Marked – P.C. and Kristin Cast

Okay, so I *finally* got around to reading Marked, the first House of Night novel.  I picked this book up about a year ago, because, as it happens, P.C. Cast was at one time my Grade 9 English teacher!  I got the book when I saw and instantly recognized the name, but after reading a couple of pages, I couldn’t really get into it.  So I put it away, but have been thinking about trying to read it again since my YA course this last semester.  So I found it, got it out, and finally read it through.
To start with, I’m not big into vampire fiction.  This started far before the phenomenon that has struck in the last few years…I don’t have anything *against* vampires, but they have never really been an interest of mine, so I haven’t exactly been eager to read all of the popular series swirling around these days.  Just so that’s clear, =)
Okay, onto the book.  Marked is about a teenage girl, Zoey, who is Marked as being a vampyre fledgling, someone going through the change from human to vampyre.  She is forced to leave her school and her home (the latter not something she is too upset about), and goes to the House of Night school.  She is obsessed with the idea of trying to fit in and get through the school without being a total freak or dying (which happens to fledglings that cannot handle the change), but pretty quickly it is understood that she is special.  An out-of-body experience, a mark that is coloured-in years before it should be, and a strong inner voice all work together to create a life for Zoey that she does not want.  However, when she realizes that she can use her powers to take down the school’s bully, Aphrodite, she decides to accept what she has been given and use it for good.  Which she does.  The ending of the book, however, suggests that the darkness of the school is just beginning (it’s a series, after all!), and the triumph Zoey has in this book is probably small in comparison to what lies ahead.
I have mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand, I found the bare bones of the story fairly interesting.  I liked the heavy use of goddesses throughout the book, and the spiritual powers that come from both human and vampyre ancestors.  I also liked the idea of the school being at night, with its own curriculum, and a necessary separation between the human and vampyre world.  What I did not like, however, was the way the characters were written.  I found that Zoey was too muddled for my taste; at times she seemed very strong and determined, with a strong connection to the spirit world and a sense of wisdom of what she is up against, but then at other times, she was oblivious to what was going on around her, and she fretted far too much over unnecessary things.  I suppose this is just her characterization, but I would have liked her better if she was a little more self-aware and mature.  I like very strong characters who understand who they are, and although Zoey is a teen going through some major changes, I still would have taken her more seriously if she had had a better understanding of what was important and what was trivial earlier on.
So, I think I probably would have leaned towards a 3 star rating for this book, but there is something that alters that a bit.  Reading this book, I felt connected, at times, to where the writing was coming from.  I lived in both Tulsa itself and Broken Arrow, and I attended both Union and SIHS.  I understand the rivalry, the scenery, and I constantly got glimpses of my former teacher in the writing, pieces of this and that that I knew were directly from her.  That was strange, but neat, and bumps the book up slightly for me.  Ultimately, I think this book is perfectly fine for anyone that likes YA romance/vampire fiction, or those that like stories of change and the difficulties of coming to terms with your own identity.  I give it ***1/2.

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