The Plot: Meet Pearl. She’s a typical sixteen year old vampire: sleeps all day. Fond of blood. Has a charming, handsome boyfriend named Jadrien — of course he’s a vampire. Humans are food. She lives with her Family; her parents (Pearl was born a vampire of vampire parents), aunts, uncles, cousins. And then, she gets staked. By a horn. A unicorn’s horn. Suddenly, she can walk in the sun. And humans start looking like something more than food. How can she make friends with humans, when to her Family, they’re dinner?
The Good: Oh, Pearl. When introduced to Pearl, she’s like something out of a teen vampire TV show, with handsome boyfriend, black leather clothes, an attitude to match and a fondness for ice cream. Well, actually, humans who have just eaten ice cream.
Durst has created a whole, original culture for her vampires. The Vampire King of New England is coming to town, and Pearl’s family has to provide the entertainment and refreshments. How to meet the blood needs of such a large group? Why, if Pearl can walk in the sun she can go to high school. What better place to find potential meals? What I liked most about the vampire culture in Drink Slay Love was the cruelty and violence. As the name suggests, as well as the killer unicorn, there is humor, fun, adventure, and love. But there is also violence; this is a vampire novel, after all. Vampires drink human blood; vampire hunters slay vampires.
The violence is not explicit, but it’s there, and I loved the way it was handled. Let’s put it this way: vampires aren’t afraid to dish out the violence, which means they aren’t afraid to take it. Pearl’s “norm” includes not just physical training and sparring that leaves even super strong vampires feeling battered, but also punishments. Going to high school were punishment is talking to a counselor is almost laughable.
The unicorn stabbing the vampire . . . . I won’t say where this goes. Pearl’s Family doesn’t believe she was attacked by a unicorn because unicorns aren’t real. Pearl knows better and tries to track down the unicorn to show her family. I don’t want to give this part away, but well played, Sarah Beth Durst. Well played indeed.
Often, young adult books are coming of age. Pearl’s coming of age has a twist: she’s coming of age as a vampire (literally, with a Fealty Ceremony where vampires drink each other’s blood and swears oaths of allegiance), but also she’s be-coming, becoming more of a human. Drink Slay Love is both Pearl’s progress from thinking, believing and acting like a vampire to something that, while not human, is less vampiric. At the same time, Drink Slay Love is action filled; the Vampire King is coming, Pearl’s job is to arrange the feast, plus she’s preparing for the Fealty Ceremony, then there’s hunting for the unicorn, all while attending high school for the first time.