Author: L.J. Smith
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 1996
Genre: Young Adult Romance/Fantasy
Currently Published in: Night World No. 1
I was recently sick, and required some light reading. I found it! For those of you who may not be following my career as a book reviewer, I regularly read children's and young adult books. It is indeed in this context that I refer to Secret Vampire as light reading.
Secret Vampire is a run of the mill teenage romance novel, in which overly emotive teenagers find their soulmates, argue over stupid things, and make up again over equally stupid things. It is melodramatic, over the top and underwhelming. Fortunately, it also contains vampires, werewolves, and witches, which makes it a little better.
This series is currently piggybacking on the success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and can generally be found next to it on the bookstore shelves. As the success of Harry Potter and Twilight has shown, kids actually like 700 page books as long as they aren't boring, so the Night World books were recently repackaged in a set of omnibuses, three books to a volume. This was probably a mistake, as the later books in the series are shaping up to be much better then this first one.
I would like to note that while the Night World series reads as a Twilight rip-off, it was published nine years before Twilight, making Mrs. Meyers the rip-off. (Admittedly, Twilight is the better book). In both series the vampires have many of the same traits -- they are unnaturally handsome, strong and fast with heightened senses, forever young, needing to feed on blood but able to feed on animals, and supposedly superior to humans but strangely fallible when faced with a cute girl. Night World's vampires happen to be psychic hyponists and unsparkly, and stakes are actually effective weapons against them, but otherwise are free from the usual vampire restrictions re garlic, sunlight, native soil, etc.
The best hook that L.J. Smith has to offer is that she is a nerd. She attempts a scientific explanation for the bloodsucking behavior of vampires, and in later books she starts to make her characters have pro-intellectual leanings. But that's more apparent in later books; this one is nothing special. Having said that, it was an easy read and was fun enough that I started the second book (but it was only a matter of turning the page; had I had to get up and seek out the sequel I might not have bothered). I recommend starting with the second book; I do not believe it will hamper your enjoyment of the later books.
If you are a parent researching books for your child, this is certainly a soppy romance for teenagers, but it is still G-rated. The later books are a bit more violent and Machiavellian, but of the few I've read none have passed the PG-rating level.
The next book in the series is Daughters of Darkness; it is also found in Night World No. 1.