Title: Drink, Slay, Love
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Format: eGalley via S&S Galley Grab
Pearl is a sixteen-year-old vampire... fond of blood, allergic to sunlight, and mostly evil... until the night a sparkly unicorn stabs her through the heart with his horn. Oops. Her family thinks she was attacked by a vampire hunter (because, obviously, unicorns don't exist), and they're shocked she survived. They're even more shocked when Pearl discovers she can now withstand the sun. But they quickly find a way to make use of her new talent. The Vampire King of New England has chosen Pearl's family to host his feast. If Pearl enrolls in high school, she can make lots of human friends and lure them to the King's feast—as the entrees. The only problem? Pearl's starting to feel the twinges of a conscience. How can she serve up her new friends—especially the cute guy who makes her fangs ache—to be slaughtered? Then again, she's definitely dead if she lets down her family. What's a sunlight-loving vamp to do?—Goodreads
When I first started reading the unfortunately titled Drink, Slay, Love, I was very dubious—I really like the vampire genre and wasn't too crazy about throwing unicorns in with them. But, Sarah Beth Durst's unconventional take on the genre wooed me and I ended up having a really good time with this book. And by good time, I mean that I laughed out loud (on a plane) A LOT.
To create her vampire-infused version of Connecticut, Durst takes a little vampire lore from the vast canon of vampire literature (she even names one of the characters Charlaine, surely in "honor" of Charlaine Harris. I say "honor" because Charlaine in the book isn't treated with very much care.), as well as from Buffy, adds in a unicorn, and churns out a witty romp of a novel.
The main character, Pearl, is a lot of fun. She's vampy (in both senses of the word), intelligent, great with sardonic one-liners, and is all kinds of kick ass. And unlike other teenage vampires who have gone to high school, she relishes the opportunity and treats it like an anthropological study rather than sulking about and staring at humans until they love her. In fact, Durst does a great job in channeling Mean Girls and Heathers into the book via Pearl's "I am superior to all of you and you WILL bow to me" attitude, which is obviously problematic for the Queen Bee of the school and her adoring minions. It's not so problematic for Pearl. *grins*
While Pearl's mission from her vampire-mafia type family is to find entrées to feed to the King of New England when he comes a'calling, she ends up making friends, especially in Evan, the teenage boy who is practically perfect AND has a hero complex (le sigh), and the overly-eager, but cunning Bethany (This is the first time I've encountered my name in a book. It was weird.) who is described as a "demented kangaroo." (I'm pretty sure people might STILL describe me that way. They definitely would have in high school. I'd like to think I've settled down a bit since then.) Rounding out the human cast are two guys, one of whom is named Zeke (which is the name of my dog. No lie.), who fancy themselves amateur vampire slayers. Unfortunately for Pearl, she realizes that she actually likes these humans and doesn’t really want them to be snacks. But she also loves being a vampire and doesn’t want to disappoint her family. And thus the internal struggle/central crux of the plot is born.
Durst does a really great job of creating both a human and vampire world that are believable, and I really loved the idea of the vampire family that operates like a mafia. It keeps Pearl on her toes and provides a lot of drama to a novel that would have otherwise probably been so clichéd that not even Durst's incredible wit could save it.
Overall, Drink, Slay, Love plays into every high school convention and trope you can think of—including a big climactic scene that takes place at, yes, the [junior] prom. While there are moments that feel a bit cheesy and perhaps a little too formulaic, it's never so heavy-handed that you're rolling your eyes or throwing the book across the room in protest. So if you have it in you to get past the awful title, idea of unicorns in your vampire lore, and vampires who do more than just brood and bite, you’ll probably end up charmed by Pearl, Evan, Bethany, and the rest of Durst’s hilarious cast. Take it from the girl who was skeptical at first—this book is wickedly, deliciously fun.