This is my favorite piece of modern YA fiction, for a number of reasons. It is well written, well paced, contains some fine world building in the form...moreThis is my favorite piece of modern YA fiction, for a number of reasons. It is well written, well paced, contains some fine world building in the form of an alternate culture of werewolves. The character development of the main character is excellent, the plot is interesting and multi-layered, and the issues and emotions present in the conflict are realistic. In addition, from a pure academic standpoint, Blood and Chocolate achieves a thematic level of functionality for young adults in a way that feels completely natural and unforced.
Summary: Vivian (a werewolf) comes from a very different culture, and she has trouble relating to the humans she goes to school with. At the same time, she has trouble relating with the werewolves her age. The death of the Pack leader, her father, and the subsequent turmoil within her pack cause Vivian’s life to crumble into disarray. She suffers from enormous guilt over her father’s death, and starts to dislike the wolf part of her nature, and pull away from her peers within the Pack. She longs to have a “normal” life, but her very nature makes this impossible. Vivian starts to make human friends, despite the fact that they can’t accept her for what she is. Her connection with the humans puts them in danger from the radical members of the Pack, as well as leaving her pack more open to discovery. Vivian must decide if the “normal” life she longs for is worth the price she will have to pay- the total suppression of the wolf within her. Over the course of the novel, Vivian comes to terms with herself, and finally learns that she doesn't have to force herself into the mainstream idea of “normal” in order to be happy. She learns to embrace her differences rather than hate them, and forms a new sense of self.
From an academic standpoint: This book is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of modern young adult fiction. It deals with some of the most significant themes in young adult literature, and does it with a realistic fineness of a quality rarely seen. The book's plot, character development, and thematic content all come together to construct a story that nearly any young woman can relate to. She wants to find acceptance, but she is, in many ways, afraid of aspects of herself. Consequently, she tries to force herself to become what she sees as a 'normal' ideal. In addition to the journey to personal self-acceptance, Vivian undergoes a powerful transformation where she learns the value of her own culture. Vivian sees her culture as abnormal, outside the norm, and thus inferior. Her culture is a fictional one (a werewolf sub-culture), but it functions as a believable metaphor a young adult part of any minority culture, and struggling to see it as a culture with as much value as the mainstream culture.
On the surface, Blood and Chocolate might appear to be a fairly straightforward (but very well written) paranormal romance for young adults; however, in my opinion, it is the internal conflict- the subtly woven emotional subplot- the main character faces that makes Blood and Chocolate one of the best examples of young adult fiction I have ever read. (less)