R. L. Stine, Dangerous Girls (HarperCollins, 2003)

R. L. Stineís vampire novel, Dangerous Girls, sucks. And to say that a book about vampires sucks is wittier and more original than anything in the book itself. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Destiny Weller is a teenage girl with no personality. She and her twin sister Livvy, who also has no personality, are counselors at a summer camp where no one has a personality. Is it Camp Stepford? No, itís Camp Stine!

"Destiny changed into jeans and a camp sweatshirt. Then she hurried back outside to help build the fire, unaware of the horror that awaited her."
A handsome counselor turns her and Livvy into neophytes, or semi-vampires. They have one month to turn human again, before he returns to make them full vampires. Meanwhile, they fight their craving for blood, evade mysterious vampire hunters ... zzzzz ... (the reviewer slaps herself awake) and look for a cure.

R. L. Stine, along with Christopher Pike, fills an essential ecological niche in the field of the young adult horror novel, that of the awful writer whose books fly from the shelves like horrid winged insects.

Vampires have been written about so much that theyíve become a great Gothic cliché. In order to write a good book about vampires, you must think harder, write better, find some way to make the exhausted subject seem fresh and new.

M. T. Andersonís Thirsty uses black humor and a bizarre alternate America to create a horrifyingly funny teenage wasteland. Barbara Hamblyís Those Who Hunt the Night has unusual and likable protaganists applying early science to age-old folklore in a vividly imagined gaslit London. Annette Curtis Klauseís The Silver Kiss delves into her teenage protagonistís psyche to create a modern parable of love, death, and moving on. Steven Brustís stunningly well-written Agyar takes an oblique approach with heartbreaking results.

I could go on. Itís difficult to write well and originally on an overused topic, but itís not impossible.

R. L. Stine doesnít even try. There is nothing new or original or poignant or interesting in any of the 247 pages of stultifying hackdom that comprise Dangerous Girls. Itís not even amusingly trashy. Itís just lifeless, cranked-out pages by a writer on autopilot.

I read this book so that you donít have to. I want a Purple Heart.

[Rachel Manija Brown]