With bookstore and library shelves already crammed with Twilight imitators and cash-ins, the appearance of yet another vampire-centric YA novel is less cause for celebration than deserving of a heavy sigh. One shouldn’t make the mistake of lumping the new novel from Ottawa writer Allison Van Diepen in with that dross, however: The Vampire Stalker is smart, compelling, and touched with a cleverness that makes it a must-read.
Much of the novel’s strength comes from confronting the vampire YA phenomenon head-on, both commenting on it and drawing inspiration from it. The accessibly meta story begins with high school junior Amy and her two closest friends waiting in line at a bookstore for the Saturday release of The Mists of Otherworld, the latest instalment of a best-selling series that features Alexander Banks, a vampire hunter in an alternate version of Chicago.
Less than a week later, Amy is attacked in a park near her home and rescued by Alexander Banks himself, who has crossed over into the real Chicago by way of a quantum portal in pursuit of his nemesis, the vampire leader Vigo. Amy, who has long had a crush on Banks, is drawn into their battle, with all of the city in potential peril.
Thankfully, Van Diepen doesn’t overplay the meta-fictional angle: The Vampire Stalker is a suspenseful, tightly plotted thriller that will surprise even readers who are overly familiar with the genre. The characters are well drawn, the situations unique, and the stakes high – everything one could possibly want in a YA vampire novel (including, of course, a love story, which is handled lightly and naturally).