Read This: Jeri Smith-Ready's Wicked Game

Read This: Jeri Smith-Ready's Wicked Game

Oct 27

I’m trying to come up with the right words to tell you just how awesome Jeri Smith-Ready’s Wicked Game is. I’m also trying to ensure that these words don’t make me sound like a wild-eyed, slobbering fangirl, because my brain has clamped onto this book with the kind of heightened fervor it usually reserves for stuff like re-analyzing old episodes of Buffy and dissecting continuity issues in the Marvel U. It’s refusing to read anything else and wants to install one of those internet-y countdown clocks in order to tick off the milliseconds ’til the sequel arrives (May 2009!! Put it in your iPhone!). Oh, brain. You do love to get obsessed.

Wicked Game is about Ciara, a college student/recovering con artist who takes an internship at an eclectic local radio station where the DJs happen to be vampires. The twist on your standard vamp mythos — and it’s a neat one — is that they’re all sort of frozen in time, stuck in the era in which they were turned. So, like, Shane, the ’90s-style, Doc Martens-wearing grunge vamp, is all into Nirvana, but has a mental block when it comes to Foo Fighters. (And he’s never heard of Buffy.) When the station’s threatened by a corporate takeover, Ciara comes up with a brilliant marketing gimmick: she makes the vamps’ vampy identities public, rebranding the station as a haven of authentic music and undead cool. No one actually believes they’re vampires, of course, but it works as a publicity stunt. To reveal more would be spoiling the fun, but rest assured that bloody complications ensue.

It’s tough to do something genuinely new with vampires. We all sort of know the score — they are mysterious, they are sexy, they are often fans of voluminous black dusters. But I think Smith-Ready actually does accomplish something really fresh and interesting here, and in doing so, she makes her vampire characters very human. Their need to stay locked in their various eras, to maintain control in an ever-changing world, sometimes manifests itself in an OCD-ish way, which makes for a pretty fascinating bit of dimension — Shane, for instance, has a thing about alphabetizing CDs.

Also, Ciara is a fantastic character. Not to diss any other writers out there, but I do think there’s a tendency in this genre — urban fantasy-horror or whatever you want to call it — to craft a fairly standard heroine. You know, she’s all…tough and shit. Or whatever. Maybe she has a leather jacket or something. But Ciara has a bracingly unique voice and is instantly easy to relate to — she’s got a thick skin covering a well of vulnerability and even though she’s done some shady things in the past, we’re instantly on her side. I love, for instance, the way she initially describes Shane: “Aw, he’s shy. How lovable, huggable, stuff-in-a-bag-and-take-home-able.”

OK, so let’s talk about Shane for a minute. Even though y’all know I enjoy ogling the cute boys on Supernatural and such, book-based characters don’t usually do it for me. But goddamn, is Shane hot. I don’t know if it’s the way Ciara describes him or the way he talks (he’s quiet, but not annoyingly mysterious, like so many vamp love interests) or the possibility that I still have a little thing for the oh-so-grunge-y Jordan Catalano*, but wow. His relationship with Ciara is both sexy and sweet and gives the book its fully-realized beating heart.

Extra treats: the vampire radio station has its own website. Also, I just realized Jeri Smith-Ready is on Twitter. FOLLOW.

*I’m pretty sure Shane is WAY HOTTER than Jordan Catalano. For one thing, he actually speaks in complete sentences.

1 comment

  1. Ken

    Just finished it, and you’re right, it was great! Now I want to listen to all the DJ’s playlists… and I just added the sequel to my “to read” list. Thanks for the recommendation!


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