What an odd story line: A young girl learns to cope with life's losses through the help of a compassionate teenage vampire.
Odder still, it works. The Silver Kiss, a first novel by Maryland librarian Annette Curtis Klause, is at once a grisly and graphic tale of monstrous death and a sweet and compelling story of love.
Zoë Sutcliff is beset by loss: Her mother is dying of cancer, her best friend is moving, her father has abandoned her emotionally. Zoë, in the grand tradition of teenage heroines, is a sensitive and poetic sort, amused and bemused by the antics of her peers, longing to be part of their fun and games but never feeling quite comfortable with it.
One night as Zoë walks through the park she is, of course, more likely to take a stroll in the evening than to stay home watching Beverly Hills 90210 she meets Simon, a strange, pale young man who simultaneously attracts and repels her.
Soon, he reveals his grim secret: He's a vampire, on the trail of his brother, a vicious bloodsucker who revels in the horror he instills in his victims. Zoë agrees to help.
One of the curious things about vampire stories is the ease with which the mortals involved accept the supernatural. The real test is if readers can accept it, and in The Silver Kiss they can.
The book is strangely persuasive. It's a complicated story, but Klause tells it skillfully and simply. B+