest Coldtown or return home and risk the lives of her family and friends.
My favorite component of this book was the vampires and their unique portrayal – Black gave them a sense of depth, representing them as humans that simply struggle with moments of madness. Gavriel in particular caught my attention due to his elaborate, centuries old backstory which was gradually revealed throughout the novel through a series of flashbacks. While these flashbacks didn’t initially make sense, everything finally came together during the final chapters of the book. Trust me, it’s worth making it to the end of the novel, even if you don’t particularly enjoy it initially.
The protagonist, Tana, was likeable, yet realistic. She didn’t have the perfect life, perfect set of traits, perfect family, perfect boyfriend, or perfect set of friends. She didn’t instantaneously concoct a solution for every problem that came her way – she spent quite a bit of the novel questioning how to overcome a new challenge and wondering whether or not she was making the correct decision.
I also loved the world building, particularly within the Coldtowns. After reading several dozen dystopian novels, the “utopian” societies become repetitive and boring. In fact, I feel as if many of them are ambiguous and underdeveloped, leading readers to blindly guess as to where the story may be taking place. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, however, established an original, detailed society predicated upon the fear of a nation overridden by vampirism.
I had a few small qualms with this book, hence my four star rating. Firstly, I wish the romance between Tana and Gavriel had been further developed. Yes, they shared a brief kiss, but it only left me wanting more. In fact, Gavriel was missing from a good portion of the book, which was frustrating considering that he was my favorite character.
Even though I didn’t find it particularly disturbing, I do feel that I should mention the rather gory nature of some of the scenes. Black has no reservations about including intricate descriptions of vampire attacks, which, as you might imagine, tend to be very bloody, bordering on graphic. This novel isn’t for the faint of heart in that respect, to say the least, so consider yourself warned.
I also wasn’t a fan of the somewhat choppy pacing. The book begins in a whirlwind of action, which continues until about halfway through the book. The pacing then slows down considerably, only to pick up again in the final chapters. While I never entirely lost interest in the book, I would have preferred some happy medium throughout the entire novel, rather than jumping back and forth between fast and slow pacing.
Lastly, I’m disappointed that this is a standalone. The plot definitely lends itself to a three or four book series, and I would have loved to read more about each of the characters, many of which were intentionally excluded from the concluding scene of the book, leaving readers wondering as to what had happened to them.
Overall, I would recommend this book to YA and dystopian lovers in a heartbeat. Even if you’ve become a bit tired of stereotypical dystopian settings and plots, I think this would be a new, refreshing read. I’m definitely glad that I picked this up, and I would love to read more of Holly Black’s work at some point in the future (recommendations anyone?).