Where do I begin, how about with a little help from the HoN web page: The 'House of Night' Series follows teenager Zoey Redbird who gets marked and undergoes the 'Change' from Human to Vampyre. She leaves her family, her friends and 'normal' high school to attend a boarding school with other fledglings. While attending the House of Night, she makes new friends and forges a new life for herself as she discovers, a little hesitantly at first, her awesome powers.
'Marked' begins Zoey Redbirds journey (and ours for that matter) into a seductive darkness. We're introduced to her best friend Kayla, her 'alcoholic sorta ex-boyfriend' Heath and an undead... dead... Vampyre who marks her and takes off, never to be heard from again. Lo and behold, when Zoey gets up off her rear, her best friend Kayla is staring at her rather repulsively. Zoey has been marked with an outline of a sapphire colored crescent moon placed on her forehead. She's now a fledgling Vampyre and is rapidly becoming sick from exposure to the sun. After some nasty words from her sorta ex-boyfriends friends, Zoey goes home where she exchanges some nasty words with the family who she swears doesn't love her and leaves with haste to visit her grandma.
Now. The set up to the story is a little weak for me but otherwise an okay start. We meet our heroine and her nature but when she stumbles onto her Grandma's lavender farm, she trips and falls and winds up knocked out where things.... get turned upside down. In Zoey's unconscious state We meet Nyx, a vampyre Goddess, who tells our Zoey she's special, kisses the girls forehead and this folks, is where the story stumbles a lot for me. I should note that one of the most interesting parts of the 'House of Night' series is the female dominated religion that the Vampyres hold dear. From what I understand, it's like Wicca, just with blood drinking. I felt like this is one of the stronger selling points of this book for me.
When Zoey awakens, she's in the nurses’ station in House of Night, her Grandma by her side along with High Priestess Neferet who will become her new mentor. Remember that crescent moon on her forehead? It's been filled in. Another interesting point to 'House of Night' are the tattoo like markings a Vampyre gets as he or she progresses. Most don't seem to get there’s until late in their schooling or they complete the change after the schooling is finished. Interesting concept indeed as this marks our blood suckers quite clearly. Zoey has gotten these marks quite early. She seems the only one at her school in first year to have something beyond the crescent outline.
I'm not going to beat around the bush as it's not that deep an exploration to find any sort of deep plot in 'Marked'. 'Marked' serves its purpose of setting things up. We're introduced to how the school works, classes, Vampyres and slut shaming. Quite frankly, 'Marked' is about how much better Zoey is at everything then her new rival, Aphrodite. There doesn't seem to be much more then introduction to her new friends and how much they hate the school tramp and they go on and on about how much of a 'ho bitch' she is. That, sirs and ma’ams, takes up a large chunk of what 'Marked' is about. Sure, we get that awkward moment between Zoey, Heath and Kayla where the latter two try to break Zoey out and it's revealed that Kayla is a 'stank ho' for stealing Zoey's boyfriend. Zoey inherits a cat. Zoey is reminded over and over that's she's unique and continues to race through Vampyre puberty. At the end of the novel she saves her sort of ex-boyfriend from flesh starved ghosts, causing her to gain more tattoos across her face and she inherits the 'Dark Daughters' group and becomes the top of the food chain of the 'House of Night'. The end.
So, let's discuss some points of interest.
First off, Zoey Redbird is the biggest hypocrite in YA literature in a pool of paranormal that I've read recently. I can only suspend disbelief about teenagers having fluctuating opinions for so long before it just becomes stupidly insane. She goes from wondering if Vampyres have emos, nerds, jocks and seeing the only good coming from being one is that she gets to miss a geometry test to suddenly thinking how weak and jerky 'normal' humans are the next day. Her thoughts put in brackets are useless for a book written in First Person. We're in her head for the WHOLE duration, we see this world through HER EYES, we don't need any personal thoughts put off to the side when we're already getting ALL her personal thoughts.
I don't get a very good depiction of her 'Before Life', so I personally felt no sympathy towards her woes about her step father, who she lovingly refers to as Step-Loser. The first interaction we get between them is him coming home and shunning her for becoming a Vampyre. For me, it's not so much about him being heavily religious, a fact she hates him ever so much for, and being afraid of his step daughter. Aside from this one encounter, the only other reason for her hate is that he took all of her mother’s attention. On top of that, she doesn't seem to like anybody she 'trusts'. She hates her 'blonde bimbo sister' and 'troll brother', she seems to detest her friends constant 'K Babble', she hates her would-be-boyfriend and his friends. The only person she gets along with, and doesn't judge with venom, is her Grandmother who claims that all the awesome Cherokee blood in her bypassed a generation and was all given to Zoey. She claims it was all a matter of time before Zoey changed and serves as nothing more than to make her granddaughter feel like a special and unique snowflake, giving her the attentions she so rightfully deserves. On one hand, I like the fact that she is part native as it should play off well with her step fathers own beliefs and build up more of a connection to spiritual realms and why she would be able to harness her powers of the elements. On the other hand, I felt that the whole Native American aspect was lost, being nothing more than to make Zoey more exotic looking and unique.
She thinks very highly of herself. She judges others for having sex and doing drugs and constantly reminds others she does neither. She feels like a slut for even thinking about kissing two boys she finds attractive.
Zoey has a lot of opinions about her age group.
You're a slut/freak/not normal if:
Have an eating disorder
Are a cheerleader
You've used drugs
You are attracted to more than one guy
I understand that Kristin Casts role in writing these books with her mother is to make the teenagers sound more 'authentic' but it comes across as being written BY a teenager, not FOR a teenager. Yes, teenagers can be judgemental as all bloody hell, they often ridicule their peers for personal gain or popularity and can be nasty creatures sometimes. Zoey keeps reminding us that she takes the UPPER MOST ROAD and is far and beyond her simple high school peers who only think about sex, drugs and rock and roll. She comes across as hypocritical when she bashes others for relationship woes, having and enjoying sex and looking down on girls who pursue 'girly' hobbies when she often participates in all of the above.
The Human Hate in this book is just as bad as the slut shaming. I get it, creatures like Vampires and Werewolves and the fey can be incredibly strong, have loads of stamina and are largely seen as long living or immortal. This does NOT mean that they are without their own set of problems. Vampires, for example, have bloodlust and have issues with the sun depending on the lore the author uses. Zoey walks into the school yard and notices how attractive ALL the vampires are who have filled in moons. Zoey mentions that all the latest celebrities are Vampyre and all the humans are jealous of them. The Faith enjoy their work but won't associate with the Vampyres and then she says "Hello-Hypocrites much?" This is uttered by a girl who spent the first 20 pages of the novel mentally falling apart at the thought of being something so different. Zoey is one of those kids who longs to be different and strives to be the same.
Zoey has this infatuation with hair, it's always the first thing she notices. Seems to have a particular hate for blondes and mentions constantly how attractive blondes seem to be. Aphrodite is a bitch, Erin is amazingly attractive, and Lenobia is blonde, thin and looks like she COULD be a bitch. Zoey takes note that a lot of the Blondes attended the school are extremely good looking. Dark haired girls/women are exotically beautiful like herself.
On top of this, she constantly points out physical flaws in people. Elliot is ugly and because of this, would make a bad vampyre. Aphrodite is a skank who has no class and looks like Sarah Jessica Parker and Zoey doesn't hesitate to point out her dislike for the actresses’ appearance. She points out the chubbiness of one girl, how large Stevie Rae's ass looks in ropper jeans and reminds us how skinny girls can't compare to women with meat on their bones.
In fact, lets touch on that. Recent months have given us this 'Real Women have curves' movement and while I'm grateful for this being someone who is overweight, I feel shamed and appalled that no one preaches about all bodies being acceptable and beautiful. If you're skinny, Zoey Redbird looks down on you as a bitch.
Her usage of the word Boobie. I've worked with a 21 year old who couldn't say 'Vagina' to save her life, she'd turn red, her eyes would wonder and she'd say 'Down There' instead. Saying 'Breasts' was pretty much the same thing, 'Boobie' became the norm for her. Which is cool, I guess, so it's realistic to me that Zoey would have a juvenile way of saying these words. She talks about the crests on the clothing over the BREAST of garments but she'll revert back to using Boobie a paragraph later. She'll brandish the word Diarrhea but use Poopie as a replacement later on. This may have been put in to portray Zoey as more innocent, but she acts far from it. She has a very nasty attitude.
Mary Sue is a term I feel that gets tossed around a lot, often at heroines that I think wouldn't count as one. Zoey Redbird, however, hits every single mark so far.
-Receiving powers long before milestones
Her mark gets filled in, she's hearing pulses, and she’s enjoying the taste of blood.
-The Best of Everything
-Teachers and friends are constantly reminding her she's unique.
-Gains new tattoos by the end of the book.
While I dislike making comparisons to other YA heroes and heroines, let’s put Zoey up against Harry for a moment. Harry Potter was constantly reminded of his greatness throughout seven books, spanning seven years. Even though he does great things, he doubts himself up until the last book seven years after starting his wizard schooling. While he shows great courage, he has this 'ordinary kid' aspect to him.
Zoey, on the other hand, is handed a new or extraordinary power every other chapter. She gets her mark filled in, Nyx marks her special, she enjoys blood, and she gets affinities for all the elements and even imprints. Things that usually don't happen for a few years. She isn't given a chance to grow into these powers, they're all just placed on her on one day.
Once again, there’s a VERY hypocritical standard to alcohol usage in 'Marked'. Zoey is very critical of people who drink. Zoey will launch into these tangents about how gross drinking is and I suppose YES, sometimes people do let alcohol get the better of them.
The ridiculous double standard is that it's made a known fact that Vampyre's can't get 'drunk', wine is served with dinner. Wine is also served with Dark Daughter meetings, wine is served to both teachers and students alike. Not finding those who drink attractive is one thing, but finding them unattractive and doing it yourself is an entirely different thing all together. It's called 'Hypocritical'. I don't care if Vampyres can't get drunk, it's the same as saying 'People who give blowjobs are sluts, I'll tell you more once I'm off my sorta boyfriends.... ANYWAYS.'
I can't seem to get over how I can't form an honest opinion on my own without Zoey Redbird repeating her own opinions over and over. I can't think of Aphrodite as anything more than a slut, I have to think of her step father as a total loser.
Character Round Up:
I like how PC Cast tried for a more authentic angle of learning teenagers by hiring her daughter on as her 'gopher' of sorts. Zoey Redbird reads exactly like a teenager. Speaking from a first person narrative, I got 300 pages of the most inane teen speak I've read EVER in any Young Adult book. Zoey Redbird is so 'Teenager' that it's almost laughable, it makes for an almost hilarious read. It doesn't sit well with me when she's clearly acting 'teenager' yet all the adults that surround are saying how grown up she is. When you add that with how hypocritical Zoey Redbird is the results are doubled.
At this point, I feel like I can't touch upon any of the other characters. Her friends and family from her old life aren't there for that long, her friends from House of Night are pretty one dimensional and the 'Mean Girls' crowd serves nothing more than to give the new girl trouble. We'll see how this pans out in future books.
Boyfriend Count: 2
Heath: Though it's on again, off again mostly.
Erik: It's been made OFFICIAL by students.
Tattoo Count: 3
Crescent outline: Appears at school.
Filled in Crescent: Receives later that day at Grandmas
Facial: Appears during Halloween ritual.
Shoulders: Appears during Halloween ritual.
Congrats, Zoey! You've received a few years’ worth of Tattoo's in a matter of days. I'm going to assume that this is the pace that's going to be set for House of Night: Zoey will gain new pieces of tattoo every novel, which is fine, but the novels will take place a week or two apart. If you give a self-entitled teen immortality, they're bound to fuck it up somehow. Like covering their immortal bodies with Tattoos.