Who uses really oddball descriptions of things, repeatedly. Seriously. What the hell are spaniel eyes?
Maybe? I don’t know. But one character, Michael, always has some kind of spaniel eyes going on. And Audrey with her spiky lashes and bangs. The same thing. All the time.
And who others the crap out of every POC character in her book to extremes. It was really bad in THE CHASE. Really, really bad.
[Wing: Good times, good times. Adorable dog. And I still love Teen Creeps taking on this series. Here’s their episode for The Chase.]
The Blurb: Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker, a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own?
That entire first sentence can just be erased and it won’t take anything away from the blurb, mainly because it really doesn’t fit and because it’s such an infinitesimal part of the story as to be largely unimportant. Mainly because Jenny knows she’s changed and she figures out on her own why and how. It has nothing to do with boys. Damn YA books.
[Wing: My god, that game sounds amazing. I want to play Lambs and Monsters.]
The Place: This time mostly within Jenny’s neighborhood and home. Julian decides to bring the game to them, to every place they always felt safe he takes it upon himself to violate. Goes along with the mindfucking he does in this book and quite honestly, I kind of love it a little. [Wing: I love the transition from them being in his strange, terrible place to him being in their place, where they are comfortable and safe and happy. Twisting that is a great horror trope.]
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LJ Smith was never part of my reading repertoire when I was younger. In fact I never even read The Vampire Diaries until earlier this year and it was only the very first book (the original, not the re-releases). That kind of drama never interested me and still doesn’t. I’ve always known who she was thanks mostly to my fellow Lost Boys mailing listers who talked about her work a lot. But hers were never books I picked up.
I stumbled upon The Forbidden Game series completely by accident and I kind of love her style of writing here. Slightly lyrical, much descriptive, and writes pretty relatable, realistic characters (mostly). For the most part, this is what I know of LJ Smith despite her grander library of works. I do have other books of hers on my shelves, including some non-sequential Night World books (all originals, not the re-releases, I avoid those regardless of author, if I’m going to read 90s teen cheese it’s going to be in its original glory). But the impression I do have of her writing, even factoring in book one of The Vampire Diaries, is pretty good.
[Wing: I never read her as a teen, either, though a friend sent me the entire Night World series when I was in my early twenties, and I loved them. I’ve since read other things, including The Vampire Diaries back when I recapped season one for a website, but Night World remains my favourite of her works.
However, I love the Teen Creeps’ podcast discussions of the books: Teen Creeps and The Hunter.]
The Blurb: He sold her the Game, and Jenny Thornton walked out mesmerized by Julian, the gorgeous cyber-punk with electric blue eyes and frost-white hair. When she and her friends open the plain white box at her boyfriend Tom’s birthday party, she chills to the warning: “Entering the Shadow World can be deadly. Do so at your own risk.” Spellbound, they piece together the cardboard Victorian house and decorate the rooms with their darkest nightmares. Suddenly the game is real! They’re in the house of horror, running from The Shadow Man — Julian himself, who forces them to confront their worst nightmares or be lost in a private hell. It’s Julian’s game, and Jenny is the prize he’s stalked for years. He’ll do anything to win her as she bargains desperately for her body — and soul . . .
Smith has a thing for cyberpunk and mentions it a lot throughout the book, especially in regard to how Julian is described. I’m a child of the 90s but cyberpunk is just a hint too old for me so I did have to look it up. And yeah. Hackers. Black turtlenecks and the blue glow of a computer forever etched onto a person’s face. Okay.
[Wing: Cyberpunk was very popular in my classes in the 2000s.]
[Wing: OH NO THAT COVER. We’ve come a long way from the fun of The Band.]
I stand corrected with now knowing that Adams also wrote THE CLAW, a Point Horror addition that the lovely ladies at The Devil’s Elbow already recapped. I’d never heard of it, but should I stumble across it in my used bookstore wanderings I’ll have to grab it.
Remember how I said Adams wrote level-headed and realistic characters that weren’t caricatures of humans? Well, that’s still true, but where Adams’s development was a little better in THE BAND, in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE we got some major plot-serving going on served with a tall Dumbass Daiquiri, complete with a tiny umbrella. She got significantly better with descriptions in this book, throwing down on page two what Megan and Iris look like, however, she does bleed a little more into making Megan look a little more than average in this book.
I had a harder time separating my Lost Boys love from this book, and maybe it’s just me, but I ultimately felt her descriptions were a little lacking here. Where she really amped up the setting of Blue Mesa and ambiance as their own characters in THE BAND, here, while she didn’t short on description, it definitely didn’t feel as involved. There was a moment, and I’m pretty sure it was just the one, where her grasp of feeling and setting really came back to life. But I found myself really looking for that mood-setting tone that Adams has throughout the book and didn’t find it.
Still, she watched The Lost Boys and was like I WANT TO WRITE THAT. And she did. And despite the flaws I still love her for it.
Fair warning: this recap is going to be gif-heavy to supplement the heinous eye roll moments and to throw down the epic Lost Boys love that is this story.
[Wing: This is legitimately the most Lost Boys story I’ve ever read, and I own the damn movie novelisation. It is fucking amazing. And sometimes terrible, because COME THE FUCK ON, MEGAN, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.]
As far as I can tell Carmen Adams has only written two books, THE BAND and SONG OF THE VAMPIRE. [Wing: Well, she also wrote The Claw, which I recapped in 2016, and despite some lazy writing and the main character carrying the idiot ball, it was a delightful romp, so I have high expectations for her other books. Also, I realize this is where Paul recommended The Band and Song of the Vampire, so I’m glad we’re finally hitting them.] Technically that’s their order, however, they do stand alone. I know because I read them out of order and didn’t even really know THE BAND existed (or cared) until fairly recently. I am whole-heartedly convinced Adams was heavily influenced by movies like The Lost Boys and Near Dark when writing these books. While THE BAND doesn’t deal with vampires per se, it does deal with aimless teenagers trying to recruit unsuspecting victims into their dark lives through a blood ritual. They’re vampire enough without actually having to drink blood. And if you read SONG OF THE VAMPIRE and don’t get Lost Boys feels then we didn’t watch the same movie. [Wing: The Band 100% feels influenced by The Lost Boys and Near Dark. It captures that gorgeous feel of seaside horror-comedy even though it’s set in the desert, and it’s just great. AND LOOK AT THAT COVER. They’re basically the Lost Boys.]
Overall I think Adams had her finger on the pulse of teenagers a little better than her counterparts. Her characters aren’t caricatures of teenagers, they’re fairly level-headed and realistic, and she doesn’t rely on over-the-top shock to get her point across. Considering the market at the time it doesn’t surprise me she didn’t have staying power. I think she was a little bit ahead of her time just in the way these two books are written. They actually feel like they transcend time far better than any of the other 90s YA horror I’ve read (aside from mentions of crimped hair and VHS tapes, but that’s neither here nor there).
Really, both of these books are probably some of my favorites. THE BAND goes where literally no other book does: to revenants, not vampires. I’ve never come across revenants in any other book before, probably because they’re not sexy enough. At least Adams’s version of revenants are close enough to vampires that she might as well go with vampires, right? But she didn’t. She does go full tilt vamp in SONG OF THE VAMPIRE, but let’s leave that for the next recap.
For now, let’s get into THE BAND.
Evil twins, Wing and Dove, and their friends recap Point Horror and other teen genre fiction.
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