Tana Bach is a typical seventeen-year-old. She is looking forward to her senior year and is recovering from the most recent break-up with her exasperating on again/off again boyfriend Aidan. She’s been invited to an end of the summer party, but she’s not sure she wants to go because she is sure Aidan will be there. And, if she goes, she will have to go alone because Pauline, her best friend, is away at drama camp. She determines Aidan shouldn’t keep her from seeing the rest of her friends and decides to attend. . .
Very early the next morning, Tana wakes up in the bathtub. She has no memory of how she got there and the details of the party are sketchy. Aidan was there and most of the night she was miserable. She leaves the bathroom, trying to be quiet and keep from disturbing anyone still sleeping. And then she realizes the bodies she sees aren’t sleeping. There is blood everywhere and all of her friends, people she has known for years, are dead. From the wounds, and the amount of blood, it must have been a vampire attack. As she creeps through the house trying to find her purse, she discovers Aidan. He is tied to a bed and, while he is still alive, he has been bitten. On the other side of the room is a vampire, shackled to the wall. He has been positioned just out of reach of Aidan and in direct line with the windows, which will allow in the light from the rapidly approaching sunrise.
Tana is torn. She could run, save herself and never look back. But she would always know that she doomed both people (if they are, in fact, both people – one may be a monster, the other one is). Or, she can attempt to save them. Without really thinking, she chooses the latter and sets herself, and them, on a road that leads no where but Coldtown: one of the government established quarantines set up to contain the vampire outbreak from the general population. It is the only place Aidan may be safe as he attempts to fight off the infection (and others could be safe from him if he turns). And it is where the vampire is supposed to be. But getting to Coldtown can be difficult, but getting into Coldtown, more so. And once you enter Coldtown, you can not leave.
In The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Holly Black creates a believable world where a vampire infestation has gotten out of control and the government has attempted, in a completely believable manner, to create quarantine areas complete with government bureaucracies (and complacent government workers), innocents struggling to get out, wannabes trying to get in and cameras capturing the “action” twenty-four hours a day for broadcast on the web and television screens. It is a chilling look at how our culture, and the world we live in, could react to a medical pandemic. And within this situation she has placed interesting and relatable characters on a ticking clock quest. The supporting characters are diverse and very interesting and the plot explores interesting issues of character under dire circumstances and how we, as individuals and a culture, define who or what is a monster.
Black is clearly familiar with vampire literature and lore and plays with conventions without breaking them. While she romanticizes the vampires, as our culture is wont to do currently, she never minimizes the horror of what it means for the “undead” to prey on the living (nor does she minimize the living’s fascination with, and desire to become, the undead). The Coldest Girl in Coldtown will appeal to those interested in vampire novels, paranormal romances or anyone with an interest in the macabre!