Saturday, February 27, 2010

Literary Road Trip/Review/Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Welcome to my Literary Road Trip. Today I am spotlighting  Heather Brewer's new book The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eleventh Grade Burns, which was released this month. A St Louis resident, I first met Heather Brewer last year when she graciously volunteered  to appear at our annual Area Wide Book Battle and will be on hand again this year to sign books and present a school visit to the winner of the battle.  Heather's son  graduated from of the middle school where I work. In fact the first book in the series, Eighth Grade Bites came out when her son was in eighth grade.

SBN: 9780525422433
Subtitle: Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #04
Author: Brewer, Heather
Publisher:Dutton Books
Subject:Vampires, Schools, Horror, Social Issues - Adolescence, Legends, Myths, Fables, Fantasy  Magic
Released: February 2010

Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer is the fourth book in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod and my favorite in the series to date. I love action and this book is jammed packed. It seems the older Vlad gets the more difficult his life becomes. Not only is Joss, the vampire slayer back to finish what he started (i.e. slaying Vlad), but he is also dating Meridith (Vlad’s ex girl-friend). D’Ablo, Vlad’s, number one nemesis, still seeks to do away with Vlad so the prophecy of the Pravus does not come to fruition. And there is more! Lurking behind every corner, Eddie, a student at Vlad’s high school, is still seeking journalistic fame and fortune by exposing Vlad for the vampire he is. Then there is a new vampire in town, Dorian, who wants to drink Vlad’s blood. Finally, Vlad must deal with the very real fact that Uncle Otis, the man who has been teaching him about his vampire traits since his father’s death, is on trial for his life by the Elysian Council. Eleventh grade is definitely Vlad’s toughest year yet and, trust me, you do not want to miss out on the action. Brewer is at her best!

Since Brewer first published Eighth Grade Bites, each of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod books have been devoured by my students.  One of the reasons this series so widely read is that Brewer created a character who, despite the fact he is half vampire half human, realistically portrays a teenage boy. Vlad has the same angst commonly dealt with by most teenage males his age: girls, bullies, school, and friendship. Granted he is also dealing with all the vampire stuff, but Brewer weaves all of this together seamlessly.

One aspect of Brewer’s series that appeals not only to my students but to me as well is the inventive yet real world she places Vlad into, and builds upon, in all of her books. Some of the notable examples of Vlad’s world include the Elysian Council.  The council rules over vampire society and maintains vampire laws. The council plays an important part in the ongoing struggles that Vlad faces especially in Eleventh Grade Burns because D’ablo is now one of the council elders. The possibility that Vlad might be the Pravus is another compelling detail that keeps me interested. Latin for depraved, wick, evil the uncertainty about Vlad being the one to fulfill the prophecy definitely creates tension and makes me wonder whether Vlad will be able to maintain his compassionate connection to the human world.  Another part of Vlad’s world that is extremely important is his family unit, which includes his Aunt Nelly, Vlad’s surrogate mother, Uncle Otis, and Henry, Vlad’s best friend. Vlad’s complex world makes the narrative of Brewer’s books distinct and the plots richly detailed. And while many readers might feel lost picking up Eleventh Grade Burns, Brewer’s narrative provides enough background to alleviate confusion.

Finally, I like the fact that Vlad struggles with both his vampire half and his human side always trying to find a way for both to coexist as a whole. In Eleventh Grade Burns this struggle is what made the book my favorite of the series. First, Vlad is facing Josh, a vampire slayer bent on finishing the job he started ... killing Vlad. Eliminating Josh as a threat, however, is not an option. Since Vlad still considers Josh a friend, he is more motivated by his friendship than the fact that Josh wants to kill him. Therefore, Vlad refuses to take Josh out. I also find Vlad’s guilt about feeding on humans adds strength to his character, and Brewer uses this to give depth to his personality because like all of us Vlad has moments of weaknesses and has to fight his internal battles as well as the external forces that are all around him.

Eleventh Grade Burns is the most exciting of Brewer’s books. It has a cliff hanger ending that I did not see coming and left me opened jawed and cursing a bit because now I will have to wait impatiently for Vlad’s senior year to find out what happens next. If you have not read The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, I would urge you to give them a taste. I think once you do, it will be like eating a Lays potato chip: you will definitely keep eating until you devour each book and want to rush out to buy more.

Bloodbound, a new series by Heather Brewer is due out this fall, and features a female protagonist named Kaya.  You can read all about Brewer's books at her web site.

You might also like my review on the other three books in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.


Beth said...

Hi, I am visiting from The Saturday Network. Thanks for the great review, very detailed. I would love to hear about your battle of the books.

Beth said...


Thanks for the comment about my blog title! That's exactly what I wanted it to be since I am an English are the first to notice!

chelleyreads said...

i've been wanting to read this series just for the covers. i haven't actually looked into them but now that i know more my interest is warranted. great review jan!

Jan von Harz said...

Thanks Chellyreads, I really appreciated your stopping by and leaving a comments.

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