Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead, is the first novel in the young adult series of the same name.
After running away from school, Rose and Lissa are dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy. Lissa is a vampire princess, and Rose is her best friend and guardian. When the girls return to school disgraced, Rose feels she needs to protect Lissa from their peers as well as herself. Lissa holds secret powers that can harm her reputation and affect her mentally. But someone is sending violent, warning messages that they know her secret. Rose has a special bond with Lissa and may be the only one who can save her.
Narrated from Rose’s point of view, we see a realistic teen put in unrealistic circumstances. Rose has a tragic past. She brave, sarcastic, and ruthless. But she also has a softer side that immerges when interacting with Lissa. She accepts her role as guardian completely and without reservation, which is a bit of a stretch, especially for a teenager. I would think someone with her personality would be fighting the whole system. But we still don’t know her entire background.
Rose and Lissa are faced with all of the pressures of high school (gossip, cliques, sex, stereotypes, cruel classmates and teachers, etc.) as well as evil vampires that are out to destroy those like Lissa. Mead has created an interesting new vampire cast system, with Moroi (good vampires who don’t kill in order to feed), guardian dhampirs (half-breeds), and Strigoi (bad vampires who do kill). The name Strigoi kept throwing me off, as it sounds like a delicious Italian meal to me.
I can’t recommend this to young teens, because of some elements of strong language and sex, and a brief mention of drug use. But more mature vampire/fantasy fans will enjoy this fast-paced mystery with an edge.