The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Grades: 9 and up
Thanks to the great Simon & Schuster Galley Grab Program I was able to get an eGalley of this collection of short stories by Holly Black. (Along with some other great books.) One of the hard things I have with short stories is that I don’t want to sit down and read them one after another. While this it is a challenge, it is also a joy. But it does make it hard to review a book that collects together so many various types of stories. So far I have only read the first story, “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.” I enjoyed it so much I almost don’t want to read any more stories for fear that this one will escape me.
Besides The Sipderwick Chronicles, I have never read one of Holly’s books. Even though there was no expectations “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” took me by surprise. The story is available to read in full online at BSC; I highly suggest you check it out. This story caught my attention for many different reasons. One of the reasons was that this story appears to be about one thing and sudden morphs into something else. Go, read it! I don’t want to spoil anything.
***Review from this point on may contain spoilers***
I have talked about it before but that isn’t going to stop me from talking about it again. I never know what I should or shouldn’t say about something that I have read. As a reader I don’t like to know anything about a book before I read it. Sometimes I feel like even knowing the genre tells you too much! On the other hand I want to be able to talk about this “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” in an in-depth way, thus the need for spoilers.
“Matilda was drunk, but she was always drunk anymore.” This is the first line of the short story and honestly I was a little unimpressed. I was kind of thinking we were going to get this whole little after school special feel going on. But that isn’t what is going on. What Holly Black is doing is writing one of the most interesting vampire stories I have read since Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps. In middle school The Vampire Diaries was my favorite series of all time. It was the Twilight of my generation without the mass hysteria. But like many things that dissipate with youth, so did my passion for the vampire story. What I realized then, as many soon will realize for themselves, was that I wasn’t enamored of the vampire story, but the romance of it all. I think what I loved the most about Peeps was it’s lack of romance, how it felt new and fresh and did vampire in a new way.
“The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” does new vampire in an even newer way. It takes some of the sensuality that draws us to the idea of vampires and makes a mockery of it. The idea of Coldtown, a walled city where they keep the vampires, has a dystopian vibe to me. And it won’t surprise you that this is one of the elements I enjoyed about it.
“She filmed the Eternal Ball, a party that started in 1998 and had gone on ceaselessly ever since. In the background, girls and boys in rubber harnesses swung through the air. They stopped occasionally, opening what looked like a modded hospital tube stuck on the inside of their arms just below the crook of the elbow. They twisted a knob and spilled blood into little paper cups for the partygoers.”
The Eternal Ball inside Coldtown is appealing and appalling at the same time. It reminds me of visions of hell, where you can live endlessly in sin and how it could get old very quickly. Yet from the outside looking in, part of you feels like you are missing out. Part of you feels like you wish you were there.
I also thought Holly took a unique view on the process of turning into a vampire. I always love fresh takes on old concepts. Matilda is an interesting, unique, and strong female character. I never quite new what was coming next with her. It all combined together to make this story feel so genius.
Now that I have gotten a chance to blog about this first story before my thoughts about it disappeared, I am feeling very eager to read more stories in the collection. I think the variety of stories will be a nice change for me and expose me to new types of stories. If you read “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” please share your thoughts with me!