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The Student News Site of Loudoun Valley High School

The Viking

The Student News Site of Loudoun Valley High School

The Viking


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What are you looking forward to this summer?

Part 2/2

By Kate Miller, Jenalee Hastings, Megan Fennely, and Maddie Calhoun

What are your summer plans?

Part 1/2

By Kate Miller, Jenalee Hastings, Maddie Calhoun, and Megan Fennely.

Book Opinion: Vampires Can’t Be Light and Fluffy

Image from @s.l.cokeley_writes_books on Instagram

When thinking about an easy, buoyant read, the last thing that comes to mind is … a vampire book. Yet, that’s exactly what S. L. Cokeley’s “This Blood That Binds Us” aims to be: a playful take on the heavy themes of vampire-ness.

Cokeley, the self-published author, promotes her book on Instagram as @s.l.cokeley_writes_books. Her biggest advertisement point is promoting the “golden retriever” male protagonist, contrasting the regular foreboding theme of vampire books. 

A lot of her Instagram Reels revolve around the fact that “This Blood That Binds Us” has a cover color other than black. Instead, it’s peach. The second book’s cover is pink and the unreleased book number three sports a lilac color. 

However, despite all the celebration around the “lightheartedness” of the series, it doesn’t quite land as clean as it should.

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Everything was great for Kimberly Burns, an orphaned girl who prides herself on independence. She had her camping escapes and her college classes to focus on. Everything was great, until she was assaulted in the woods … by a vampire? 

Aaron Coleman doesn’t know why he’s a vampire. All he knows is that, because of his condition, there’s a voice that taunts him — and it compelled him to attack that red-haired camper, Kimberly. 

When the two meet formally for the first time, an unlikely friendship ensues. Except Aaron’s brothers, who are also vampires, can’t know about Kimberly. However, that gets increasingly difficult when Kimberly gets attacked again, this time by a concealed stalker. As the story progresses — and the Colemans’ demons creep closer — Kimberly and Aaron’s relationship becomes muddled under the pressure of the stalker’s threat. 

Despite the appealing cover, the book inside is substandard. Cokeley delivers the story bluntly, telling instead of showing. The first few chapters jump right into the action, but rush the crucial inciting event. This results in a perplexing pacing that leaves out actions.

Establishing a solid writing style at the beginning of the book is important, and, since Cokeley’s faulty writing doesn’t achieve this, the two protagonists take a thematic hit. 

First off, Kimberly Burns doesn’t seem to have any personal conflict. Kimberly is a plot device; she is insignificant in the time between the inciting event and the conclusion. The only opportunity for growth is her fear of being left — caused by her orphanhood — but that’s stifled when Aaron becomes her best friend with no qualms about his vampire identity. 

It’s noted that the friendship between vampire and human is a concern, but there is no scene proving their true feelings about it. Instead of driving them apart, it pulls them snugly together. 

As for the male protagonist, Aaron Coleman, his “golden retriever” outlook gives him a shallowness when it comes to dealing with any other feeling. 

In the beginning of the book, Aaron’s conflict is very minor. He’s in the dark about why he’s a vampire, who his brothers really are and what their family is running from. Ultimately, he doesn’t know why he should be cautious, so he isn’t, and that leads to no personal conflict, and the plot spins itself in circles. 

Aaron also doesn’t seem alarmed by his condition, which would be satisfactory if it was reinforced by his character commentary. His general train of thought includes bouncy thoughts of Kimberly and frustration with his brothers. 

Aaron’s lack of anxiety is true to the marketed lightheartedness, but it comes off as immature — his charm and brightness is turned-on all the time, even when he’s “serious.” Overall, the two main characters are not fleshed out enough to be gratifying. 

This genre calls for forbidden attraction, dark impulses and lurking threats — which this book attempts in a way that could be very rewarding. Instead, it creates a confusing contrast that overwhelms the plot. 

The all-too-real threat of discovery and attack is presented as important, but the intensity doesn’t come across in the protagonists’ actions. Even when the conflict directly affects the characters, they aren’t concerned about it. 

When they finally acknowledge the problem at what is assumed to be the climax — you can tell in name only. The pinnacle of the story includes new characters never alluded to before, poorly described backstories and an un-feminist, out of character act from Kimberly. Not to mention, the buildup to the climax is unsatisfactory. Any suspense entertained by Cokeley is short-lived and, again, too laid-back. 

Despite the goal, the happy-go-lucky premise severely takes away from the seriousness of the situation. Combining the two concepts just didn’t work.

If you’re looking to support a self-published author who is enthusiastic about her book, this may be one to crack open. It’s a good principle to support independent authors.

Personally, reading this book was a painful experience. It was difficult not to take notice of its flaws. As the disfigured plot was established, I abandoned any hope for the main story arc and instead focused on the characters’ relationship — and, ultimately, was disappointed again. I became frustrated with Kimberly and Aaron, mostly with their ingrained ignorance and obliviousness. 

Despite Cokeley’s insistence on the endearing premise of the book, its inexperienced prose fails a clear writing standard — walking the fine line of transferring a good idea to adequate writing.

Apparently, you can’t make a vampire light and fluffy.

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