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Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction
 3030717437, 9783030717438

Table of contents :
Acknowledgements
Contents
1 Vampire Fiction, Girls and Shame: Introduction
References
2 Writing (on) Girls’ Bodies: Vampires and Embodied Girlhood
2.1 The Markings of the Vampiric Body
2.2 Such Hot Fangs! Vampirism and Beauty
2.3 You Don’t See Fat Vamps: The Meanings of Body Size
2.4 No One Mourns the Ugly: Beauty, Style and Belonging
2.5 Velvet! Platinum! Pearls! Vampire Girls as Consumers
2.6 The Magic of Makeover: Style as Oppression and Resistance
2.7 Conclusion
References
3 A Love So Strong that It Aches: (Re-)Writing Vampire Romance
3.1 Mates, Consorts, Oath-Bound Warriors: House of Night and Polyandry
3.2 The Truest of True Loves: Soul Mates and Enchanted Bonds
3.3 Tying the Knot: Love, Marriage and Power
3.4 The Lovely Bliss of Her Bite: Vampires and Same-Sex Romance
3.5 Conclusion
References
4 Pangs of Pleasure, Pangs of Guilt: Girls, Sexuality and Desire
4.1 It Tasted like Liquid Desire: Virginity, Blood Consumption and Sexual Awakening
4.2 Didn’t the Earth Move or the Planets Align? The Tales of the “First Time”
4.3 A Bloodlust-Filled, Hornie Freak: Slut Shaming and “Excessive” Desire
4.4 Blood Whoring, Female Virtue and Defensive Othering
4.5 Conclusion
References
5 Save Your Butt from Getting Raped: Girls, Vampires, Violence
5.1 No Anger and No Condemnation: Vampires and Romanticised Abuse
5.2 A Questioning Touch of Teeth: Violence and Consent in House of Night and Vampire Academy
5.3 A Monster Abused Me: Narrating Rape and Rape-Revenge
5.4 Black. Angry. Merciless: Girls’ Violence and (Self-)Defence
5.5 Conclusion
References
6 Biting into Books: Supernatural Schoolgirls and Academic Performance
6.1 Heaps of Awesome Classes: The Unique Education of the House of Night
6.2 Slamming the Math Book Shut: Supernatural Girls and STEM Education
6.3 Miss (Im)Perfect Schoolgirl: Girls and Academic (Dis)Engagement
6.4 Too Smart? Academic Excellence and Popular Femininity
6.5 Conclusion
References
7 Conclusion
References
Index

Citation preview

PALGRAVE GOTHIC

Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bieńkowska

Palgrave Gothic

Series Editor Clive Bloom, Middlesex University, London, UK

This series of Gothic books is the first to treat the genre in its many interrelated, global and ‘extended’ cultural aspects to show how the taste for the medieval and the sublime gave rise to a perverse taste for terror and horror and how that taste became not only international (with a huge fan base in places such as South Korea and Japan) but also the sensibility of the modern age, changing our attitudes to such diverse areas as the nature of the artist, the meaning of drug abuse and the concept of the self. The series is accessible but scholarly, with referencing kept to a minimum and theory contextualised where possible. All the books are readable by an intelligent student or a knowledgeable general reader interested in the subject. Editorial Advisory Board Dr. Ian Conrich, University of Vienna, Austria Barry Forshaw, author/journalist, UK Professor Gregg Kucich, University of Notre Dame, USA Professor Gina Wisker, University of Brighton, UK Dr. Catherine Wynne, University of Hull, UK Dr. Alison Peirse, University of Yorkshire, UK Dr. Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK Professor William Hughes, University of Macau, China Dr. Antonio Alcala Gonzalez, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico Dr. Marius Cris, an, West University of Timi¸soara, Romania Dr. Manuel Aguirre, independent scholar, Spain

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14698

Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´

Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction

Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora Jagiellonian University Kraków, Poland

ISSN 2634-6214 ISSN 2634-6222 (electronic) Palgrave Gothic ISBN 978-3-030-71743-8 ISBN 978-3-030-71744-5 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover credit: Vizerskaya/Getty Images This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Andrzej, Alicja and Maja —who make it all worthwhile

Acknowledgements

I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by many people and institutions that have offered their support and encouragement, contributing in various ways to making this book a reality. My sincere thanks go to the whole Palgrave team, particularly editors Clive Bloom, Allie Troyanos and Rachel Jacobe, for seeing the potential in this project, and for providing me with invaluable editorial assistance. I also thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback and helpful advice. My home institution, the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, generously granted me a sabbatical leave to complete this project and provided funding for its development, for which I am most grateful. I extend my warm appreciation to my friends, colleagues and students from the Institute, who continue to provide me with a vibrant and friendly academic community that enables me to pursue my intellectual passions. Thank you for cheering me on! My special thanks go to Professors Adam Walaszek, Radek Rybkowski and Łukasz Kamienski ´ for their continuing support, and to Professor Garry Robson who proofread my manuscript with meticulous care, asking the right questions and offering words of encouragement. I gratefully acknowledge Griffith University, in particular the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research and the Griffith School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences in Brisbane and Gold Coast, for inviting me twice to Australia to present my research on vampires and girlhood. My participation in the seminars and workshops Vampires and

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Popular Culture (2014) and Vampiric Transformations (2018) would not have been possible without GU’s generous financial and organisational support. The illuminating presentations and lively discussions held during these academic events have resulted in inspiring joint academic projects and continue to generate new ones. I feel indebted to the organisers and the participants for welcoming me into this rewarding academic adventure. I owe special thanks to the contributors to the volume Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture: Letting the Wrong One In (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and the special issue of Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, “Vampiric Transformations: The Popular Politics of the (Post)Romantic Vampire” (forthcoming), and particularly to Dr. Stephanie Green and Dr. David Baker from Griffith University, outstanding scholars and great friends, who have co-edited these projects with me. I am doubly indebted to Stephanie, who generously made time to read sections of this manuscript at its early stages, sharing her expertise and providing insightful suggestions along with the kindest words of support. My heartfelt thanks to David Baker and Linda Middleton, for having me in your home in Australia—I have many fond memories of your warm hospitality and our time together. I also thank Professor Joli Jensen, the author of Write No Matter What (The University of Chicago Press, 2017). Although we have never met, her savvy advice on academic writing has helped me through many a writing crisis. Last, but certainly not least, I express my deepest gratitude to my amazing family and friends for their love, encouragement and their unshakeable faith in my ability to complete this project. I am forever grateful to my wonderful parents, my brother Grzegorz, my family-inlaw, Basia, Anna, Iwona, Paula and Maciek who are always there for me— quick to believe that things will turn out just fine. A very special thanks to my grandmother Maria who wields a truly magical power to make me carry on. My grandfather would have been proud to see this book come into being. Finally, my love and deepest appreciation go to Andrzej, my soul mate, husband and best friend, and to Alicja and Maja, daughters extraordinaire. This book would never have happened without your loving support, encouraging drawings, great sense of humour and infinite patience. Every day with you is filled with love, joy, discoveries and adventures. You make it all worthwhile.

Contents

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Vampire Fiction, Girls and Shame: Introduction References

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Writing (on) Girls’ Bodies: Vampires and Embodied Girlhood 2.1 The Markings of the Vampiric Body 2.2 Such Hot Fangs! Vampirism and Beauty 2.3 You Don’t See Fat Vamps: The Meanings of Body Size 2.4 No One Mourns the Ugly: Beauty, Style and Belonging 2.5 Velvet! Platinum! Pearls! Vampire Girls as Consumers 2.6 The Magic of Makeover: Style as Oppression and Resistance 2.7 Conclusion References

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A Love So Strong that It Aches: (Re-)Writing Vampire Romance 3.1 Mates, Consorts, Oath-Bound Warriors: House of Night and Polyandry 3.2 The Truest of True Loves: Soul Mates and Enchanted Bonds 3.3 Tying the Knot: Love, Marriage and Power 3.4 The Lovely Bliss of Her Bite: Vampires and Same-Sex Romance

1 16 23 26 32 39 46 53 58 64 67 75 80 86 92 97

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3.5 Conclusion References 4

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Pangs of Pleasure, Pangs of Guilt: Girls, Sexuality and Desire 4.1 It Tasted like Liquid Desire: Virginity, Blood Consumption and Sexual Awakening 4.2 Didn’t the Earth Move or the Planets Align? The Tales of the “First Time” 4.3 A Bloodlust-Filled, Hornie Freak: Slut Shaming and “Excessive” Desire 4.4 Blood Whoring, Female Virtue and Defensive Othering 4.5 Conclusion References Save Your Butt from Getting Raped: Girls, Vampires, Violence 5.1 No Anger and No Condemnation: Vampires and Romanticised Abuse 5.2 A Questioning Touch of Teeth: Violence and Consent in House of Night and Vampire Academy 5.3 A Monster Abused Me: Narrating Rape and Rape-Revenge 5.4 Black. Angry. Merciless: Girls’ Violence and (Self-)Defence 5.5 Conclusion References Biting into Books: Supernatural Schoolgirls and Academic Performance 6.1 Heaps of Awesome Classes: The Unique Education of the House of Night 6.2 Slamming the Math Book Shut: Supernatural Girls and STEM Education 6.3 Miss (Im)Perfect Schoolgirl: Girls and Academic (Dis)Engagement 6.4 Too Smart? Academic Excellence and Popular Femininity 6.5 Conclusion References

111 114 123 127 138 147 152 158 162 169 173 182 190 196 202 207 215 219 224 230 238 246 249

CONTENTS

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Conclusion References

Index

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CHAPTER 1

Vampire Fiction, Girls and Shame: Introduction

A lot has gone amiss with Zoey Redbird’s seventeenth birthday. Yet, when she unwraps a gift from her grandmother, she is delighted to see a signed copy of the first American edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Reverently turning its leather-bound pages, the heroine confirms that “that spooky old story” has long been her favourite novel (Chosen 30; Betrayed 170). Intrigued, Zoey’s boyfriend Erik begins to read Dracula, but he soon finds the plotline “a little old school, what with the vamps being monsters and all” (Hunted 85), indicating that the contemporary vampire has little in common with the Dracula archetype. This remark is not intended as a commentary on the evolution of the vampire’s cultural image, although it certainly could be read as such. Rather, it is of a personal nature, as both Erik and Zoey, the protagonists of the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, are themselves young vampires. In her study on teen vampire fiction, Mia Franck suggests that the vampire phenomenon of today is no longer primarily about horror and abjection. Instead, it is about “the reading girls” (2013, 211). The figure of the vampire has long been recognised as holding a particular fascination for young adult consumers. Scholars, librarians and readers alike have pointed to the vampire genre’s ability to respond to young

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_1

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people’s anxieties and hopes about growing up.1 Searching for power, autonomy, control and belonging, struggling with unfamiliar yearnings and bodily transformations, breaking rules and rebelling against social conventions, the vampire can be read, as Byron and Deans propose, as “[t]he adolescent in a nutshell” (2014, 89; cf. Smith and Moruzi 2020, 612). The growing popularity of young adult (YA) vampire fiction in the late twentieth century marked the beginning of the rise of teen Gothic as a distinct and rich cultural category, with the spectacular success of Joss Whedon’s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997–2001) trailblazing the way for the teen vampire boom of the post-2000 era (Byron and Deans 2014, 87; Ramos-García 2020).2 Popular vampire novels for young readers were published throughout 1990s, granting vampires a strong position on the young adult literary market; Annette Curtis Klause’s The Silver Kiss (1990) or the first four instalments of L. J. Smith’s prominent The Vampire Diaries series (1991–1992) are notable examples of this trend. However, it is the new millennium that has witnessed the unprecedented proliferation of the vampire figure in youth popular culture; according to Michelle J. Smith and Kristine Moruzi, the vampire has become the central supernatural character of Western young

1 See e.g. Dresser (1989), De Marco (1997, 26), Priester (2008, 68, 72), LeMaster (2011, 104), Byron and Deans (2014, 89), Piatti-Farnell (2014, 6), and Wilhelm and Smith (2014, 123–131). The term “genre” in this context, while useful, is more popular than strictly academic, and should not be read as presenting diverse vampire fiction “as a univocal form of writing” (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 11). Vampire stories often cross the boundaries between horror, romance, fantasy, detective fiction, comedy and more; a combination that, as Piatti-Farnell proposes, contributes to their appeal (2014, 10–11; cf. George and Hughes 2015, 5). 2 Many scholars have discussed young adult (YA) fiction as a genre that resists clear-cut categorisations, appealing to various age cohorts and often crossing over to the adult market (see e.g. Cart 2010; Cadden 2011; James 2009). As a socially constructed category, the notion of “young adult” itself is open to various interpretations, ever-adapting to the changing cultural, historical and political contexts. In this volume, YA fiction is understood as cultural texts typically featuring protagonists in their late teens (16–19) and marketed to high-school-age readers (while often appealing also to older consumers). For the purpose of this study, I use the terms “young adult” (YA), “adolescent”, “youth” and “teenage” interchangeably. I recognise that in other contexts the conflation of these terms may be problematic or misleading (see e.g. Kokkola 2013, 10).

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adult Gothic fiction, effectively gaining the upper hand over all the other Gothic monsters and ab-humans (2020, 611–612).3 The tremendous commercial success of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire saga Twilight (2005–2008), dramatised for the big screen in a series of five blockbuster movies (2008–2012), has brought the narratives of girls and vampires into the cultural spotlight.4 The Twilight books have sold nearly 160 million copies worldwide, with the latest addition to the saga, Midnight Sun, reaching one million copies within the first week after its release (Milliot 2020). Inspiring frenzy among adolescent and adult fans and anti-fans alike, and riveting both media and scholarly attention, the cultural and commercial phenomenon of Twilight has kindled a new interest in teen Gothic and paranormal romance, resulting in a rapid rise in the numbers of vampire fiction marketed to young readers, especially to girls (Byron and Deans 2014, 88; Franck 2013, 211; Smith and Moruzi 2018, 9; Ames 2010). Yet, despite their mass-market appeal—or possibly for that very reason for, as Sady Doyle observes, such popularity “rarely coincides with literary acclaim” (2009, 31)—vampire stories marketed to adolescent women are often marginalised, derided and condemned, provoking a sense of disdain, unease and suspicion among critics and educators. Alarmed by their supernatural and sexual content, individuals and organisations have called for the removal of vampire books from public and school libraries.5 Although rarely backed by scholarly evidence, voices of concern have been raised about the dangers of vampire fiction and its presumed, if unspecified,

3 According to Smith and Moruzi, vampires feature in at least half of the YA Gothic novels listed on Goodreads and the sites of major booksellers (2020, 611–612). 4 Except for the four original novels, the series encompasses three companion volumes: The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (2011); Life and Death (2015)—the reimagining of the original story grounded in the gender-swap of the central protagonists, and the recently released Midnight Sun (2020)—the retelling of the first volume from Edward’s point of view. 5 For instance, the entire House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast and the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, including volumes to be yet written at the time, were banned in 2009 from a school in Texas “for sexual content and nudity” (Doyle 2010, 4, 6). The House of Night series and other YA vampire books were further challenged at the Austin Memorial Library in Cleveland, Texas (2014), where a local minister asked for the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material” (Doyle 2015, 4). See also Doyle (2011).

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power to encourage unsuspecting adolescent girls to delve “deeper and deeper into the black hole” of vampire obsession (Basu 2018, 964).6 In “Skamlig flickläsning” (“Shameful Girl-reading”), Franck observes that girl vampire fiction is inextricably connected to shame (2013, 208– 210). An interfusion of urban fantasy, the Gothic, horror, paranormal romance, chick lit and serialised school story, these narratives have been both dismissed as a quintessence of “low-status literature” (Franck 2013, 208), and condemned as a “threat to the definition of horror genres” (Bode 2010, 711). These objections are often at least partly rooted in age- and gender-related bias; as Doyle observes in relation to Twilight, the condescending evaluation of girl vampire fiction “is just as much about the fans as it is about the books” (2009, 31; cf. Franck 2013, 208–210; Bode 2010, 716). In their respective journalistic and scholarly analyses of the critical reception of Meyer’s saga, Doyle (2009) and Lisa Bode (2010) point to the popular understanding of teen girl culture texts as holding little aesthetic or educative value—a trend that mirrors the persistent perception of fiction written specifically for women as substandard and inferior (Franck 2013, 210; D’Amico 2016, viii). In “Transitional Tastes”, Bode documents the interlacing discourses of the denigration and sentimentalisation of teen girls and girl culture (2010), while Doyle identifies “the very girliness that has made [Twilight ] such a success” as one of the reasons behind the harsh criticism of the saga—a backlash that “should matter to feminists, even if the series makes them shudder” (2009, 31– 32). In this light, it is hardly unanticipated that some adolescent women report a sense of shame over their investment in vampire fiction, aware that their reading preferences may be ridiculed or stigmatised (Franck 2013, 208; Wilhelm and Smith 2014, 138). This widespread disapproval of “the vampire for girls” and the perception of its mass teen female fandom as displaying questionable cultural tastes indicate, as Bode contends, the reviewers’ failure to imagine “the adolescent girl mode of engagement [with the text] as rational, mindful or critical” (2010, 713; cf. Doyle 2009, 31). It further ignores the cultural power of popular vampire fiction which—with all its fantastic premises— remains relatable to the experiences of the contemporary girl, engaging with her hopes and concerns and participating in the larger discourses on girlhood. Allie, an adolescent informant in Wilhelm and Smith’s study 6 Basu’s text on the alleged negative impact of vampire fiction on girl fans in India and Western countries can serve as an example of such a trend.

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on the allure of teen vampire books, concludes: “Most of what I read in school I cannot relate to. … But I am so interested in entering into Twilight because it is about me right now” (2014, 123). She further comments on the critique of vampire fiction for girls: “What makes good literature? Who gets to decide? Twilight has a female fan base. Is that why it is not regarded highly by critics? It is meant to be something for women to enjoy. And I enjoy it. Isn’t that good enough? I just want to stand up and say that it is good enough! (Wilhelm and Smith 2014, 139)

This volume offers a critical analysis of the representations of girls and girlhood in the twenty-first-century vampire fiction marketed to adolescent female readership. With the powerful allure of the vampire in contemporary popular and youth cultures and the figure of the girl continuing to rivet both public and scholarly attention, these representations offer intriguing possibilities to explore the complexities of growing up a girl in the Western culture of today.7 In Monstrous Bodies: Feminine Power in Young Adult Horror Fiction, June Pulliam identifies YA horror as “uniquely able to examine the challenges facing young women” and to interrogate the gender positions and roles that girls are encouraged to adopt (2014, 11). A mirror held up to the complex and often contradictory cultural beliefs about women, vampire stories have been recognised as particularly revealing of social and cultural gendered hierarchies, rules and regulations (Anyiwo 2016, 173; Hobson 2016, 3; Wisker 2016). Women in vampire texts have long been narrated as either helpless prey and a “motivating force for the vampire hunters”, or sexualised monstresses that abjure traditional gender roles and embody the transgression of socially sanctioned notions of femininity (Hobson 2016, 3; Anyiwo 2016, 173). Today, vampire fiction for teen female readership is often seen as aligning with conservative and patriarchal discourses. However, it can also offer radical imageries of young female power, a celebration of girl agency and sexuality, depictions of girls as agents of social and political change and as a force to undermine the cultural 7 Although the scope of this project does not allow for a systematic study of fans’ interactions with vampire fiction, on several occasions I do look at fans’ reviews and discussion fora in order to shed light on the meanings produced by their engagement with the text, particularly in relation to more controversial topics (all readers’ comments are quoted as they originally appear online).

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prohibitions inflicted on women; and even the texts that are deemed conservative are not void of moments of resistance and emancipatory possibilities. Engaging with the scholarship from a number of critical frameworks and utilising a variety of perspectives originating in cultural and literary studies, sociology, feminism, gender and queer studies, and the interdisciplinary research on girlhood and on the vampire, this volume considers the figure of the girl in YA vampire fiction as a terrain for negotiating a myriad of competing ideologies of girlhood, and as reflecting the changing expectations surrounding girls in the Western world. ∗ ∗ ∗ A horrifying revenant skulking through the folktales across the centuries, continents and cultures, rising from the dead to brutalise, kill and infect, the vampire has since spread onto the pages of countless books and graphic novels, colonised big and small screen productions, haunted theatre stages, lurked in commercials, infiltrated classrooms, entered the toy industry and frequented fancy-dress parties. These bloodsucking creatures have come to populate texts for adults, adolescents and children alike, straying away from their folkloric forbearers and, as numerous scholars have observed, endlessly morphing and reincarnating into fresh forms and personas, in order to guarantee ever anew their relevance to the dynamics of socio-cultural, political and economic realities.8 A creature of unprecedented “polymorphic resilience” (LeMaster 2011, 103), an inexhaustible reservoir of metaphors and allegories, a vehicle for cultural angsts and desires and a lens through which to unravel social preoccupations and change, the vampire has been read, among other examples, as a vector of non-normative sexual and gender expressions, horrors of contagion and foreign invasion, dread of environmental apocalypse, digital surveillance and science gone awry; but also as a celebration of difference and non-normative identity, freedom, emancipation and a radical critique of socio-economic and political inequities. In short, as PiattiFarnell concludes, the vampire is “a highly interpretative metaphor for human existence” (2014, 64). As a cultural phenomenon of undying appeal, vampire fiction has long been a vibrant, dynamic and profitable area of cultural production, an 8 See e.g. Auerbach (1995), Williamson (2005), Ní Fhlainn (2019), George and Hughes (2015, 7, 15) and Butler (2016, 193).

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object of fascination to millions of fans worldwide, and a terrain of systematic academic critique. Grounded in a variety of disciplines and fields, a vast body of scholarly literature has been developed around the cultural texts featuring bloodsucking creatures—examining vampire lore in historical perspective; looking at the vampire figure through the discourses of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, postcolonialism, postmodernism, transnationalism, posthumanism, globalisation or environmental studies; focusing on thematic threads such as blood, memory, hospitality, rape and power; analysing in depth a particular vampire production; or studying the real-life communities of vampire fans or even self-identified vampires.9 Until fairly recently, however, young adult fiction has been largely excluded from “the vampire canon” (Dudek 2018, 17). Debra Dudek points to the edited collection Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (2013) as one of the first to have explicitly recognised the lasting value of YA vampire texts in the transformation of the genre and the development of the figure of the sympathetic vampire (2018, 17). In the introduction to the volume, Sam George and Bill Hughes point to “a stylistic competence and ingenuity and a certain daring” in some of the vampire stories, emphasising that these qualities can be often found in the texts for young readers (2015, 6).10 Several years earlier, Deborah Wilson Overstreet published Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction (2006)—a study of over twenty YA vampire novels released mostly in the 1990s, which considers the representations of both the bloodsucking characters and the humans who are linked to them.11 Vampires in the

9 A systematic review of vampire scholarship lies beyond the scope of this volume; however, some recent examples of the trends specified above include Dunn and Housel (2010), Khair and Höglund (2013), Bacon and Bronk (2013), Stephanou (2014), Browning (2015), Baker et al. (2017), and Ní Fhlainn (2019). 10 It is noteworthy that, in addition to the chapters on Meyer’s Twilight , L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries , and Whedon’s Buffy, Open Graves, Open Minds includes other YA vampire texts, like Daniel Waters’s Generation Dead and Marcus Sedgwick’s My Swordhand Is Singing. 11 For instance, Wilson Overstreet looks into the ways in which vampires in YA novels relate to folkloric conventions and adult vampire texts, or studies the depictions of human vampire hunters. However, as only two of the volume’s chapters are devoted to these representations (with others encompassing introductory information on vampire fiction, a detailed examination of a non-literary vampire text—Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or a

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cultural productions addressed primarily to children and pre-adolescents are the focus of Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk’s original edited collection Growing Up with Vampires: Essays on the Undead in Children’s Media (2018), with several chapters foregrounding the interplays between vampirism and femininity.12 Vampires have been welcomed into lesson plans, with such volumes as Buffy in the Classroom (Kreider and Winchell 2014) or The Vampire Goes to College (Nevárez 2014), which discuss vampire stories as vehicles for teaching feminism, film production, Shakespeare and more; and invited onto the psychotherapist’s couch, with scholars contemplating the usefulness of vampire fiction in the counselling procedures for female teenagers.13 Girls and girlhood have been central to a rapidly increasing number of studies of popular culture and YA narratives, with recent scholarship including such diverse examples as books considering young female transformations and rebellion in YA dystopian fiction (see e.g. Day et al. 2016; Hentges 2018), the replications and revisions of the fairy-tale and mythological archetypes in teen series and fantasy texts (Bellas 2017; Blackford 2012, both works including Twilight ), and the presence of various feminist currents in the narratives for teens and tweens (Seelinger Trites 2018). However, with the exception of such international cross-market hits as Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, to a lesser extent, Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec’s The Vampire Diaries (The CW 2009–2017; based on the books by L. J. Smith), little research has to date addressed the portrayals of young femininity in vampire texts marketed to adolescent girls, in particular vampire literature.14 June Pulliam’s compelling analysis

summary of the chosen novels and annotated bibliography), many aspects of the analysed fiction are necessarily dealt with in a cursory manner or left out of the study. 12 In the first chapter of the volume, Andrew M. Boylan traces the presence of the vampire in Western European and North American children’s media throughout history (2018). See also Palmer (2013), chapter 14, for an overview of the American literary, cinematic and televised vampire narratives for children. 13 Considering Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Paul E. Priester elucidates the ways in which the vampire figure can be read by a teenage girl as a metaphor and a warning against drug abuse; or how the contemporary vampires’ agony over their moral choices can reflect an adolescent’s decision to become a vegetarian (2008, 71). See also Schlozman (2000), for the use of Buffy in adolescent therapy. 14 The sheer amount of scholarly works considering these three texts, particularly Buffy and Twilight, renders a comprehensive survey both difficult and superfluous for the purposes of this volume; some of these works are referred to in the relevant chapters.

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of femininity and power in YA horror focuses on the figure of the supernatural girl in ghost, werewolf and witch fiction, excluding vampire stories as largely featuring human heroines (2014, 19). Lorna Piatti-Farnell’s (2014) seminal study examines the figure of the vampire in contemporary literature, and Gina Wisker includes vampire texts in her astute analysis of contemporary Gothic fiction authored by women (2016). Neither, however, investigate specifically the figure of the girl and, with the exception of the cross-market Twilight, both tap into the texts marketed to an adult readership. This volume explores the narratives of girlhood in vampire fiction addressed to adolescent women, with the primary focus on four bestselling twenty-first-century vampire series—House of Night (2007–2014) and House of Night: Other World (2017–2020) by P. C. and Kristin Cast, and Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015) by Richelle Mead. The sheer abundance of the contemporary vampire books for girls has made the selection a challenging endeavour, rendering numerous exclusions inescapable. My focus on literary works is grounded in Piatti-Farnell’s identification of literature as the “original venue for vampiric representations” and the primary vehicle for the popularisation of the bloodsucking character within Western culture (2014, 2). While The scholarship on Buffy and Twilight encompasses a myriad of diverse approaches and thematic focuses, including the representations of gender, race, religion, sexuality, and power, the series’ interplays with various philosophical and mythological currents, musical trends and historical narratives, or their critical reception and fan engagement (see e.g. Iatropoulos and Woodall III 2017; South 2003; Housel and Wisnewski 2009; Reagin 2011; Preston Leonard 2011; Stuller 2013). A significant number of academic books, journals and conferences are entirely devoted to Meyer’s or Whedon’s universes (see e.g. Anatol 2011; Click et al. 2010; Wilson 2011; Morey 2016); Slayage: The Journal of Whedon Studies (previously: Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies ), https://www.whedonstudies.tv/slayage-the-journal-of-whedon-studies. html; Levine and Parks (2007); Wilcox (2005); see also Macnaughtan (2011), for a detailed bibliography of both primary sources and scholarship related to Buffy and its spin-off Angel. The Vampire Diaries have been analysed, among others, by Rikke Schubart in Mastering Fear (2018, chap. 5) and in the edited collection Gender in the Vampire Narrative (2016), which includes DuRocher’s study on vampiric masculinity and Nicol’s analysis of the show’s depictions of girlhood; the focus of this unique book, however, is on broader gender issues examined through the lens of vampirism, without any particular emphasis placed on girls or girl fiction. See also Dudek (2018), a volume that focuses on all three of these highly popular texts, and studies their representations of vampire–human romantic relationships; and Łuksza (2015), which compares Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries in relation to their gender politics and female empowerment.

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vampire tales have long been radiating into the world of diverse transmedia, enhancing the impact of vampiric books far beyond their pages, literature remains a rich reservoir of universes and plots for other vampire productions, leaving an indelible imprint on past and present imageries of vampirism. In this sense, the vampire “truly is a literary monster” (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 2). As serialised stories increasingly dominate Gothic and vampire reading markets for young adults (Smith and Moruzi 2020, 610) and have long been a prominent feature in popular culture for girls, this volume focuses on literary series rather than self-contained novels.15 LuElla D’Amico points to the lasting—and often underestimated—value of serialised fiction as a reservoir of instructions on social decorum for generations of girl readers; one offering both socially sanctioned role models and space for rebellion (2016, vii). Popularly perceived as facile and catering to an unsophisticated readership—a perspective that disregards their diversity and complex character—serialised stories have long played a significant role in shaping girls’ experiences and understandings of girlhood (2016, viii–ix; cf. Reimer et al. 2014, 1; Younger 2009, 105–106, 110). The serialised form, as Jennifer Hayward observes, allows for the exploration of “shifting identities in ways not possible in more traditional narrative spaces”, opening the door to change and diversity (1997, 191; cf. Younger 2009, 106). Ultimately, serialisation invites young readers to immerse themselves in fictional universes for extended periods of time and often inspires years-long commitment, creating an intimate connection between readers and the text, and a sense of community with other fans.16

15 Following the definition of LuElla D’Amico (2016, x), I understand a book series as presenting the adventures of the same character(s) for more than three volumes. 16 The existing scholarship on serialised fiction for girls focuses primarily on historical novels; see e.g. Inness (1997), Hamilton-Honey (2013), Hamilton-Honey and Ingalls Lewis (2020) and D’Amico (2016), although the latter also encompasses chapters considering contemporary texts (including Vampire Academy). See also Pattee (2011), for a comprehensive analysis of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High (1983–2003); Younger (2009, ch. 5), for a study of bodily image and sexuality in diverse series for girls, from Nancy Drew to Gossip Girl; Saxton 1998, which looks into the spaces of girlhood in diverse literary works authored by women; or the collection of essays Seriality and Texts for Young People: The Compulsion to Repeat, ed. Reimer et al. (2014), which examines not only particular texts, but the functions of seriality and repetition in the stories for young consumers (with a chapter by Debra Dudek focused on Buffy).

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The key fictional works discussed in this volume have all reached large readership circles, selling millions of copies worldwide, and have repeatedly ranked high on various best-selling and recommendation lists.17 Their unique take on vampire lore, original universes, complex plotlines and intriguing characters continue to compel the attention of millions of readers and inspire vibrant fan cultures. A large number of reviews, high ratings, and a considerable body of fan fiction and discussions in diverse social media testify, as emphasised by Gaïane Hanser in relation to House of Night, that these books engage the readers “deeply enough that they choose to interact, or at least to become manifestly active in their reading” (2018, 12). While the majority of vampire characters in YA stories are male, typically romancing mortal heroines (Byron and Deans 2014, 89; Pulliam 2014, 19), my interest in the synergies of vampirism and girlhood has prompted me to focus on the stories featuring adolescent heroines who are vampire or part-vampire themselves (or reveal another supernatural streak), and/or who overthrow the popular paradigm of a vulnerable human girl paired with a powerful vampire lover/protector. Removed into the realms of the fantastic and bestowed with special powers, these heroines come with the promise (though not always fulfilled) of experimenting with alternative girl identities and expanding the possibilities of girlhood into previously untrodden terrains. As such, they provide a fresh territory for exploring the complex interplays between the girl and the vampire. With an impressive array of powerful female protagonists populating the uncanny universes of vampire high schools, the key texts discussed in this volume offer a potential for redrawing conventional boundaries of girlhood, at times declaring openly a feminist agenda and 17 These lists include, among others, YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2008 and 2009 for the two first volumes of Vampire Academy; YALSA Teens’ Top Ten 2008 (Vampire Academy) and 2009 (House of Night: Untamed); Best Teen Vampire Fiction on Goodreads (with Mead’s Vampire Academy as no. 1; Bloodlines as no. 6, and House of Night as no. 4 among over 360 other books and series); a long-lasting presence on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon’s best-selling teen vampire, fantasy and paranormal romance fiction. According to P. C. Cast’s website, the House of Night series has over 20 million books in print, with the rights sold in nearly forty countries (House of Night: Praise, https:// www.pccastauthor.com/house-of-night; House of Night Novellas, Macmillan Publishers, https://us.macmillan.com/series/houseofnightnovellas/). Vampire Academy had sold 8 million copies in 35 countries as of 2013 (McClintock 2013). Its Facebook page is liked by over one million fans.

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the intention of “turning patriarchy and misogyny upside down” (Cast 2011, loc. 66; cf. Found loc. 5730). First and foremost, they are stories for and about girls, addressing themes and raising questions that are immediately relevant to the contemporary girl reader, and demonstrating a deep investment in larger social, political and cultural conversations on young femininity. Authored by P. C. Cast and her young adult daughter Kristin Cast, the House of Night and House of Night: Other World series are set in contemporary North America where vampires live openly in matriarchal societies, largely separate but peacefully coexisting with humans.18 Throughout the twelve original and four sequel novels, the series follow adolescent Zoey Redbird and her circle of friends who—marked as vampire fledglings— transfer from their human high schools into the Tulsa House of Night in Oklahoma, a boarding school for future vampires.19 As the Chosen One of the vampire goddess Nyx, Zoey is destined to fight against Darkness all the while grappling with the everyday dilemmas of a high school life.20 Richelle Mead’s fictional universe of Vampire Academy and its sequel Bloodlines is populated with two vampire species—the fanged and bloodconsuming but generally peaceful Moroi, and the violent Strigoi, who thrive on Moroi blood and come into being through death and dark magic. Garrisoned in safeguarded vampire boarding schools, Moroi teenagers study along with their dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) peers—young warriors and warrioresses who, once graduated, will be

18 According to P. C. Cast, neither of the series has actually been co-written; she identifies herself as the author and her daughter as the “frontline editor”, tasked with ensuring the authenticity of teenage expression and experience (see e.g. Found loc. 5772). However, the novels’ covers and copyright pages, as well as the publishers’ websites and other promotional materials, all acknowledge Kristin Cast as the co-author; I follow their lead throughout this volume. 19 The series use the spelling “vampyre”. However, for the sake of consistency and to avoid confusion, the common spelling “vampire” is employed throughout this volume, except for in quotations. 20 The House of Night universe further encompasses four novellas developing some of the series’ side plotlines, graphic novels (Dark Horse Books) and the multi-authored companion volume Nyx in the House of Night: Mythology, Folklore, and Religion in the P. C. and Kristin Cast Vampyre Series (BenBella Books 2011), which illuminates the mythological, scientific, folkloric and Gothic inspirations behind the series. The fans’ experience is further enhanced with The Fledgling Handbook 101 (2010)—a volume that is said to be presented to every new student of the fictional House of Night. The series is to be dramatised for the small screen by David Films and DCTV (see e.g. Forgotten 253).

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tasked with shielding the Moroi from the vampiric undead. The Vampire Academy series chronicles the adventures of dhampir Rose Hathaway and her best friend, the Moroi princess Lissa Dragomir. The Bloodlines series, in turn, centres on Sydney Sage—a magic-wielding human and a member of the powerful society of the Alchemists whose sole purpose is to keep vampires hidden from the human eye. The series encompass six novels each; additional instalments include graphic novels, short stories (Mead 2010, 2012, 2016) and the companion volume Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide (Rowen and Mead 2011).21 Alongside the vampire series that constitute the core of my study and are discussed in detail, other popular vampire narratives are occasionally introduced and explored with the aim of broadening the understanding of the genre’s participation in the Western discourses of girlhood. This includes, among others, Bella Forrest’s A Shade of Vampire (2012– 2020),22 Michelle Madow’s Dark World: The Vampire Wish (2017), Bianca Scardoni’s The Marked (2015–2020) and L. J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries (1991–2014). Furthermore, Twilight, Buffy and the televised version of The Vampire Diaries will be referred to throughout the volume. However, as these three texts have been studied so comprehensively in other scholarly works, I include them primarily for the purposes of contextualisation and comparison, except for a limited number of selected threads, which are analysed in depth. While my list is inevitably far from exhaustive of all the popular contemporary vampire series for young women, I hope that this book will contribute to the existing scholarship on girls, vampires and YA culture, shedding light on the ways in which vampire fiction envisions and addresses the contemporary complexities of girlhood. This volume is organised into seven chapters, accommodating the central thematic areas that inform the representations of girlhood and

21 The first volume of Vampire Academy was adapted as a film in 2014 (dir. Mark Waters); while the production of the following instalments was eventually cancelled, a fresh adaptation of the series for the big or small screen is being discussed (https://www. facebook.com/OfficialVampireAcademyMovie/). Mead’s fictional universe can be further experienced through a spin-off merchandise line of clothing and accessories (https:// shop.spreadshirt.com/vampireacademy/). 22 This series is currently running at 92 books; for the purpose of this analysis, I have read the first twenty.

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vampires in the series analysed.23 Following the introductory Chapter 1, Chapter 2: “Writing (on) Girls’ Bodies”, maps the complex interactions between girl and vampire corporealities. Examining tattooed vampiric skin and its Gothic and feminist significations, the vampiric silhouette and the thin-thinking culture, and the anguish of ageing and vampiric “ugliness”, it illuminates the ways in which the vampire body negotiates and invokes resistance to various social fears and expectations formulated around young female bodies and identities. Through analysing questions of style, consumerism and the subversive possibilities embedded in the narratives of the female makeover, the chapter further delves into the questions of female agency, exclusion and belonging, and the power to perform nonconforming girl identities. As narratives of romance lie at the heart of vampire fiction for girls, Chapter 3, “A Love So Strong That It Aches”, focuses on representations of romantic relationships. Complicating popular readings of YA vampire stories as valorising heteronormativity , the chapter opens with a discussion of polyandry in the House of Night universe. The narratives of polyandry suggest YA vampire’s dalliance with the traditional queerness of the genre and speak about the enhancement of female romantic possibilities. These radical ideas become entangled with the romantic discourses of supernatural love bonds and eternal soul mates, analysed further in the chapter. The last section returns to the notion of queerness, evoking the traditional association between the vampire and homosexuality. Focusing on the representations of gay and lesbian characters and relationships, it explores the ways in which the series speak of same-sex love and desire, compulsory heterosexuality, homophobia and queer identities. Chapter 4, “Pangs of Pleasure, Pangs of Guilt: Girls, Sexuality and Desire”, can be partly seen as a continuation of the themes explored in the previous chapter, as the narratives of sex often interlace with the stories of romantic love. I turn to the tropes of female virginity, sexual awakening, blood consumption and the question of power transpiring through sexual relations in order to explore vampire fiction’s multifaceted and often conflicted messages on girl sexual agency and autonomy. The larger discourses on social regulations of female sexual expressions and the complex dynamics between the respectable and the sexual girl are further articulated through the series’ juxtaposition of human, dhampir and 23 The titles of chapters 3, 4 and 5, as well as a number of subtitles, are in part taken from the series analysed, and are referenced throughout the volume.

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vampire sexual mores, and explored through the power plays embedded in slut shaming. Violence permeates the vampire genre, and experiences of abuse are often inseparable from growing up a girl in vampiric worlds. Therefore, the next chapter, “Save Your Butt From Getting Raped”, centres on the narratives of girls as survivors and perpetrators of violent acts. Interrogating the stories of intimate partner abuse, rape and raperevenge, and violent (self-)defence, the chapter explores the ways in which vampire fiction responds to the popular beliefs of gendered and sexualised violence. While many storylines testify to the persistence of rape mythology and can be read as the vampiric retellings of Beauty and the Beast, presenting violence as forgivable, others deliberately refuse to reshape abuse into romance or to obscure the oppressive discourses of power as tales of love. Discussing the meanings of consent, denying the popular equation between consent and desire, and featuring complex narratives of rape-revenge and healing, their storylines deglamorise abuse on individual level and operate to expose the structural mechanisms that normalise gendered violence. Chapter 6, “Biting into Books”, ventures into the classrooms of vampire schools, exploring school-structured learning and academic performance in the construction of girlhood. Casting their supernatural heroines as high school students, and placing them within the uncanny educational systems of vampire societies, the Casts’ and Mead’s series offer a powerful commentary on the interplays between gendered and academic subjectivities, and address feminist concerns about the design of contemporary classroom practices and programmes. Examining the protagonists’ academic struggles and achievements, this chapter illuminates the ways in which vampire fiction engages with Western discourses on girls and formal education, and negotiates popular gendered expectations about academic excellence. Particular attention is paid to the young heroines’ relations to the areas of competence traditionally coded as male (STEM subjects) and to the position of academic investment in visions of desirable girlhood. “Biting into Books” is followed by concluding remarks in Chapter 7.

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Stephanou, Aspasia. 2014. Reading Vampire Gothic Through Blood: Bloodlines. Palgrave Macmillan Stuller, Jennifer K., ed. 2013. Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 2013. Intellect. Wilcox Rhonda. 2005. Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Bloomsbury Academic. Wilhelm, Jeffrey D., and Michael W. Smith. 2014. Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—And Why We Should Let Them. New York: Scholastic. Williamson, Milly. 2005. The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy. London and New York: Wallflower Press. Wilson Overstreet, Deborah. 2006. Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction. Lanham, Maryland, Toronto, Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Kindle edition. Wilson, Natalie. 2011. Seduced by Twilight: The Allure and Contradictory Messages of the Popular Saga. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Wisker, Gina. 2016. Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction: Carnival. Hauntings and Vampire Kisses: Palgrave Macmillan. YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. 2008. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklists/ quickpicks/annotations/08qp. YALSA Teens’ Top Ten. 2008. Accessed September 21, 2020. https://booklists. yalsa.net/directory/results?booklist=31&year=2008. YALSA Teens’ Top Ten. 2009. https://booklists.yalsa.net/directory/results?boo klist=31&year=2009. Younger, Beth. 2009. Learning Curves: Body Image and Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature. Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Press.

CHAPTER 2

Writing (on) Girls’ Bodies: Vampires and Embodied Girlhood

In Phantasmagoria, Marina Warner demarcates the late eighteenth century as the beginning of Western society’s shift away from a focus on the spiritual to the external—an evolution that has relocated individual’s “uniqueness … to the surface” and increasingly rendered the body a central agent in the definition of the self (2006, 35). Contemporary consumer culture, as Agnieszka Gromkowska-Melosik and Zbyszko Melosik observe, is immersed in questions of the body, with human identity “‘scoured away’ from the mind and the soul”, and with individuals primarily perceived through their bodily appearance (2008, xxi). As Melosik concludes, in the Western societies of today “[t]he identity of the body becomes the body of identity” (1996, 72; quoted after Gromkowska-Melosik and Melosik 2008, xxi). This conflation of identity and appearance is particularly strong for women. Their relation to their bodies—the ways they are seen, presented, used and worked on—is regularly narrated as central to their sense of self, and women continue to be valued for their appearance much more often than men.1 Scholarly works highlight the social positioning of women’s 1 See e.g. Engeln (2018), DeMello (2014, 176, 183), Nyman (2017), Moran (2016), and Tazzyman (2017). Similar trends have been identified in literature. As Wright notes in relation to American fiction, physical attractiveness is less important for male characters; “what makes a male succeed or fail is what he does ” rather than what he looks like (2013, x).

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_2

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bodies in the Western popular imagination as objects of scrutiny and trenchant critique, routinely constructed as wanting, problematic and in need of change; “an incurable illness” that can be alleviated—though never fully healed—through means of consumerism (Harjunen 2017, 95; DeMello 2014, 188; Tazzyman 2017).2 This sense of shame related to the body and the resulting imperative for body modification have been identified as “a cultural inheritance of women” (Bouson 2009, 1–2) and a fundamental aspect of female socialisation (Murray 2008, 5). The notion of the body—and the ways it relates to the questions of self, agency, empowerment and a sense of belonging—have long held a particular fascination for both youth cultures and vampire fiction. Multiple scholars recognise body image, style and fashion as important signifiers of young people’s identity, framing the teenage self as “virtually indistinguishable from the bodily dimension of being” (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 17; cf. Pomerantz 2008; Tazzyman 2017; Fisher et al. 2008, 173). This phenomenon is particularly widespread within girl cultures. Girls are often expected, and expect themselves, to pursue culturally defined standards of beauty, and physical appearance is repeatedly presented as an avenue towards the achievement of successful femininity (Tazzyman 2017; Bellas 2017; Pomerantz and Raby 2017, 68). As articulated by Maria Nilson, bodily image has come to be essential in the process of “becoming a girl in a right way” (att flicka sig på rätt sätt ) (2013, 202).3 Similarly, Beth Younger observes that looks remain “an important, culturally determined measurement of femininity”, and that unrealistic standards of physical appearance continue to exert a negative impact on girls’ (self-)perception and opportunities (2009, 20). Other girlhood scholars, however, foreground the value of girls’ “culture of prettiness” and point out that girls’ investment in fashion and appearance does not need to adversely affect their ideas of self. Style can become a site of resistance against cultural restraints placed on girlhood, and body modification can be read as a valid practice of self-expression, pleasure and female bonding—one

2 These pressures are also increasingly faced by men, albeit to a lesser degree (Tazzyman 2017, 95, 112; cf. Engeln 2018, 36–37; Gromkowska-Melosik and Melosik 2008, xxi, xxii). 3 In her study on girls and body modification, Tazzyman (2017) observes that a girl’s awakened interest in beautifying practices is commonly construed as a harbinger of her transition from the identity of a child into that of a young woman—an interpretation shared both by girls themselves and the significant adults in their lives.

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that embraces the notion of female empowerment (see e.g. Bellas 2017; Pomerantz 2008). As troubling terrains of conflicting social and cultural regulations, fears and desires, the young female body and the vampire body bear an uncanny connection. Vampiric transitions have been repeatedly read as a metaphor for adolescent transformations, as both are seen as suspended in a liminal state, and defined through profound physical, psychological and emotional changes (see e.g. Howell 2017; Piatti-Farnell 2014, 17). As a creature of unparalleled beauty, everlasting youth and acute fashion awareness, the vampire figure further satiates and fuels the popular culture’s desire for the perfect (and perfectible) body, and feeds into its obsession with youthful appearance. Speaking to young people’s concerns and aspirations formulated around physical image, the powerful appeal of the vampiric body has been identified as one of the prime reasons for the unwavering popularity of YA vampire fiction (Dresser 1989, quoted after De Marco 1997, 26–27; Wilhelm and Smith 2014, 124). This chapter brings into the spotlight the complex social expectations, anxieties and desires surrounding the young female body, articulated through the supernatural heroine of the serialised vampire fiction for adolescent girls. Taking as its primary focus P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s The House of Night (2007–2014) and The House of Night: Other World series (2017–2020), and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015)—it interrogates the interplays between vampire stories and contemporary discourses on girls’ bodies, identities, forms of agency, belonging and exclusion. Contemplating the body as one of the central themes of the genre and a prime construction site of girlhood within Western culture, the chapter studies the relations between young heroines and the hegemonic narratives on socially acceptable and desirable body image. The introductory section considers the constitution of the vampire body, focusing on the significations of the tattooed skin. The following sections examine the relations between the cultural narrations of vampirism and feminine beauty, placing the emphasis on the discourses of ageing and bodily size, as well as representations of “ugliness”. The interplays between vampirism, girlhood, style, young female consumerismand girl agency and belonging are the focus of the next part of the chapter. The final section analyses the vampire genre’s

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take on the trope of the feminine makeover and its potential as a site of resistance and the performance of subversive girl identities.4

2.1

The Markings of the Vampiric Body

In The Vampire in Contemporary Popular Literature, Lorna Piatti-Farnell recognises the vampire body as “a representational projection of the human body”, one that is transformative and susceptible to the social and political mores of its times (2014, 55–56; cf. Auerbach 1995). Undead, living or in a state in-between; unchangeable or shape-shifting; experiencing minor discomfort or flaring up in the sun; with sharp, pointy fangs or with a human-like dentition; born from a female of the species, bred through scientific means or created by another vampire’s bite; reversible or permanently vampiric—the vampire body can vary considerably both among different narratives and within the same fictitious worlds.5 Even the consumption of blood—while possibly remaining one of the last shared characteristics for contemporary vampires—can be substituted with psychic draining, and is highly diverse in its rituals, intentions, sources and emotions linked to the act of feeding. The fictional universes of P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast, and of Richelle Mead, feature several varying types of vampire bodies that differ in their origin, physiology, abilities and physical constitution. Vampire fledglings in House of Night come into being through a biological reaction that triggers a recessive vampire gene in certain human teenagers. Within several years, the majority of these young people will mature into fully developed vampires. Some, however, will suffer a violent death as their bodies reject the vampiric Change. In Vampire Academy and Bloodlines,

4 Needless to say, it is an impossible task to consider all the important aspects of girl

bodily existence within the scope of one chapter. Most conspicuous by its absence is possibly the discussion of girl bodies as sexual, as well as queer bodies; both are examined in the following chapters of this volume. Another aspect that I develop elsewhere are vulnerable, diseased and disordered bodies in YA vampire fiction (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ forthcoming). 5 For instance, the YA literary series The Vampire Diaries , authored by L. J. Smith,

Aubrey Clark and unknown ghostwriter (1991–2014), introduce several types of vampire bodies: “ordinary”—created through consuming vampire blood and dying; Original— humans transformed into vampires through magic; and those who came into being through scientific means. For a comprehensive analysis of different vampire bodies in literary fiction marketed to adults, see Piatti-Farnell (2014, chap. 2).

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the living vampires, the Moroi, and their half-vampire, half-human bodyguards dhampirs are born and die in a way similar to humans.6 None of these vampire bodies burst into flames when exposed to the sun although some are weakened by direct sunlight.7 Both the Moroi and vampires of House of Night are sustained by blood; “good” vampires, however, drink only from willing donors, and victimising humans is a strict taboo in both communities. Although fangs are often considered an essential attribute of the vampire body (see e.g. Piatti-Farnell 2014, 69), the defanged vampire is not uncommon in popular stories marketed to girls. In Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005–2008) and the Casts’ House of Night, vampires have extraordinarily strong yet human-looking dentition. Neither voracious monsters nor self-denying heroes, “good” vampire characters in the latter series consume blood in a civilised manner mixed with wine in elegant wine glasses. In Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, vampires prefer to drink from the vein, and have non-retractable fangs. However, as they are trained from childhood to conceal them while speaking or smiling, they can pass for human with little difficulty. Similarly, the bodies of Mead’s dhampirs and the Casts’ vampires are nearly indistinguishable from human. However, in House of Night both fledglings and full vampires are visually set apart by their conspicuous facial tattoos.8 The importance of permanent body alterations, like tattoos or scarification, as a mode of self-expression and negotiating identity have been recognised in scholarly works. A biological canvas of the modified skin 6 While vampirism is usually associated with dying and “turning”, the biologically conditioned vampire body is not an uncommon phenomenon; see e.g. Poppy Z. Brite (currently identifying as male, Billy Collins; Wisker 2016, 158), Lost Souls (1992), where vampires can be created through sexual intercourse; Peter Watts, Blindsight (2006), where they are the result of the processes of evolution, extinct and then brought back to life by human science; or the 2019 Netflix TV series V-Wars, where vampirism is presented as a disease/genetic mutation. 7 Both universes additionally feature vampire bodies that resemble the traditional folkloric vampire template. Mead’s evil Strigoi and Casts’ red vampire fledglings are, at least initially, positioned as villains—vicious undead creatures, animated through dark magic, burning in the sun, bleeding their victims dry and extremely hard to kill. 8 Although in Betrayed vampires are described as “different than humans (not bad different—just different)” (25), the series reveals little about these visual differences except for the bloodsuckers’ extraordinary beauty and their unusual tattoos. All fledglings are required to cover the crescent on their foreheads with make-up when outside of the school walls, a practice that easily allows them to pass for humans.

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can perform a myriad of functions beyond its aesthetic qualities. Drawing on the scholarship of Elizabeth Grosz, Piatti-Farnell describes skin as “a communicative surface on which messages and meaning can be inscribed” (2014, 83). Carrying stories of life experience, remembering special moments, reflecting worldviews, and indicating social status, belonging and exclusion, the modified skin changes self-perception and affects the way the individual is seen by others (Conrich and Sedgwick 2017, 192–195; Piatti-Farnell 2014, 81–85; Nyman 2017; Oliver 2011). The visually intriguing trope of the altered body surface—covered with signs, scars or inscriptions—often emerges in the stories of fantasy and horror. In Gothic Dissections in Film and Literature, Ian Conrich and Laura Sedgwick discuss horror representations of the tattooed skin as a “Gothic commodity”, produced, flayed, stolen or sold as a gruesome work of art (2017, 192–195). The tattoo has also been employed as a metaphorical Other, with the inscribed body construed as infected, polluted or even possessed (Conrich and Sedgwick 2017, 193–195). In fantasy fiction, skin modifications often serve as a visual designation of an extraordinary character, or a signal of belonging to a particular group— with the self-inflicted scarification of the demon slayers in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments (2007–2014) or the famous lighteningshaped scar on the forehead of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter as only two among many examples of the trend. The inscribed skin holds a fascination also for the vampire genre; extensive tattoos adorn the bodies of vampire hunters in the televised version of The Vampire Diaries (The CW 2009– 2017) and the vampires of Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed (2007–2019) are covered with tattoo-like patterns called “dermaglyphs”.9 Referring to feminist scholarship on tattoos, Nina Nyman acknowledges the tattooed female skin as a point of intersection of women’s rights to self-expression and control over their bodies (2017, 75). While relatively widespread in contemporary culture, tattoos are simultaneously surrounded by social taboos. These strictures are gendered, as tattooing, particularly in exposed locations, is often viewed as subverting the notions of conventional femininity (Nyman 2017, 81). Within this context, the centrality of the tattooed skin in narrating the vampire and the girl body in House of Night, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines is telling.

9 The meanings of dermaglyphs in the Midnight Breed series have been meticulously analysed by Piatti-Farnell (2014, 81–85).

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The tattoos in these series display diverse origins, aesthetic qualities and significations. Nearly all, however, serve as a sign of belonging to a particular community or species. The facial tattoos of the House of Night vampires are a compelling signifier of their vampiric status. As vampire and human bodies are nearly identical, it is the tattoos that visually distinguish one from the other, and place vampires outside the boundaries of human society. In Mead’s fictional universe, vampires as a species do not attach any special importance to tattooing. However, the tattooed skin is central to the narratives of all the other main groups—both human and supernatural, with large sections of the storyline formulated around its meanings and powers. Vampire hunters are marked with sun-shaped patterns on their backs, and a golden lily inscribed on the cheek signifies belonging to the clandestine society of the Alchemists. Dhampirs ink in lightning-shaped marks called molnija on their necks, and even regular high school students purchase illegal enchanted tattoos to enhance their mood or physical performance.10 In many cases, tattooing functions as a rite of passage. A vivid example of this can be found in the House of Night trope of the sapphire crescent that appears on the forehead of teenagers upon being Marked, that is changed into vampire fledglings. A striking illustration of their budding Otherness, this tattoo signals their entry into the transitional state between humanity and vampirism; one that clearly represents human adolescence, with its anxieties, hopes and uncontrollable bodily transformations.11 The moment of the fledgling’s metamorphosis into a full vampire, the Change, is marked by the magical expansion of their modest crescent into elaborate patterns covering a large part of the face—a powerful finale of the transition from adolescence into adulthood. In Mead’s Vampire Academy, similar meanings are communicated through a special symbol called the Promise Mark, ceremoniously tattooed on dhampirs’ necks upon their graduation. The Promise Mark represents the completion of the journey from adolescent novice to mature guardian, and signals full membership of dhampir adult society. In both series, the 10 It is interesting to note that a number of fans of both House of Night and Vampire Academy have (been) reported to have tattooed their skin as a tribute to their favourite series (Oliver 2011, 43; Mead 2016, v; see also e.g. Martin 2020 and Be 2020). 11 As the leading heroine describes it, “I would spend the next four years going through bizarre and unnameable physical changes, as well as a total and permanent life shake-up” (Marked 8)—an account that can be easily applied to the time of human puberty.

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tattooed skin can also carry information on the character’s status in the community. As the House of Night markings are ordinarily confined to a vampire’s face, the lavishly oed body of the leading heroine Zoey Redbird designates her immediately as the Chosen One (cf. Oliver 2011, 38). In Vampire Academy, the number of molnija symbols speaks of the dhampir’s value as a fighter as every mark equals one Strigoi-kill. In this way, as Jana Oliver observes in regard to warrior tattooing, “the warrior skin can act as a walking résumé for anyone able to decipher the symbols” (2011, 36). The celebrity status of the central dhampir heroine Rose Hathaway is additionally confirmed through a unique star-shaped tattoo that indicates her valour in battle and the uncountable number of kills she has performed. For both Zoey and Rose, their tattoos are a source of prestige as they testify to their victories and achievements. However, while Rose actively chooses to inscribe her “résumé” on her skin, Zoey has no say in the matter. Triggered by hormonal reactions (the initial crescent) and completed by Nyx, the vampire Goddess of Night (the ultimate expanded version), the tattoos in House of Night are beyond the vampires’ control. Their pattern, location, time of appearance and their very existence are determined by inner biological forces and an external divine being.12 Throughout her discussion of the empowering aspects of the practice of female tattooing, Nyman emphasises the essentiality of a conscious choice. Drawing on her interviews with tattooed women, she infers that “[t]attoos could be used as a feminist strategy to take charge of one’s own body through actively taking the decision to change it” (2017, 92). This “active agency of tattooing” (Nyman 2017, 75–76) is absent from the Casts’ series. In contrast, in Mead’s novels tattooing typically requires some sort of consent and is usually performed by choice of the bearer, even if this choice may ultimately be regretted. As she takes pride in her society’s work, Sydney Sage, the leading heroine of Bloodlines, agrees to have her cheek tattooed with a golden lily that marks her as an Alchemist. It is not until later that she discovers that the enchanted golden ink is used to subdue and control rebellious or doubting members, eerily echoing the Gothic narrative of the tattoo’s possession of the inscribed body. 12 A similar narration of the vampiric tattoos can be found in Adrian’s Midnight Breed series, where an individual’s markings stem from their genetic makeup (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 81–85). For a detailed analysis of the interplay between the biological and the divine in the origins of the House of Night ’s vampire tattoos, see Oliver (2011).

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The golden lily’s power can, however, be neutralised through another enchanted inscription tattooed over the first. An accomplished witch and a superb chemist, Sydney spends most of the series’ fourth volume searching for the deactivating formula, and finally succeeds. Thus, while in House of Night the tattoos appear, reappear, change or are taken away regardless of their bearer’s volition (though, as Oliver remarks, “always for compelling reasons”; 2011, 35), in Mead’s series, both tattooing and tattoo removal can serve as instruments of empowerment and the enacting of agency over one’s own body and life choices. The tattoos in both series differ considerably also in their aesthetic dimension. The marks in House of Night are highly individualised, with each design visually expressing their bearer’s personality, passions and skills, and often serving to enhance their appearance.13 In contrast, dhampir marks are spartan in their design. Rather than beautifying or facilitating self-articulation, molnija symbols testify to the bearer’s combat skills, visually enhancing the commanding power of the dhampir body. Moreover, in House of Night some designs are gendered—with women’s marks carrying characteristics connoted as “feminine” (intricate lace-like patterns, elegant flowers or motifs related to the Goddess) and the male ones signifying masculine power (fire-breathing dragons, griffin’s claws, arrows and lightning bolts).14 The dhampir molnija tattoos, however, never rely on gender differentiation, and both female and male warriors wear identical marks that differ only in number.15 Regardless of their aesthetic qualities, origins or meanings, both in the Casts’ and Mead’s series, most tattoos need to be earned, whether by completing training, killing an evil being, defeating inner dark instincts or arriving at a life-changing decision. Whether chosen or inscribed by the forces beyond one’s control, more often than not they are worn with pride. Embracing their difference, vampires of House of Night consider

13 For instance, the face of the vampire horse mistress Lenobia is adorned with two rearing horses (Hunted 279); vampire Erik Night’s drama mask tattoo indicates his talent in acting (Chosen 235); and the forehead and cheeks of the poetess Kramisha are ornamented with ever-changing words related to creativity (Loved 23; cf. also 93). The tattoos are described in detail and the narrating Zoey often marvels at their attractiveness. 14 The warrior vampire queen, Sgiach, is an exception as her face is tattooed with swords and blades (Burned 188; Found loc. 423). 15 Similarly, among the Alchemists, tattoos are identical for all the members, regardless of their gender.

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covering their tattoos a dishonour and view them as a sign of “being grown” (Untamed 90). Similarly, dhampirs take pride in their molnija marks. For instance, it is customary that female guardians cut their hair short in order to expose their tattooed necks, readily giving their warrior reputation priority over their looks.

2.2

Such Hot Fangs! Vampirism and Beauty

Within present-day mainstream popular culture, the vampire as an abject figure of aesthetic horror has been largely substituted by a figure of glamour and enthralling beauty.16 While not entirely absent from the narratives of the past, this idealised conceptualisation of the vampire body has taken root in the popular imagination since the worldwide success of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 74–76, 78, 85), and become cemented by Twilight ’s sparkling imagery. Having shed their folkloric persona of a rotting walking corpse or a terrifying spectre, vampires evolved into the apex of the Western physical ideal—the embodied “dream of strength, of perfection, of virtually eternal youth” that banishes any lingering sense of terror or abhorrence (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 51, 96; Franck 2013, 214, 217). The erotically alluring vampires of Twilight, True Blood (HBO 2008–2014) and The Vampire Diaries can serve as radiant examples of this imagery. Today, the trope of the perfect vampiric body has become ingrained in the popular mind, to the point where “unattractive vampire” is regarded as a humorous oxymoron, pushed out of the genre of horror into the realms of comedy: An Unattractive vampire? You may cry “Inconceivable” to that idea, my dear post-twilight audience. How can a vampire be unattractive in this 16 That said, it must be noted that numerous examples of physically repulsive, terrifying or simply ordinary-looking vampires continue to be present in popular culture texts. For instance, in the short-lived series V-Wars (Netflix 2019), vampires turn into figures of horror with disfigured faces and enormous jagged fangs when about to attack. See also Ní Fhlainn’s analysis of the vampire body in John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In (2004) (2019, 223–224, 227). Ní Fhlainn juxtaposes Lindqvist’s vampiric corporeality with that of Rice and Meyer’s creations, emphasising its divergence from the popular contemporary models. Lindqvist’s text, as Ní Fhlainn asserts, “deliberately lingers on the physical perversity of vampirism”, discernible in Eli’s abject, permeable body and Virginia’s horrific transformation (223–224). Furthermore, the vampire continues to exist as a symbol for disease and contamination, their representations intertwined with the traditional zombie formula (Ní Fhlainn 2019, 220).

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century? With their perfect cheekbones and irresistible sex-appeal, their swaying hips, half-open shirts, and such hot fangs!

This ironic comment comes from Sr3yas (2018), a fan of Jim McDoniel’s debut comic novel An Unattractive Vampire (Inkshares 2016).17 Adhering to the genre’s conventions, the protagonists of the vampire series marketed to girls are almost universally characterised by physical attractiveness.18 In Twilight, the process of vampiric transformation famously changes even ordinary-looking humans into otherworldly beauties—“akin to demigods” and “without a trace of corporeal abjection” (Ní Fhlainn 2019, 231). In Michelle Madow’s Dark World: The Vampire Wish series (2017), only the prettiest women are turned into vampires— with their permission or against their will. In Mead’s universe vampirism does not come with a guarantee of eternal beauty and unattractive vampires are not unheard of.19 Nonetheless, all the central heroines (and heroes) are exceptionally good-looking, resembling exotic flowers (BL loc. 718) or angels rather than vampires (VA 3–4).20 In House of Night, physical perfection is an essential characteristic of all vampire women and the novels are replete with detailed descriptions of their bodies.21 The vampress’ spectacle of feminine excess is signified by immaculate skin, luminous eyes of unique shades (“deep, mossy green” or “like a 17 Another reader admits that the novel’s title alone made them laugh (Dana 2016). McDoniel’s vampiric protagonist is ancient Yulric Bile, who returns to the world after several centuries only to discover that he is “too ugly” to be considered a vampire at all. 18 As such, they are inscribed into the wider trends of American fiction; see e.g. Wright (2013, x). 19 Some are described as vulture-looking (VA 17); others struggle with “terrible acne” (RC 7). 20 They are also predominantly White—a construction that could be read as a consid-

erable limitation to the series’ vision of female empowerment. However, racial diversity finds its reflection in the narration of Moroi, Strigoi, dhampirs and humans as racial categories—with taboos and socially imposed limitations indicating racial (and classed) tensions. 21 Noteworthy, the series’ ideal of feminine beauty encompasses women of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, with the Cherokee heritage of the central heroine Zoey (and later, her brother Kevin) repeatedly brought to the forefront. In “There’s No Place Like Home”, Christi Cook examines Zoey’s hybrid identity as a human/vampire and AngloAmerican/Cherokee, construing her escape from the human world with leaving her AngloAmerican self behind and tracing her ever-growing identification with Cherokee culture (2015, 49–52).

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stormy sky”; Marked 51; Betrayed 44), and long, lush waves of silky hair (Marked 51, 149; Betrayed 8; Hunted 279; Untamed 77, 78).22 Above all, their supernatural condition provides vampresses with magical insurance against the ultimate “threats” of the Western bodily ideal: ageing, disability and “fatness”. In her analysis of the unattractive woman figure in American fiction, Charlotte Wright points to words such as “fat”, “old”, “ill, scarred, or deformed” as “conjur[ing] up the image of [female] ugliness” (2013, 18–19). Tracing the development of the youth-centred culture in the twentieth-century economy and market, Rob Latham observes that youth has become “an ideal to be realized through the practices of mass consumption” (2002, 15). Angela Tenga and Elizabeth Zimmerman further reflect on Western body culture as haunted by the “obsessive fear of aging”. Rather than being seen as a natural stage of life, growing old has become construed as a source of distress and mounting anxiety; as undesirable and inevitably linked to the loss of erotic appeal (2013, 79). These negative associations are noticeably gendered, with women disproportionately affected by the cultural stigmatisation of the physical signs of ageing (Kapurch 2016; Engeln 2018, 50–51). These apprehensions over growing old are fuelled by the market, aggressively advertising goods, procedures and fantasies of the restored youth (DeMello 2014; Engeln 2018), and produced by popular culture that continuously feeds women with the imagery of youthfulness as a gendered prerequisite for high social standing and feminine happiness. As a cultural narration, vampirism has long tapped into human angst surrounding the question of ageing. The twentieth-century vampire stories, in particular the novels of Anne Rice, were prominent in their focus on the never-ending youthfulness of the vampire body (PiattiFarnell 2014, 57)—an imagery that continues to flourish in the genre. Immortal by nature or returned from human death, vampires have become the embodiment of human fantasies of eternal life, “a symbol of departure from that which is final, decaying, and impermanent” (PiattiFarnell, 2014, 60–61, 94), and an archetype reflecting the Western

22 Although this falls outside the scope of this chapter, it is worth noting that in House of Night the representations of desirable heterosexual male bodies also closely adhere to the popular stereotypes of the ideal masculine physicality, with the majority of heroes being tall, strong, muscular and powerful-looking warriors.

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economics of the “fetishization of youth” (Latham 2002, 5). A momentary escape from the psychological and social horrors of the senile body, the youthful vampire satiates—if only for as long as we consume the story—the cultural desire to remain ever-young. Within the contemporary YA vampire genre, the themes of ageing and the fantasy of eternal youth are epitomised by Twilight (see e.g. Driscoll 2016, 105, 109–110). Throughout the story, the terror of ageing experienced by the leading heroine Bella is repeatedly brought to the fore—until, as Catherine Coker remarks, “the future is reduced to a fear of growing old” (2010, 73). Bella’s anxiety manifests most clearly in the memorable dream sequence that opens the saga’s second volume, New Moon. There, the terrified heroine finds herself in the body of her own grandmother—“ancient, creased, and withered” (NM 5)—while still remaining in a relationship with the eternally adolescent vampire Edward.23 Similar, if less aching anxieties are expressed by Elena of The Vampire Diaries novels (1991–2014), worried that she will grow old while her vampire boyfriend Stefan “would go on, unaging and beautiful, always eighteen” (DR 26). Neither heroine lacks confidence in her lover’s devotion; yet they still worry about the growing age disparity in their relationships. A complicated love between an ever-youthful male vampire and a human girl unable to escape the passage of time occupies a key place of the romance storyline in a number of vampire tales. This narrative tension is often resolved by the vampire turning his lover into an undead or sustaining her with his rejuvenating blood—assuming the position, as Tenga and Zimmerman frame it, of the “consummate plastic surgeons whose work guarantees eternal youth” (2013, 79).24 Many

23 It is interesting to note that in her description of her grandmother’s body, Bella

focuses almost entirely on various signs of bodily changes connected to age—e.g. white hair, “wasted cheek”, or withered skin “bent into a thousand tiny creases” (New Moon 3–6). This scene has been examined by, among others, Kapurch (2016, 140), Kokkola (2011, 177), and Crossen (2015). 24 This is, for instance, the case in Twilight and Bella Forrest’s A Shade of Vampire series (2012–present), where the heroine is turned into a vampire. In Adrian’s Midnight Breed, women do not age or die as long as they drink from their vampire mates (see Piatti-Farnell 2014, 67). The “plastic surgeon’s” role can also be fulfilled by magical substances, like the water from the Fountain of Eternal Youth and Life, drunk by Elena in Destiny Rising (390). Vampirisation can also be narrated as parental decision, as it is in the case of Ben, a vampire couple’s son, in A Shade of Vampire (CoP).

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stories, however, narrate the promise of immortal youthfulness as deeply problematic, with Rice’s child-vampire Claudia cited as one of the most prominent examples (see e.g. Piatti-Farnell 2014, 57; Auerbach 1995, 154–155; Smith and Moruzi 2020, 613). Within the YA vampire genre, the risks and anxieties linked to the unchangeable body emerge famously in the story of Rosalie Hale of Twilight —vampirised without her consent and endlessly lamenting the loss of her humanity. A character much dissimilar to Rosalie, The Vampire Diaries Elena would still rather die than become a vampire (see e.g. S2E20). While in the novels, Elena finds another way to obtain immortality in order not to part with her lover, the prospect of never-ending life becomes a nightmare after Stefan has been murdered (SU, 10–12). In both the books and the TV series, Elena’s restoration to her mortal, ageing human body is narrated as the desired happy end—one that she is determined to pursue regardless of whether her new vampire paramour chooses to turn back with her. In both the House of Night series and Richelle Mead’s novels, the vampiric life span is prolonged by, respectively, several centuries or decades compared to that of humans. However, as a primarily biological concept, the vampiric condition does not come with a promise of immunity against natural death.25 Nonetheless, in the case of House of Night, it delivers the vampires from the anguishes of ageing. None of the vampresses in the series display signs of age-related bodily deterioration. Even those over a hundred years old “look roughly twenty and definitely hot” (Chosen 5). With her “smooth and flawless” skin, queenly posture and “exotic beauty”, ancient High Priestess Shekinah appears to be in her forties. Rather than through any outer characteristics, Shekinah’s age manifests through the power of her gaze, wisdom and “dignity that she wore like a fine piece of expensive jewelry” (Untamed 77–78; 139). Bodies showing signs of ageing are conspicuous by their absence. The only female character narrated as elderly is Zoey’s human grandmother Sylvia. However, although Zoey describes her as “a zillion years old”, Sylvia is in fact only in her fifties, looking strong, beautiful and, most importantly, ageless (Chosen 24).

25 Mead’s Strigoi are an exception that I discuss later in the chapter. It is unclear whether the new vampiric “race” of red vampires in House of Night is immune to dying of old age.

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In Victorian Melodrama in the Twenty-First Century, Katie Kapurch notes the “crippling effects of postfeminism emphasis on feminine youthfulness”, warning against the hazards of granting youth and youthful appearance an over-privileged position within Western constructions of femininity (Kapurch 2016, 122).26 In House of Night, this postfeminist perspective emerges through the exclusion of visibly aged bodies, obliterated from the story and implicitly Othered through their juxtaposition with the excessively youthful look of nearly all female characters. The normative status of the youthful female body is further confirmed when the leading heroine Zoey expresses her preference for ulcers over wrinkles (Untamed 102) and jokingly complains about her miserable future as a woman “old as dirt—like thirty”; a figure that she would conceal by lying was she not protected from showing signs of age by her vampiric condition (Chosen 4). Interestingly, within the series, the human male– vampire female relationships are narrated as unproblematic in terms of age(ing); and Zoey’s age-related concerns about loving human Heath Luck are quickly dispelled by the boy himself: “Will you … be cool with me outliving you by several hundred years?” Dorklike, he wagged his eyebrows at me. “I can think of worse things than having a hot, young vampyre chic when I’m, like, fifty.” (Betrayed 118)

Heath’s playful response echoes popular understandings of a relationship with a young or young-looking woman as a source of satisfaction and prestige for a mature man. No male vampire in the series becomes involved with a fully human female; therefore, the culturally complicated position of the ageing female body in a romantic relationship remains undiscussed.27 In an interesting shift from the genre’s popular imagery of the everyouthful vampire, the Moroi and dhampirs of Mead’s Vampire Academy 26 In recent years a number of scholarly works have challenged accounts of the postfeminist focus on youthfulness. See Gill (2016, 620), for examples of studies that highlight postfeminist culture’s preoccupation with middle-aged and older women. 27 In a mockumentary horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows (Waititi and Clement 2013), a relationship between senile-looking Katherine (who became a vampire at the age of 96) and the ever-youthful vampire Viago (who is still, as he points out, four times older in the number of years) is used as a vehicle for comic relief—a construction that is telling of the social anxieties related to the ageing female body and romance.

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and Bloodlines are narrated as ageing and ultimately dying in a way comparable to humans. Both series feature elderly characters whose bodies show unmistakable signs of ageing. In Last Sacrifice, young Lissa meets Ekaterina Zeklos, a retired Moroi queen who is over one hundred years old. With a missing fang, yellowed teeth, skin covered with “a maze of wrinkles, and her gray hair … wispy and thin”, Ekaterina looks frail and ancient. However, while clearly describing the signs of her advanced age, the narrative focuses on the old queen’s life experience and devotion to her people. Her power is rooted in neither beauty nor youthfulness; instead, she inspires awe and admiration with her wisdom, dedication and charismatic leadership (loc. 4287, 4291, 6179, 6187, 6188, 6205, 7384). In Mead’s series immortality and unending youthfulness can be achieved only through atrocious means, typically at the cost of the lives of others. This could happen through illicit witchcraft (SS 84; IS 82) or a transformation into a soulless undead. Pursuing eternal youth is therefore narrated as pathological, sinful and intrinsically vampiric—the primary purpose of the Alchemists society is to protect humans from that very temptation. Also Moroi and dhampirs are taught early on that trading one’s soul in exchange for escaping old age and death is the ultimate taboo, and those who are turned by force are mourned as lost forever. The characters who refuse to accept the natural progress of life often suffer severe punishment, their fates serving as harsh cautionary tales. Having turned Strigoi out of a desire to keep their youth and beauty, Lucas and Moira Ozera are exterminated shortly after the Change, abandoning their only son to a life of disgrace. Similarly, when refusing to accept his fatal illness, Moroi Victor Dashkov coerces a young healer to rejuvenate him at the cost of her health, he is sentenced to life in prison and eventually killed by the healer’s friend. As Victor’s example demonstrates, the vampire body in Mead’s series is not only mortal and ageing, but also vulnerable to illness. In “Recent Trends in Children’s Literature Research”, Maria Nikolajeva evokes examples of children’s stories representing bodies with sickness or disability “as an abnormality … [that] must either be eliminated or repaired”. As Nikolajeva emphasises, “[c]onventional solutions of alterity issues were either to eliminate the Other or incorporate it into Own” (2016, 140). In vampire fiction, the latter demand is often satisfied by the process of vampirisation. Physically inept to the extent that she perceives herself as having a disability (cf. Kokkola 2011, 33), Twilight ’s Bella becomes supernaturally fit, strong and agile as soon as she turns. This shift from

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a vulnerable, sick or disabled body into the narrative of extreme ablebodiedness is particularly visible in the House of Night story of Shaylin Ruede, a teenager with visual impairment who becomes healed upon being Marked as a vampire fledgling. As though to compensate for her experience of disability, along with her restored sight Shaylin receives a gift of supernatural vision called True Sight. This enables her to see into a person’s heart and mind—with the vampiric body offering her forms of agency and power unavailable to her previous human self. In Mead’s universe of hyper-able dhampir warriors and vampires bestowed with supernatural health, themes of physical illness are rare. However, vampirism, and particularly vampire spirit magic which heals the sick and wounded and raises the dead, is narrated as causing a variety of mental disorders. A considerable number of young protagonists—vampires, dhampirs and humans—grapple with mental challenges, including depression, suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, self-harming behaviour or neurosis. While it is not uncommon that vampire narratives trivialise mental disorders and valorise self-harming as a legitimate response to depression, resistance to tyranny, evidence of true love or necessary self-sacrifice (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ forthcoming; Kokkola 2011; Fong 2016), Mead’s series position these problems at the centre of the plot, introducing various coping strategies and working against the discourses that associate mental problems with a sense of shame and personal inadequacy.28

2.3 You Don’t See Fat Vamps: The Meanings of Body Size When Sydney Sage, the eighteen-year-old human-witch heroine of Bloodlines, begins her senior year at a private high school in Palm Springs, California, she is well prepared to meet the multiple challenges of her new situation. Assigned with protection of a vampire princess Jill, Sydney helps her adjust to her new life as a high school student, dutifully attends to 28 Albeit to a lesser extent, the authors of the Other World series also raise problems of substance abuse and adolescent depression. For a detailed analysis of representations of mental and mood disorders, self-harming and suicide in twenty-first century vampire narratives, with a primary focus on Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, see Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ forthcoming. Cf. also Darragh (2016).

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the needs of her entourage, and responds effectively to various vampirerelated crises. In the meantime, she smashes a dangerous drug-dealing group, works diligently on developing her magical abilities, and even manages dating, all the while exceeding expectations in every single class. What Sydney is not prepared for is to receive her high school uniform in a size four (small) at the fittings instead of size two (extra small). Mortified, she immediately begins to perceive her body as “huge”, “frumpy” and “awkward”—particularly when compared with the skinny frame of her vampire roommate Jill (BL loc. 1094–1104; GL 28). Although painfully aware that the emaciated vampiric silhouette is unattainable to humans, Sydney follows a starvation diet in order to near what she considers the ideal feminine body type. The centrality of the “cult of thinness” in contemporary Western discourses of beauty has now long been the subject of academic investigation and fierce public debates.29 The popularity of weight-loss reality shows, soaring profits of diet industries, constant demand for slimming products and the bodily images promoted through popular culture all testify to Western societies’ growing preoccupation with body size and the fear of “fatness”.30 Research shows that a slender body has come to represent—or indeed, to equate to—well-being, achievement and physical attractiveness, as well as the high social standing and economic status that enable the consumption of slimming products and services. In contrast, a body marked as overweight frequently implicates limitations of social and professional opportunities, prejudiced representations in media and pejorative social perceptions. Within this context, an individual’s bodily constitution becomes transposed onto their emotional and psychological constitution, and condemned (“the fat”) or idealised (“the thin”) through the discursive link to traits such as self-control, discipline, competence, modernity, and even morality and intelligence.31 Lindsey Averill

29 For a review of research on the meanings associated with slim- and large-size bodies in non-Western cultures, see e.g. Grogan (2017, 29–30). 30 Following the example of Murray (2008), I put terms such as “fatness” and “fat” in inverted commas to acknowledge the ambiguities surrounding these problematic notions in the contemporary cultural, political and medical discourses, and to recognise their relative, arbitrary and politicised character. 31 See e.g. DeMello (2014, 201–203), Averill (2016), Bosc (2018), Bordo (2003), Engeln (2018, 113–116), Grogan (2017, 11–14), Murray (2008), Younger (2009, chap. 1). See further Grogan (2017, 13–14), for a concise review of research on weight

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encapsulates such discourses on the body within the concept of “thinthinking”—a perspective that privileges slim bodies and feeds into the understanding of “fatness” “as a catastrophic failure or weakness, which must be addressed and corrected” (2016, 15–16). As Margo DeMello concludes, “fat shaming and sizeism seem to be the last remaining acceptable forms of discrimination in the West” (2014, 192). This unrelenting social pressure to be(come) thin affects primarily women (see e.g. Harjunen 2017; Engeln 2018; Murray 2008). In The “Fat” Female Body, Samantha Murray points to the early practices of gendering “fatness” and linking large size in women to moral and aesthetic failure. As Murray concludes, this perspective continues to inform the discourses of “fatness” even today, narrating “fat” bodies “as aesthetic and ethical affront” to the social values of health and feminine desirability (2008, 1–3, 7). The culturally produced desire to be thin forms a strong connection between women’s (self-)image and weight. As Helen Malson (2003) asserts, the experiences of “fatness” and “thinness” have become essential for the process of defining womanhood, and issues surrounding body weight remain a source of anxiety for many women. Girl cultures in particular are preoccupied with slenderness, and continue to embrace a slim silhouette as a standard of feminine beauty. According to the data gathered by Renee Engeln in Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women, girls experience dissatisfaction with their body shape and size much more often than boys, and many express concerns about their appearance before they even reach their tween years (2018, 17–18, 40–46).32 The idea of slenderness as vital to successful girlhood emerges early in the texts marketed to pre-teen girls, and continues to be presented as a matter of great importance in fiction for adolescents.33 In her analysis of female body image in stigmatisation and Averill (2016, 16–17), for further readings on the historical development on the discursive link between body size and moral virtue within Western culture. 32 Quoted after the Polish translation by Marta Bazylewska, Obsesja pi˛ekna. Jak kultura popularna krzywdzi dziewczynki i kobiety (2018). 33 A frequently evoked example is the internationally popular Barbie doll, repeatedly crit-

icised for embodying the impossibly skinny female body ideal and for socialising children into the “cult of thinness”. According to Lauren Bosc, a similar function is performed by fairy tales, which tend to privilege slim bodies and to position the larger ones “as antithetical to the fairy-tale dream, as a threatening figure to be fought and overthrown, and/or as the butt of a joke” (2018, 255). Bosc further states that “[i]n the fairy tale

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novels for young readers, Beth Younger sheds light on the girl culture’s continuing celebration of thinness, noting that young female power and self-esteem often depend on bodily size and shape. The slim body is linked with responsibility, agency and socially accepted sexual conduct, while large bodies are narrated as signifying lack of control and the loss of feminine value (2009, 8 and chap. 1). In YA literature, as Michele Byers reminds us, large-sized characters have been traditionally cast in the roles of “‘befores,’ cautionary tales, or lonelies” (2018, 159). Although within the recent years the number of books that attempt to challenge the privileging of thin bodies has been on the rise (Averill 2016; Byers 2018), the majority of the best-selling YA literature remains embedded in thinthinking, pathologising “fat” bodies and narrating their girl protagonists as slim—either from the beginning or following a successful makeover (Averill 2016, 17–18). Furthermore, as pointed out by both Byers (2018) and Averill (2016), even the novels that feature corpulent heroines who (come to) accept and like their bodies, fail to envision a world free of thin-thinking, and therefore do not explore the possibility of putting an end to the structural discrimination of the “fat” body. Within the vampire genre marketed to girls, thinness constitutes an established norm. As the pinnacle of the Western ideal of physical beauty, vampires rarely struggle with the issue of weight.34 The few corpulent bloodsucking characters are marginalised, ridiculed or killed off (like overweight Eddie, played by Stephen Root in True Blood’s first season), or used for comic effect, produced by the clash between the cultural imageries of “fatness” and “vampire”.35 It is, therefore, hardly unexpected that the heroines of the series analysed in this volume are all gracefully slim, “totally skinny”, resembling ballerinas and runway models, or have strong, well-toned bodies with feminine curves (see e.g. imaginary … [desirable] princesses are helpless and thin” (2018, 252). While in the stories of today, the first prerequisite is often no longer valid, the second is rarely challenged, and a lean figure remains essential in portraying heroines. 34 Admittedly, in some stories even vampresses need to be careful about their diet in order to maintain or reach the desirable thin silhouette; see e.g. Claudia Gray’s Evernight (2008, 185), where vampire girls reduce their typical intake of blood to improve their figures before a school dance (Smith and Moruzi 2018, 13). 35 An interesting take on the vampire body can be found in Johnny B. Truant’s sixvolume Fat Vampire literary series (Sterling & Stone 2012–2013) or Fat Vampire. A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex (Balzer + Bray 2010); both feature overweight vampires as central protagonists and mix the elements of comedy and horror.

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see e.g. Marked 51, 84, 93; Betrayed 44; VA 51; GL 410–411). Slenderness appears to be particularly valued in House of Night, with the protagonists repeatedly taking notice of, contemplating and commenting upon their own and others’ sizes and shapes. Packing for her new life in the vampire school, the main heroine Zoey takes care to choose clothes that are “slimming” (Marked 23), and judges the fashion choices of her newly met roommate as “making her butt look wide” (Marked 84). Even on the verge of death, with her chest slashed open by a demon’s claw, Zoey feels self-conscious about her weight as she notices the fatigue of the boy who carries her to safety (Hunted 117). Reflecting the cultural stigmatisation of “fat”, large-bodied figures are mostly absent from the storyline. The few who make a fleeting appearance are often linked with negative characteristics, like narrowmindedness, poor hygiene, laziness or even cruelty. For instance, a briefly mentioned babysitter who behaved violently towards a small child is described as “horrid and, may I say, fat, poorly dressed” (Untamed 238, emphasis original)—a depiction that conflates her body size, class status and lack of fashion awareness with her despicable character. Other obese women—mentioned only in passing—are described as lacking dental hygiene (Untamed 175) or as members of a hateful religious movement, accompanied by “their beady-eyed pedophile husbands” (Marked 31). Designating large-sized bodies as undesirable in terms of romance and/or vampiric consumption, vampire fledgling Damien exercises to “stay properly svelte and attractive for [his boyfriend] Jack” (Awakened 57), emphasising that “a chubby gay is not a happy gay” (Awakened 56); his friend Aphrodite, in turn, ridicules the concerns of humans stuck in her vampire school: “Why would anyone want to eat any of them? Most of them are fat anyway! Eesh!” (Redeemed 177; cf. also 147). The only “chubby” person described in more detail is a vampire fledgling called Elliott, a negligible character with no positive traits.36 In House of Night, maintaining the “right” body size is both a question of social acceptance and the subject of the school’s policy. While fully developed vampires are narrated as highly unlikely to become overweight regardless of their lifestyle (“You don’t see fat vamps but you also don’t see them chewing on celery and carrots and picking at salads”), 36 Zoey criticises also the bodies of girls “who puked and starved themselves into what they thought was Paris Hilton chic”, further complicating the navigation of the terrain of the “right” bodily size for girls (Marked 51).

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young fledglings are required to eat healthily and exercise every day in order not to become “weak or fat or sick” (Marked 108–111, 221). Gaining weight is presented as one of the symptoms of the fatal rejection of the Change (the transformation of the fledgling into a full vampire), and usually precedes the gruesome death of the affected teenager (see e.g. Marked 111). Thus, bodily size is not only a question of aesthetics or social success; it is literally a matter of life and death—with a slender physique implicating survival, and “fat”, deviant bodies eradicated from the vampire world.37 Similarly, to some extent, Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines present slenderness as intrinsic to being a living vampire. The Moroi are described as genetically slim, with Moroi girls in particular sporting the thin, tall and somewhat androgynous physique of a super-model, that requires neither fitness nor diet regimes to maintain. However, in these series, the inhumanely slim vampiric figure is employed as a metaphor for the unreachable body ideal fed to girls and women by popular culture. This imagery is clearly present in the story of Sydney in Bloodlines. In an eerie echo of the obsession over the “ideal” silhouette stimulated by unrealistic beauty standards, the human/witch heroine strives to attain the vampiric figure. She denies herself food (“I selected a yogurt, which looked sad and lonely in the middle of my otherwise empty tray”; BL loc. 3756), neurotically avoids sugar and longs for a “normal”—that is extra small—clothing size (BL loc. 1107). The cultural pressure to be thin is epitomised by Sydney’s dysfunctional father Jared Sage. Jared requires his daughter to accomplish the impossible by moulding her own body into a size and shape that is no longer human. Mirroring the sociological findings regarding the attributes associated with slim and “fat” bodies, he perceives his daughter’s size as a physical manifestation of her self-discipline, orderliness and moral virtue. Scolding Sydney for what he considers an insufficiently slender figure, Jared taunts her by evoking the slimness of vampires, wondering why his daughter cannot achieve what “those monsters” could (BL loc. 3769). In her father’s eyes, Sydney’s not-thin-enough body equals moral failure—a sign that she has been bested by the creatures of the night. Using her 37 Furthermore, in Redeemed, the series’ arch-villainess Neferet chooses to first murder all her hostages who are categorised as “[f]at, ugly, and unimpressively dressed”, once again linking larger size with laziness (“I wager their blood tastes like sloth”; 199) and death.

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physical image as a tool with which to instil feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and to shame her into subordination, Jared exerts his patriarchal power over what he perceives as the malleable female body. This imagery is further reinforced by his failing to discuss any criteria concerning male bodies—an oversight that divorces male physique from notions of competence, morality and success. With Jared’s gaze constantly monitoring and evaluating her body (“My father eyed me from head to toe and showed his approval at my appearance … by simply withholding criticism.”; BL loc. 83; see also FH 287), Sydney begins to display a range of symptoms resembling anorexia nervosa (see e.g. DeMello 2014, 197–198). She becomes an obsessive perfectionist and a strict self-disciplinarian, suffering from a distorted body image and eating disorder (IS 45). Scholarly studies point to the connection between body dissatisfaction and exposure to idealised, digitally altered body images, particularly for young women. Following Susan Bordo (2003), Sarah Grogan notes that these images work to transform the viewer’s perception of female bodies and to depict them as inadequate if they fail—as most of them do—to adhere to “an unrealistic, polished, slimmed and smoothed ideal” (2017, 24). In her analysis of dress codes and clothing consumption in Twilight, Sarah Heaton shows how this unreachable model materialises in the cultural figure of the glamorous vampress, whom she compares to the inhumanely beautiful fashion icons in women’s magazines. Describing Alice and Rosalie Cullen as walking “images of perfect femininity”, she draws attention to the feelings of body shame that they inspire in other female characters (2013, 86, 88; cf. Ní Fhlainn 2019, 231). Similarly, for Sydney in Bloodlines it is vampires that take up the role of the photoshopped models of glossy magazines, and the heroine looks at their figures with envy and wistfulness: “[T]hey could all eat whatever they wanted and still keep those amazing bodies. Meanwhile, I labored over every calorie and still couldn’t reach that level of perfection. … I felt enormous by comparison” (GL 44; see also BL loc. 1103, 1104). As Sydney gradually distances herself from her toxic father and engages in a supportive relationship with vampire Adrian Ivashkov, her attitude towards her body evolves (see e.g. FH 287). Refusing to trivialise her eating disorder, Adrian confronts her about the absurdity of her struggle for vampiric thinness (while introducing her, step by step, to the previously self-forbidden pleasure of desserts):

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He fixed me with a disconcertingly hard look. “Maybe everyone else thinks your aversion to food is cute—but not me. I’ve watched you watch Jill. Here’s some tough love: you will never, ever have her body. Ever. It’s impossible. She’s Moroi. You’re human. That’s biology. You have a great [body] … and you’d look even better if you put on a little weight.” (GL 410–411)

In the fifth volume of Bloodlines, Silver Shadows, Sydney is accused of betraying the Alchemists and locked up in a prison, called a re-education centre. Here, food is used as a punishment and a weapon to break her morale. During the procedure tellingly called “purging”, the heroine is repeatedly subjected to a debilitating, chemically induced nausea and violent vomiting, an experience that renders her unable to digest even her favourite food, typically served immediately after as additional torture. While demonstrating the ruthlessness of the Alchemists, this imagery can also be construed as a metaphor for Sydney’s struggles against her eating disorder—one that she ultimately overcomes with the help of her boyfriend and friends (see e.g. IS 213). Remarkably, the teenage vampress Jill, who in the eyes of Sydney possesses an ideal body, is also narrated as struggling with her selfperception and size-related insecurities. Her thinness (and other vampiric features) makes her feel conspicuous, and she has difficulties fitting in with her human peers, who at times tease her about her unusual appearance. While Sydney resolves her problem with the help of her loved ones and through practicing magic (an energy-consuming activity that requires an increased calorie intake), Jill finds new confidence through modelling, in which her body type is appreciated and sought after (BL loc. 3774). However, Jill’s troubles make it clear that the extra small size so desired by Sydney does not guarantee a girl’s positive relationship to her body. Contemplating different body types and standards of beauty among various “species”, their dhampir friend Rose concludes that “[e]veryone wanted what she couldn’t have” (VA 51).

2.4 No One Mourns the Ugly: Beauty, Style and Belonging In Plain and Ugly Janes, Charlotte Wright observes that within American fiction heroines that are considered “less-than-lovely” “are hopelessly outnumbered by the pretty ones” (2013, x). As Roy Fisher, Ann Harris

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and Christine Jarvis argue in Education and Popular Culture, “apparently, as a society, we are unable to accept the overweight, geeky and unattractive as our heroes and heroines … Beautiful people receive preferential treatment; the less attractive are disregarded or ridiculed” (2008, 125).38 Inscribing into that wider trend, “ugliness” is rarely featured in the series under analysis. Furthermore, in House of Night, the “ugly” body often translates into non-physical negative characteristics, and is fashioned as a marker of insignificance, moral corruption or monstrosity. “Ugly” characters are typically cast as villains and fools to be disregarded, changed or killed off. Among the beautiful vampire fledglings, the few “uglies” stand out, eliciting distaste and contempt. When Zoey notices for the first time her unattractive classmate Elliott, she uses her narrative power to reduce him to “something red and bushy on the other side of the room”—an unkempt, nose-picking “slug” (Marked 137–139, 188–189). Later on, she finds his presence at a meeting of the elite school society Dark Daughters astonishing and out of place because of his looks: “[T]here wasn’t one ugly, dorky-looking kid present. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, except Elliott was attractive. He definitely didn’t belong” (Marked 188– 189). As it soon transpires, Elliott has been invited to the ceremony only to donate his blood—a disgraceful role reserved for the students with the lowest status in the school’s hierarchy. When other participants demean Elliott as “a loser”, “nothing” and “a snack bar”, Zoey seconds their invectives, nicknaming the boy “Elliott the Refrigerator” (the ultimate insult among fledglings) and deeming him “a gross choice” for a drink (Marked 204, 217). Early in the narrative, it becomes clear that Elliott’s exterior matches his personality. Arrogant and lazy, he sleeps through his classes, disregards his teachers and offends other students (Marked 139– 140). When in Marked Elliott bleeds to death in front of his classmates, no one truly mourns him (296–298).39

38 Cf. DeMello where she refers to various studies uncovering the same trends within the wider society. According to these analyses, individuals who fail to adhere to the culturally defined standards of beauty are at a disadvantage in terms of romantic relationships or professional opportunities; attractive people, in turn, tend to be viewed favourably and associated with high social status and happiness (2014, 181). 39 Later on, Elliott returns from death only to meet his ultimate end as an outcast of the vampire community, sentenced to perish in the desert, as he associates himself with an expelled evil vampire in order to avoid schoolwork (Revealed 213–216).

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While villainous characters can initially be presented as attractive, in some cases their beauty deteriorates along with their morality. As the series progresses, the stunning vampire priestess Neferet gradually turns monstrous, her alliance with Darkness rendering her body a site of horror and abjection. Stepping away from the path of the Goddess, the fallen vampress enters the terrain of the uncivilised and undomesticated. She leaves her former home at the school to inhabit dark and eerie spaces— a hidden grotto and then an atrocious mock-temple created through terror and death. Neferet’s body becomes depicted as “wild”—unclad and/or barefoot, manifesting insectile and reptilian qualities, floating on the snake-like tendrils of Darkness and able to dissolve into swarms of spiders (Hunted 269; Found loc. 3607, 5360). At the end of the Other World series, no trace is left of her spellbinding beauty: her limbs become unnaturally elongated, her body skeletal and her movements animalistic until she resembles a “super, super gross … mixture between a spider and a praying mantis and a human” (Found loc. 2979, 2349). A dramatic transformation is also located in her face, particularly her mouth and eyes. In their respective studies of Twilight, Kathryn Kane and Clare Reed point to the saga’s narrative shift from the traditional focus on the vampiric mouth onto the vampiric eyes. Juxtaposing the Cullens with the Dracula archetype—portrayed “by the life of his mouth and the deadness of his eyes”—Reed observes that the eye-focused images of Twilight humanise the vampire, neutralising the danger traditionally signalled by the monster’s devouring lips and teeth (2013, 135). As their eyes change colour depending on the character’s moral choice (to drink or to abstain from human blood), they truly become, in the words of Piatti-Farnell, “a window into the vampire’s ethical sense” (2014, 22, 23; cf. Kane 2010, 107). This trope recurs in other mainstream stories for young adults. The mutable eyes of the bloodsucking characters in the televised version of The Vampire Diaries are transformed whenever they feed, darkening, sometimes bloodshot, with alarming black veins appearing on the skin underneath. In Mead’s series, a frightening if subtle eye metamorphosis is, along with the whitened skin, the only immediately visible sign of a character’s transformation into a Strigoi. Those who have joined the ranks of the undead develop a “sickening red ring around [their] pupils”, along with a somewhat less detectable “soulless, malicious gleam” (BP 282). Similarly, manifesting the “deadness” of the Dracula archetype, the eyes of the evil red fledglings of House of Night are devoid of emotion and gleam

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“dirty red” (Betrayed 241, 281)—their colour communicating Otherness and bloodlust (cf. Piatti-Farnell 2014, 23). While the eyes of priestess Neferet do not acquire scarlet undertones, they do regress from “deep, mossy green” (Marked 51) into smooth emerald “creepy marbles” with no pupils at all—a transformation that Zoey narrates as a sign of Neferet’s madness (Redeemed 94). Furthermore, her aura begins to mirror the milky colour and lifeless expression of the eyes of a dead fish, testifying to the “deadness” of her soul and earning her the moniker of “Dead Fish Eye Lady” among the students (Destined 133). At the same time, Neferet’s mouth becomes an outlet of her monstrous inner self—an abject instrument of horror and murder: “[S]he began to smile, and her wide, beautiful mouth stretched and stretched and stretched until, with a horrible gagging sound, spiders exploded from that gaping maw” (Hunted 269). The strong interdependence between inner and outer metamorphoses is further evidenced through the story of Zoey’s best friend Stevie Rae. After rejecting the Change, Stevie Rae returns as one of the red fledglings—creatures that are cast in the mould of the folkloric vampires and zombies, preying on blood and flesh. With long yellow fingernails and a stench of decay, red fledglings resemble corpses—“the walking undead … with no humanity left within them at all” (Chosen 39).40 As in the case of Neferet, the “ugliness” of their bodies (and souls) is further signified by the animal imagery evoked by the narrating Zoey.41 As the ultimate Others—“something else. Something wrong” (Betrayed 268)— red fledglings are grotesque and animal-like: they snarl, hiss and bare their pointed teeth in hunger or rage (Hunted 51; Betrayed 241, 281). The horrifying transformation of Stevie Rae into a bloodthirsty monstress is narrated primarily through the lens of her body. With her unwashed hair and baggy, mismatched clothes, the fledgling heroine hardly resembles her pretty and well-groomed former iteration, and explicitly links her loss of self with her repulsive appearance: “I’m not who I was. I’m dirty and disgusting” (Chosen 47). When Zoey first meets her friend after her resurrection, Stevie Rae is about to bleed a homeless woman. Rather than feeling horror at the prospective murder, in her 40 Like classical zombies, most are also deprived of individuality; they move in a horde, indistinguishable from one another (cf. Tenga and Zimmerman 2013, 76, 80). 41 For the animal imagery as a signifier of female “ugliness” in American fiction, see Wright (2013, 19).

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narration of the scene Zoey focuses on the bodies of both the assailant and the victim. Filled with revulsion at their dishevelled, unhygienic state, she explains that she is “too disgusted to be scared or even freaked out” (Chosen 42).42 It is, thus, hardly surprising that Zoey immediately thinks of “a long, soapy shower, and … some real clothes” as a logical solution to her friend’s predicament (Chosen 46). “I know when I look like crap I usually feel like crap, too. Maybe that’s part of why you feel so bad”— she wonders (Chosen 123). Zoey’s theory proves to be correct, and Stevie Rae begins to re-establish her humanity through restoring her unkempt body to its former neat state. Brimming with anger and sorrow, the red fledgling becomes much more approachable as soon as she takes a shower and changes into a clean set of clothes. Once she resolves to choose good over evil, her body is transformed along with her soul; her eyes lose their feral red gleam and her repellent smell is never mentioned again. She regains her former physical attractiveness and becomes magically embellished with an exquisite tattoo, signifying the grace of the Goddess and the fledgling’s maturation into a fully developed vampire.43 In the heroine’s journey from a monstrous zombie to a “good” red vampire, clothing seems to be of particular importance. It is not until Zoey mentions Stevie Rae’s favourite Roper jeans and cowboy boots that she succeeds in reaching her lost friend: “I saw the flicker in her eyes and knew I’d managed to touch the old Stevie Rae” (Chosen 47– 48). Ravenous and forlorn, Stevie Rae gives in to her newly awakened monstrosity, preying on the homeless and claiming to find pleasure in murder (Chosen 47); she weeps, however, at the sight of her old cherished clothes (Chosen 129).

42 Rather alarmingly, the victim is described by Zoey as resembling “a big trash bag full of garbage”. As the heroine urges Stevie Rae to let go, she emphasises the danger of contracting lice rather than of causing another person’s death (Chosen 42–43). Similarly, when remembering the forceful feedings (and possibly killings) that she committed in her evil days, Stevie Rae emphasises her feelings of disgust at consuming a “wino”. Ignoring the atrocity of the violent act, she reminisces about the resulting hangover and her “burp[ing] cheap wine for days” (Hunted 154)—a troubling narration that deserves separate analysis. 43 A similar transformation is experienced by Other Kevin, Zoey’s brother living in an alternative world, who is stripped of his death-and-decay smell as soon as he chooses good in Loved. Along with Stevie Rae, other red fledglings who renounce Darkness are restored to their previous well-groomed and attractive bodies—a transformation that testifies to their inner change.

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In Girls, Style, and School Identities, Shauna Pomerantz articulates the centrality of style in the complex processes of performing and negotiating various iterations of girlhood. Countering the popular, narrowly defined discourses of girls’ style as inconsequential (“just fashion”), Pomerantz points to its significance as “a touchstone for social sensibilities … a litmus test for shifting cultural values and norms” (2008, 3). A capacious category comprising clothing, accessories and bodily ornamentation, style is an avenue in which to express, negotiate and enact one’s identity and agency, distance and belonging; an instrument of social in/exclusion; a possibility of resistance against normative femininity and gendered social hierarchies (Pomerantz 2008). Style can also be a powerful instrument of social pressure, considered essential for a shared group identity, as girls who fall short of peer expectations related to appearance have been reported to experience ostracism and social stigma (Tazzyman 2017, 103– 104, 108, 110). Thus, contrary to postfeminist discourse that positions style as a matter of free choice and self-expression, sociological studies point to gendered norms, peer behaviour and the desire to “fit in” as determining factors in young women’s decisions about their appearance. In House of Night, mastering and performing “the right sort of style” is narrated as crucial to successfully navigating the complex terrain of a vampire high school (Franck 2013, 217).44 Echoing the significance of “matching appearances” for group belonging, discussed in Tazzyman’s study (2017, 103–104), the newly Marked Zoey wonders about vampire dress codes, considering a change of her look in order to fit in (Marked 6, 23). The heroine shudders with dismay at the traditional vampire aesthetics—“all kinda creepy and pale with bad hair and those long, nasty fingernails”, gloomy black clothing and Goth makeup (Untamed 29–30; Marked 6; Chosen 46)—and is relieved to discover that this look is no longer in vogue. It soon transpires, however, that other stringent rules of style continue to hedge about the boundaries of vampire girlhood.

44 This conclusion applies not only to girls, but also to boys, albeit to a lesser extent.

When Zoey meets Jack Twist, she immediately links his bodily image to his social prospects at the school: “He was cute, in a studious kind of a way … Clearly he was one of those geeky kids who is a dork, but a likable dork with potential (translation: he bathes and brushes his teeth, plus has good skin and hair and doesn’t dress like a total loser)”. (Betrayed 139).

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In her analysis of shame as an inherent experience of girls in vampire genre, Mia Franck (2013) employs the notion of “the controlling girlgaze” (den kontrollerande flickblicken) in order to discuss how girl bodies are constituted in House of Night. Self-directed and/or exercised by others, den kontrollerande flickblicken wields a disciplinary power, subjecting girl bodies to rigorous surveillance and propelling girls to perform “the right sort of style” in order to avoid shame (Franck 2013, 217). From female characters criticised for “dress[ing] like a hick” or “freak” (Chosen 107; Marked 6), to dubbing those with the “wrong” kind of makeup “those loser girls … [who] look like scary raccoons” (Marked 114), the controlling girl-gaze is repeatedly employed by the series’ protagonists, as they routinely scrutinise both their own and other students’ bodies. A striking example of this can be found in Betrayed when Zoey’s friends spur one another to “check out” a new fledgling. “[F]rom shoes to earrings—in one fast glance”, they inspect her body with a “sharp, fashion-wise gaze” and dismiss her style as “just tragic” (Betrayed 1). Along with “bad taste”, an unstylish look is sometimes narrated as signalling limited intelligence. In Burned, Stevie Rae judges an unfashionably dressed security guard as having a “little pea brain”, as “[n]o one under the age of eighty with a big brain wears grandpa pants pulled all the way to their underarms” (59). The fleeting appearance of these and other marginal characters fulfils a cautionary function, highlighting the social costs of failing to abide by the established standards of style. The centrality of bodily image to the constitution of school’s hierarchy—a dynamics of power that has been observed in sociological research (Tazzyman 2017)—is evident both in the House of Night friendship relations and in some of the school’s policies. For instance, one of the main female characters, Aphrodite, is described (if somewhat ironically) as a girl who “didn’t believe in ugly friends”, with another girl student approved as “definitely attractive enough to hang with Aphrodite” (Hunted 11, 29). Even the question of the membership in the Dark Daughters is at least partly reliant on the candidate’s look—when Zoey hesitates on whether to join this prestigious school society, she is reassured that she will fit right in as she is “beautiful enough to be one of them” (Marked 231).45 Even years later, as high priestesses and teachers, 45 Aware of the injustice of that rule, Zoey declares that membership cannot be based on appearance after she has assumed the leadership of the Dark Daughters (Betrayed 37).

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young vampire heroines remain preoccupied with questions of appearance and style. Upon meeting new fledgling Kacie in Forgotten, they discuss her look appreciatively and in detail. Three out of four reasons for Aphrodite’s fondness for Kacie are linked to the fledgling’s style and beauty (142). They also nickname Kacie “Ice Cream Shoes” after the designer wedges she is wearing—a constant reminder of appearance and style as determinants of the self (143). As the “right” appearance and self-presentation is narrated as essential to performing successful young femininity, it is hardly surprising that look ranks high on the girls’ list of interests and priorities.46 Girl fledglings take time to fix their makeup before going to the school canteen (Marked 87) and rush to purchase haircare products as soon as they are delivered from an evil hex (Hunted 53). Conforming to the cultural ideals that stimulate increasing attention to one’s physical image, the themes of look and style routinely emerge in the characters’ conversations and thoughts, projecting the message that “[y]ou can’t be too careful about those kinds of things” (Marked 105).47

2.5 Velvet! Platinum! Pearls! Vampire Girls as Consumers In the universe of House of Night, the notion of “right style” carries classed connotations, and is closely linked with consumerism and economic power. Vampires have long been associated with the accumulation of wealth, and read as a metaphor for capitalist greed and consumerist excess.48 In Consuming Youth, Rob Latham identifies the

46 It is worth noting that male homosexual characters appear as invested in the question of style as their female friends—a construction that will be commented upon in the next chapter. 47 At times, this produces a comic effect, like when sassy fledgling Erin is shocked into silence when her friend jokes about her hair (Marked 2015). Even the issue of substance abuse is discussed in terms of physical appeal, as smoking marijuana apparently makes attractive boys “less hottie” (Betrayed 56). This emphasis on the glamorous and stylish feminine body partially abates in the House of Night sequel, the Other World series. Already on the first pages of Loved, the narrating Zoey recalls that she introduced a more relaxed dress codes as soon as she became the new High Priestess—a piece of information followed by Zoey going to breakfast in slippers and sweat pants (16). 48 See e.g. Reed (2013, 142–143), Piatti-Farnell (2014, 110, 181–191), Wilson Overstreet (2006), and Latham (2002). An interesting take on vampirism and capitalism can

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figures of vampire and cyborg as the very embodiment of the consumerist ethos pervading contemporary youth culture, revealing its “ensnarement in the norms and ideologies of consumption” (2002, 1). In the famous vampire stories, such as Twilight, Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001–2013) and True Blood, the literary and televised versions of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals series (the CW 2013–2018) or J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood novels (2005–present), to name but a few, luxurious cars, deluxe housing and the ability to purchase expensive gifts are taken for granted both by the protagonists and the genre’s fans (see e.g. Piatti-Farnell 2014, 189).49 As Tenga and Zimmerman conclude, the contemporary undead are living the ultimate Western “consumer dream” and invite their aficionados to pursue that dream with them (2013, 81).50 Adhering to the genre’s convention, the House of Night vampires are a society of considerable affluence (see e.g. Marked 71; Loved 18). The importance of economic wealth—and its association with prestige and power—is recurrently highlighted. As one of the fledgling girls resentfully responds when accused of drinking cheap wine—“I don’t do cheap anything” (Hunted 26).51 The vampires’ socio-economic privilege and exceptional status is particularly evident in their lavish attire (cf. Heaton 2013, 86–87). Clad in opulent evening gowns, silk suits and immaculate white shirts, vampire priestesses look “like something that should be in a chic Calvin Klein ad”—regardless of whether they lead a highlevel meeting or groom their horse (Hunted 279; see also Hunted 165; Betrayed 9). Girl protagonists pay close attention to the latest fashion

be found in Daybreakers (Spierig and Spierig 2009), a film that, as Ní Fhlainn elucidates, “articulates the growing horror of the neoliberal agenda by using its vampires as precarious subjects at the mercy of hyper-capitalism” (2019, 245) On the anti-Semitic tropes in the Gothic genre, and the associations between the image of the wealth-accumulating vampire and Jewishness, see Reed (2013). 49 Note Driscoll, about the ways in which Twilight ’s Bella resists and critiques the commodification of girlhood and girl consumer culture, both as a human and a vampire (2016, 101–102). 50 See the authors’ brief analysis of the items for sale promoted through and sold thanks to the audience’s engagement with the Twilight films and books; Tenga and Zimmerman (2013, 81). 51 Another student intends to pursue a career that comes with an “unlimited golden card” and a celebrity position rather than becoming a poet despite her exceptional talent, as “poets, they don’t make no money” (Hunted 67).

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trends, and clothes and clothing accessories are presented as exceptionally desirable and of primary significance in various social situations (see e.g. Untamed 136, 242; Hunted 141). For instance, while preparing for the school’s cleansing ritual, Zoey and her friends take time to admire one another’s new apparel, “curtseying, bowing, and making cute little spins”, delighting in their “killer”, “cute” and “majorly cool” looks (Untamed 303–304). Their celebration of a spiritual event with fashion consumption and beauty rituals—one that equates new beginnings with new attire—highlights the series’ postfeminist perspective on embodied girlhood. Although by no means a new phenomenon, commercial culture targeted at young women has become, as argued by Angela McRobbie, an essential part of the Western constructions of girlhood, with “commercial values now occupy[ing] a critical place in the formation of the categories of youthful femininity” (2008, 3, 5; see also Harris 2004, 87). The neoliberal and postfeminist discourses of girlhood position the girl as strongly invested in the consumerist culture of feminine glamour, linking consumption with the narratives of choice, empowerment, success, girl power and political activism (see e.g. Bellas 2017, 8–10; Harris 2004, 85–90; McRobbie 2008; Toffoletti 2008). As observed by Kim Toffoletti, the postfeminist girl is narrated as enacting her agency through material and sexual consumption in a neoliberal context of economic freedom, “which appear as central features of post-feminist orthodoxy” (2008, 72). Evoking the discursive associations that link femininity and vampirism with rampant consumption, the vampire girl of House of Night embodies the ultimate high-end consumer. Girl heroines regularly engage in purchasing designer products, and carefully take note of the labels, emphasising their importance (see e.g. Marked 81; Betrayed 106, 111; Hunted 141, 297). The leading heroine describes herself as “[s]peechless with happiness” and hearing “the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ crescendo” when gifted with a necklace from “the fabulously exclusive and amazingly expensive Moody’s Fine Jewelry” (Chosen 10–15). It is noteworthy that Zoey’s first reaction is to enthusiastically state the brand of the present (“It’s from Moody’s!”) and to marvel at the luxurious materials (“Velvet! Platinum! Pearls!”), while her girlfriends appreciate the necklace’s high price (Chosen 10–15). Zoey feels disappointed with her other birthday gifts, though she grows to enjoy them after discovering their cost (Chosen 68–70).

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As Piatti-Farnell suggests, contemporary vampires are strongly associated with luxurious brands. While several decades ago vampiric consumerism was being read as a critique of “the insatiable hunger of capitalist economies”, today it has come to be represented as a mode of self-expression (2014, 189). In “Learning Womanhood: Body Modification, Girls and Identity”, Tazzyman sheds light on adolescent girls’ understanding of luxurious brands as adding to the product’s social value, and thus, as enhancing the social perception of its owner (2017, 105). As she asserts, “[t]he perceived and embodied identity of an individual is altered by the consumption of certain products because the products themselves are associated with certain identities” (2017, 105). The House of Night storyline reflects this perspective when the leading heroine accentuates her preference for “the chic midtown stores” over “the loud, boring, food court-smelling mall” frequented by her former human friends (Betrayed 113). Zoey further applauds her roommate’s choice of an elegant and expensive-looking black blouse “versus the cheaper seethrough shirts that overpriced Abercrombie tries to make us believe aren’t slutty” (Marked 84). A display of economic privilege, the heroines’ sartorial choices, consumption practices and “out-of-the-ordinary tastes” are employed as signs of status that set them apart from those who lack the knowledge or spending power to perform the “right” style.52 The tropes of fashion, body modification, consumerism and concerns related to appearance, while present, receive much less attention in Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, with the questions of style emphasised at least just as often in narrating the bodies of boys and men.53 In these series, the focus of the storyline markedly shifts from the glamorised female vampire body to girls’ bodies in action. As a dhampir guardian, Rose Hathaway demonstrates both extraordinary physical prowess and superb fighting skills; however, her biologically enhanced fitness still requires constant training. The heroine is often depicted exercising and fighting, constantly pushing against the physical limits of her body. As Janine J. Darragh points out, both Rose and Lissa enjoy chic 52 Similar conclusions have been drawn by Heaton (2013, 83) with reference to Twilight ’s Cullens, whose fashion choices, as Heaton comments, serve to set them apart from the “ordinary” residents of the town. Cf. DeMello (2014, 178, 187), for the accounts of the “right” appearance as a prerogative of elite classes. 53 See e.g. multiple descriptions of the flamboyant clothing of Rose’s vampire father Abe Mazur or of the carefully styled hair and designer attire of the vampire Adrian.

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clothes, shopping and other traditionally feminine products and rituals of beautification. Darragh evokes the example of the girls’ visit to a spa in Shadow Kiss —and the delight of the tough fighter Rose in having her nails painted glittery gold—in order to demonstrate the series’ engagement in the Third Wave feminist embracement of diverse and seemingly contradictory visions of girlhood (2016, 258–259). Having little room for beauty practices in her everyday life, Rose enjoys the spa and describes it in detail. Her participation in the guardian warrior culture precludes any extensive engagement with the feminine culture of beauty, which differentiates her from other girls and occasionally evokes a sense of wistful longing (SK 217–220). She chooses to get a manicure in the spa because she finds it the most exotic, completely useless thing I could imagine. Well, it wasn’t useless for ordinary women. But for me? With the way I used my hands and subjected them to blisters, bruises, dirt and wind? Yes. Useless … And that was why I so, so desperately wanted one. Seeing Lissa wear makeup had awakened that longing in me for some beautification of my own. (SK 218–219)

As she looks at her weathered senior female colleagues, whose lives are devoted to training and body-guarding, Rose feels momentarily disheartened by the prospect of sacrificing her appearance and the pleasures of beauty practices for her guardian calling.54 In particular, she is anxious about cutting her long, lavish hair—a custom observed by all adult sheguardians in order to expose their molnija marks. However, whereas her senior female colleagues clearly see themselves primarily as warriors, Rose chooses to tread the middle path. Instead of cutting her hair, she simply wears it up, embracing with this simple gesture both warrior guardian culture and the girl culture of “prettiness”.55 While her everyday sartorial choices include mostly workout clothes, she occasionally delights in an elegant dress and high heels. The heroine takes pleasure in consumerist and beauty practices, and enjoys her own good looks; still, she does not

54 It is worth emphasising that the portrayals of mature female guardians focus primarily on their competence, strength and courage rather than their looks. 55 These seemingly contradictory identities are acknowledged by Rose’s combat instructor and future fiancé Dimitri, who pushes her hard in her training but also takes time to learn about and purchase her favourite shade of lip gloss in order to please her.

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depend on them for her self-esteem or a sense of happiness and belonging. In the fourth volume of Vampire Academy, however, style becomes of utmost importance for Rose, as she discovers its role in establishing control over her own body and identity. In Blood Promise, the trope of style and the female makeover emerges as terrain of intense power shifts and an assertion of the emancipated self.

2.6 The Magic of Makeover: Style as Oppression and Resistance From traditional folk tales of housemaids and shepherdesses swapping their humble clothes for royal gowns, to the twenty-first century teenage movies with the unpopular nerd-heroine re-fashioned into the prom queen and Prince Charming’s girlfriend, the trope of female makeover continues to enjoy unwavering popularity within Western cultural narratives. Literary, cinematic and televised productions formulated around the sweeping transformation of a woman’s appearance abound, and TV reality shows that transform the “ugly duckling” into a “beautiful swan” are in constant demand (DeMello 2014, 177–178).56 Girl cultures in particular persist in relying on the visually appealing trope of the Cinderellamakeover that typically serves to secure a familiar “happy-ever-after” of heterosexual romance (see e.g. Bellas 2017, chap. 5).57 These scripts, as Maria Nilson observes in her analysis of girlhood in chick lit and teen noir, are often granted a miraculous power to transform the girl’s inner self through altering her appearance, allowing her to learn and perform— without missing a beat—formerly unexplored types of femininity (2013, 202). While tales of female makeover often carry a promise of the heroine’s transformation “from mousey or geeky outsider to confident attractive success”, capable of winning the desired boy’s affection (Averill 2016, 17– 18), this familiar trope can also deviate from its clichéd path. Rather than emphasising beauty as a foundation of female success, the girls’ metamorphoses become a compelling exploration of the interplays between young 56 According to DeMello, makeover reality shows that transform “plain” women into “beauties” are one of the most popular TV programmes (2014, 177). For an analysis of the transformation trope in cinema, see Jeffers McDonald (2010). 57 For a different interpretation of the classic Cinderella tale through its use of fashion as a site of resistance and empowerment, see e.g. Montz 2016 [2014], 114–115.

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feminine styles, identities, forms of agency and strategies of resistance against patriarchal oppression and rigid cultural constructions of girlhood. Shauna Pomerantz points to the value of girls’ style as transgressing the common perceptions that frame it as frivolity unworthy of attention or as a moral problem to be judged and remedied. Style, Pomerantz emphasises, can become an important vehicle of transformation, allowing young women to enact agency, alter their self-perception and influence the ways in which they are seen by others (2008). Within girl cultures, internationally acclaimed series such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games position the tropes of style and makeover at the centre of their narratives of female subversion and rebellion. For instance, Amy L. Montz points to the clear political undertones in the makeover scenes of Collins’ heroine Katniss, who turns her body into an instrument of protest through the rituals of “girlification” (2016 [2014], 111–112; cf. Montz 2012).58 Within the YA vampire genre, the intimate intertwining between the transformations of identity and style has been studied, for instance, by Rhonda Nicol (2016). In her essay on gender and subversion in The Vampire Diaries, Nicol observes how the show relies on visual cues to mark the leading heroine Elena’s mental and emotional changes, as she alternates between human, humanised vampire and inhumane monster.59 Hannah Priest further looks into Rachel Caine’s Morganville series (2006–2014) and its heroine Eve’s use of style as a tool for subverting the Gothic tropes of the child-woman. As Priest asserts, Eve succeeds in “redirect[ing] this imagining of femininity into confrontation, intimidation and self-preservation” (2013, 73). This section of the chapter focuses on the makeover tales of three heroines of YA vampire fiction: Emily Wheiler (Neferet’s Curse), Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy) and Sydney Sage (Bloodlines ), highlighting the use of style as an instrument of change, empowerment and protest rather than merely an aesthetic category or a static reflection of the inner self.

58 Montz further designates the character of Cinna, the androgynous stylist that works on Katniss’s appearance, as “the most rebellious figure” in the first volume of the series (2016 [2014], 111). For a different interpretation of Katniss’s transformation with a focus on the female makeover as a visual spectacle aimed at attracting acceptance as a condition for female success, see Nilson (2013) and Averill (2016, 18). 59 For instance, Elena swaps her sleek hairdo for a shorter, tousled haircut with red-died streaks as she explores her newly discovered wild vampiric self (Nicol 2016).

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Born in two different centuries—and in three different vampire series— teenage dhampir Rose, human girl Emily and Alchemist-witch Sydney all share the experience of living under the control of an extreme patriarch figure. These patriarchs strictly monitor their bodies, policing not only their sexuality and movements, but also their looks. Sydney’s style is dictated by the standards instilled in her by her authoritarian father; Rose’s outfits are provided by her lover-turned-vampire Dimitri, who holds her captive in an apartment in Siberia; and Emily’s attire is picked by her father, who keeps her under house arrest. Denied the freedom to make their own sartorial choices, Rose and Emily compare themselves to dolls or puppets—inanimate, non-agential objects that are dressed and embellished to their owners’ tastes (BP 307, NC 30, 66). Both heroines detest the clothing that is imposed on them, seeing it as connoting female submission and vulnerability. Ultimately, it is their objection to these unwelcome styles that signals and propels their inner change—one that leads to the restoration of their lost autonomy. In Neferet’s Curse, sixteen-year-old Emily Wheiler living in nineteenthcentury Chicago, grows increasingly terrified of her father, who intrudes on her privacy and disregards the rules of modest conduct: “Father had burst into my third-floor parlor without introduction or warning … I had to raise my hands to cover my half-bared breasts” (NC 86). In a disconcerting literalisation of the archetypal objectifying male gaze, Mr. Wheiler circles his daughter’s body and scrutinises her skin and attire, reducing her, in her own words, to “a soulless manikin” (86). To Emily’s acute distress, her father insists that she wears the gowns of his late wife, tailored for the figure of a mature woman rather than a girl. The opulent dresses and tight corsets that restrict Emily’s mobility and breathing correspond with the constraints that her father places on her freedom of movement and access to public spaces. These constraints are narrated through the means of style; for instance, Mr. Wheiler orders Emily not to wear her cycling bloomers again, effectively prohibiting her from participating in a youth cycling club. A seemingly inconsequential discomfort put against all the other limitations through which she is forced to suffer, this moment turns out to be a turning point in their interactions. In a small but significant gesture of defiance, Emily hides her cycling bloomers safely in the ground rather than throwing them away (25–32). As her confidence increases, the young heroine begins to employ her outfits as acts of subtle resistance against her father’s tyranny. Required to wear one of her mother’s “velvet greens” to a dinner party, she chooses to

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feign misunderstanding and has her own dress embellished with the late Mrs. Wheiler’s velvet ribbons rather than wearing her gown (66–67). This subversive decision allows her to defy her “manikin” status and assume a position of agency: “I will follow Father’s request, but it will be on my own terms. I am the Lady of Wheiler House and not a child’s doll to be dressed up”, she explains (67). Later on, when preparing to accompany her father to a social gathering, the heroine juxtaposes a sexualised gown of his choosing with an innocent childlike hairstyle. This spectacle of irreconcilable femininities is carefully designed to subvert the authority of the patriarch. Through the performative use of her attire, Emily actively constructs herself as a fragile damsel in need of rescue in order to spur her fiancé’s family into curbing her father’s excesses (112, 123–126). At the dramatic climax of the story, the newly vampirised heroine restrings her mother’s pearls into a strangling noose that ends Mr. Wheiler’s life (114). The necklace that her father has forced upon her as yet another symbolic yoke has been transformed into the ultimate weapon against his abuse and tyranny. Style as a site of control and resistance has been further employed in the storyline of dhampir Rose and Strigoi-Dimitri in Mead’s Blood Promise (Vampire Academy). While at first Rose tosses in disgust the clothing picked by her captor, her determination wanes as she grows dependent on their toxic relationship. Confused and addicted to Dimitri’s druginfused bites, the heroine surrenders to lacy underwear, silk nightgowns and chiffon dresses—a style that she initially deems as preclusive of any efficient physical action (307–308, 343–343). Yet, as soon as Rose shakes off the effects of the vampire poison, she awakens to see her clothing as a sign of oppression and a metaphor for her own helpless state (386– 387). Swapping her delicate silk attire for a sweater-dress and a hoodie, the heroine offers the readers a clear visual cue that marks her departure from the vulnerable femininity that she has briefly courted. This physical transformation, as Rose notes herself, brings about an immediate positive effect on her confidence and morale: “It hardly made me feel like a badass warrior, but I did feel more competent. Sufficiently dressed for action” (387). Whereas the style chosen by Dimitri emphasised female fragility and sexual submissiveness, the heroine’s new appearance signals her return to the performance of an active and agential girlhood. While Rose’s escape from vampiric patriarchal oppression is envisioned through her shedding of sexualised, restrictive clothes that speak of emphasised femininity, the emancipation of her friend Sydney Sage

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is narrated, in contrast, through her increasing investment in a more feminine style. Raised to join the ranks of the Alchemists by her stern father, Sydney adheres rigorously to their sartorial codes. Ignoring fashion trends popular among her peers and avoiding clothing that could be seen as informal or frivolous, the heroine chooses high-quality, modest, elegant outfits of subdued shades, complemented with discreet makeup and smoothly styled hair. Neatly dressed in business grey slacks and white shirts that communicate the Alchemists’ values of professionalism, orderliness, discretion and deference to authority, Sydney grooms and styles her body to fit into the rigid categories of appropriateness imposed on her by her father. Dispatched on a mission at a boarding high school and guised as a student, Sydney enters the unfamiliar territory of the adolescent social world. One of the things that confuse her is teenage fashion protocol, with her own style deemed “nice” but ungirly by her new school friends (GL 60). While Sydney is well qualified to offer advice on the proper look for a job interview (GL 60), she finds herself at a loss when picking, for instance, an outfit for a date. Her plan to wear a demure, buttonedup blouse is dismissed by her girlfriends, who quickly step into the role of a collective fairy godmother—an archetypal agent of makeover in girl culture narratives—and produce a date-appropriate ensemble (GL 78– 79). Sydney’s major makeover scene, however, does not come until later in the volume when she designs her costume for a Halloween dance. Her choice of a simple, white dress fashioned in the style of the Athenian era appears to correspond with her reserved disposition and intellectual interests. On the night of the dance, however, the heroine discovers that the costume sent to her by a local designer is, in fact, an extravagant, “brilliant, flaming scarlet” dress of a Greek courtesan hetaera (GL 218). Sydney’s unexpected performance of glamorous girlhood—coded with sensual red and conspicuous golden jewellery—compels much admiration both from her friends and her future vampire boyfriend Adrian. The latter directly invokes the fairy-tale narrative of female metamorphosis, dubbing Sydney “a Greek Cinderella” (GL 220–226, 237, 253). That night Sydney experiences a new connection with passionate Adrian—a man who sees her as “the most beautiful creature … walking this earth” (GL 247), and distances herself from her unemotional boyfriend Brayden, who evaluates her dress as “historically inaccurate” (GL 237). This development ostensibly complies with the traditional Cinderella resolution in heterosexual romance, facilitated by the metamorphosis of an unimposing

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heroine into “the belle of the ball” (as one of the teachers describes Sydney; GL 253). In Mead’s story, however, the heroine’s sensational sartorial transformation serves primarily to resist and subvert the message of female submissiveness, with the heroine winning Prince Charming’s affections as an unintended and initially unwelcome side effect. The feminist agenda emerging in her extravagant costume is clearly articulated through Sydney’s earlier explanation of the differences between housebound, uneducated Athenian matrons and well-read, emancipated and adventurous hetaerae (GL 140–141). In this context, the hetaera dress becomes a dramatic visual harbinger of Sydney’s gradual transformation from her (over-)disciplined self, who mostly defers to her father and the Alchemists, into a girl that courageously explores the previously untrodden terrains of magic, passion and rebellion. At the end of this journey, the sensual hetaera dress—with its “fire and gold” (GL 247)— turns out to have expressed Sydney’s inner self much more accurately than a plain Athenian gown. While early in the series Sydney’s makeovers are effected by fairy godmother figures played by her girlfriends and a local designer, later in the story she comes to make her own transformative sartorial choices. In Silver Shadows, on the verge of a hasty Las Vegas marriage, the heroine surprises both her vampire fiancé Adrian and the readers by revealing her dream of “the full deal” wedding (SS 331). With ruthless enemies hot on their heels, Sydney still chooses to spend two hours at a wedding parlour, working on her look. Rather than opting for the simple elegance that has been her sartorial trademark throughout the series, she dazzles her fiancé with a dress of “old Hollywood glamor”, wrapped in tulle, organza and crystal embellishments (337–339). The Silver Shadows appreciative take on a glamorous female body intertwines with the narrative of a girl’s body in action, as shortly after the wedding Sydney is forced to climb Las Vegas roofs in a daring escape from her enemies. In a clever reimagining of the Cinderella motif, the fleeing heroine sheds her fancy wedding slippers. However, rather than losing them so as to leave a trail, she trades them with a stranger for a pair of running shoes (350), choosing footwear that stands for action and mobility over that representing passive beauty and restricted movement. Sydney’s visual transformation is marked as complete when in the series “Epilogue” she appears returning home from work in an attractive red dress (RC 341).

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In Fairy Tales on the Teen Screen: Rituals of Girlhood, Athena Bellas discusses feminist scholarship that has construed the culture of feminine glamour, fashion and beautification as hampering and objectifying women, and placing them in a position of subservience (2017, 198). However, Bellas herself cautions against an indiscriminate critique of feminine “pretty aesthetics” as oppressive and antifeminist, shedding light on its subversive potential. Within this context, the affirmative way of presenting the contrasting makeover stories of Sydney and Rose is particularly interesting. Whether expressed through sparkling glamour, or coded with running shoes and a hoodie, the idea of girl empowerment through style is grounded in (re-)gaining the freedom of choice and exploration, and achieved through diverse ways of experiencing and understanding girls’ bodies and looks. While at times dazzling an occasional prince, the heroines’ metamorphoses are not primarily focused on romance, but are meant instead as an assertion of power that facilitate the performance of girlhood outside of the passive Cinderella frame. The makeover trope serves as a narrative tool that emphasises the girls’ move from restrictive femininity into an agential self, with style as a means of resistance against forces that try to prevent them from enacting an empowered version of girlhood.

2.7

Conclusion

In this chapter, I have examined some of the ways in which girl bodies and identities are constituted in serialised vampire fiction for young adults. As a site of convergence for various discourses surrounding the cultural ideas of vampirism and girlhood, the body of the genre’s adolescent heroine offers multiple possibilities for shedding light on contemporary understandings of feminine beauty, style, consumerism and the culture of body modification, illuminating their interplays with girl empowerment, agency and belonging. Immersed in a high school culture fixated on body image and strongly resonating with hegemonic discourses of embodied girlhood, the House of Night series positions physical attractiveness and performing the “right” sort of style as key markers of successful young femininity. Whereas on many levels vampirism operates to enhance the series’ girl protagonists, it appears to be failing, against Nina Auerbach’s hopes, to protect them “against a destiny of girdles, spike heels, and approval” (Auerbach 1995,

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4). Girls’ control over their appearance is hedged about by the exclusive standards of appropriate style and the controlling girl-gaze enforcing the rules. Following the scripts of vampire bodily perfection, the series is replete with conventional signifiers of idealised femininity, typically applauding youthful, slender, immaculately groomed and stylishly dressed bodies, marked by an ethos of high-end consumerism. The “ugly”, “fat”, old, unkempt and unstylish are designated as Other and expelled to the margins of the story. The final moments of the archvillainess Neferet are emblematic of this message. Having become “a dark goddess”, Neferet rejoices in her new appearance and is content to no longer feel “the need to conform to any world’s standard of beauty” (Found loc. 3609–3610). Other characters, however, dub her as The Monstress, feel the urge to vomit at the sight of her and eventually consign her to the void and darkness. In Extraordinary Bodies, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson talks about philosophical narratives that reinvent “a somatic difference into a hierarchy of value that assigns completeness to some bodies and deficiency to others” (2017 [1997], 20). While her comment refers to Aristotelian conceptions of male and female bodies, it can also be applied to the House of Night ’s strong demarcating line between “the attractive” and “the ugly”—one that translates into social hierarchies based on bodily image. While the leading heroines of Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines remain conventionally—and somewhat unrealistically—beautiful, the series appear to offer more in terms of challenging the popular constructions of girlhood as organised around look, shifting the focus from girls’ physical appearance to their abilities and competence. Resisting and/or renegotiating the dominant narratives of the idealised, upper-class and invincible vampire body—one that is immune to the terrors of ageing and bodily deterioration—the series allow more space for bodies that are vulnerable, troubled, scarred, diseased and divergent from conventional templates of beauty. Whether vampire, dhampir or human, mature female characters do display the signs of ageing but—ruling nations, fighting evil or practicing witchcraft for the greater good—they spend little time contemplating the process. The controlling girl-gaze emerges less often and rarely comes across as something that truly matters. When the novels discuss girls’ anxieties related to looks, they tend to do so in a compassionate and inclusive way. For instance, rather than trivialising and ridiculing the problem of a distorted body image and body size obsession, the series recognise it as a disorder that needs to be addressed, and

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frames it sympathetically in terms of external pressures internalised by the heroine. In the same time, in House of Night, girls who use unhealthy methods to reach excessive thinness are derogatorily narrated as “freaks”, foolishly aspiring to “wrong” ideals of beauty (Marked 51). The messages surrounding the young female body in the Casts’ series are, however, far from unambiguous. The heroines’ preoccupation with questions of appearance reaffirms popular notions of feminine success as based on beauty and presents girls’ interests in a reductive way. In the same time, however, it may also be read as reflecting the complicated reality of adolescent women and their high school experience related to looks. Further, it is used as a strategy of coping with fear, hopelessness and other overwhelming emotions. Deeming the rejection of Change as “a much too unattractive way to die” to ever happen to them (Betrayed 38; cf. Hunted 214), or pointing to the detrimental effect of bloodshed on manicures and hair as their incentive to sabotage war plans (Untamed 56), these heroines channel their anxieties into the well-familiar “girly” territory of look in order to tame their fears (see also Redeemed 69). Furthermore, in the novels of both the Casts and Mead, girls’ engagement in the practices of consumerism and body modification is narrated as a source of pleasure and a way of tending to friendships. Appearance and style transformations can also be used to articulate resistance against the policing and constriction of female bodies, and as a vehicle of escape or subversion in the face of patriarchal authority. Unsettling the gendered hierarchies of power, young heroines shed their lives of constraint along with the restrictive, sexualised or repressively unfeminine clothing that limits their mobility and horizons, ditching high heels, chic hairstyles or mundane business suits in their quests for emancipation. For some, this quest entails fighting their body-related insecurities and overcoming the cultural pressure to meet idealised beauty standards. In House of Night, the bodily ideal is epitomised by the figure of the glamorised vampress who could be easily read as yet another potential source of body-related anxiety for girl readers. However, the series offers a number of moments that open possibilities for different interpretations. As the narrating heroine portrays the overdrawn perfection of vampiric bodies as belonging in the world of fiction—comparing them to movie stars, Barbie dolls (Marked 51), Disney princesses (Loved 33) and fashion photographs in shiny magazines (Hunted 279)—their exaggerated beauty, extravagant consumerism and idealised style reveal the structures of gendered culture and the expectations it places upon female bodies and interests. The figure

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of the vampress provides a fantasy space on which to map the bodily desires, fears and cultural pressures experienced by girls. In Bloodlines, this pressure is embodied through the vampress’s inhumanely slender silhouette that demonstrates the power of culturally defined and highly limited body ideals over girls’ lives and perceptions of self. Ultimately, however, these ideals become debunked as an elusive fantasy that works to disempower women, encouraging body dissatisfaction and excluding multiple possibilities of defining beauty.

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CHAPTER 3

A Love So Strong that It Aches: (Re-)Writing Vampire Romance

From the realms of horror, gore and deadly seduction, contemporary vampire fiction has largely tilted into the sphere of paranormal romance. The vampire, once fashioned as a figure of fear and abjection, has gradually evolved into the ultimate romantic character—a tender lover, a fierce protector, an affectionate boyfriend and a devoted husband. As Lorna Piatti-Farnell notes, the “impact of love-centred dynamics on the overall conception of vampire literature in the twenty-first-century context” cannot be denied (2014, 97). Love and romantic unions have become the lifeblood of the genre, particularly in the stories written by and marketed to women. The romantic vampire of today more often inspires erotic fantasies than fears, and if fear is present, it is swiftly overcome through romantic connection (Piatti-Farnell 2014, 96). While the traditional stories typically served as cautionary tales against accepting the attentions of the invasive vampiric figure, the new vampire–human relationships are more likely to speak of happiness, emotional connection and enhanced opportunities (Bacon and Bronk 2018, 6). In The Beloved Does Not Bite, Debra Dudek denotes this new phase of the vampire’s cultural existence as “the Beloved Cycle”, tracing its origins to the sympathetic bloodsucker of the 1970s and 1980s (2018, 2, 5, 14–21).1 A beloved 1 According to Gina Wisker, the vampire romance subgenre was introduced in 1978, with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s novel Hotel Transylvania (2015, 234).

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_3

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vampire no longer bites to kill, and holds a promise of a stable romantic relationship, having evolved into “the now unquestioned—although not always readily accepted—heartthrob” (Dudek 2018, 15; cf. George and Hughes 2015, 3–4, 16). In “Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction”, Michelle J. Smith and Kristine Moruzi point to romance as one of the most consistent tropes across the Gothic stories marketed to young people. They further identify the establishing of heterosexual relationships “in the right way” as “the genre’s greatest fixation” (2020, 619, 611). With their plots frequently driven by riveting themes of “what is was like to be filled with a love so strong that it made your chest ache” (SK 5), romantic feelings, obstacles and unions are firmly positioned in the limelight of vampire stories addressed to young women.2 This thematic focus adheres to the general social and cultural conventions of constructing girlhood and girl fiction around romance in Western culture.3 Valerie Walkerdine stated in 1990 that girlhood is often represented as a time of “preparation for the prince” (97). This claim holds true for many girl stories even today, as developing a sustained romantic relationship is often narrated as essential in a girl’s/girl heroine’s process of becoming a woman. Contemporary vampire fiction, as Gina Wisker points out, holds a “marvelous potential” for both radical revisions and the reinforcement of the conventional romantic relationships and gendered roles (2015, 224). The figure of the vampire has long been associated with queer romance and desire, “its homoerotic possibility” often indicated as a part of the vampiric allure (Kane 2010, 109). From the early vampire fiction such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) or Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla (1872), through the genre-changing vampire novels of Anne Rice (which Richard Dyer identifies as “cult gay reading”; 2002, 70), to the famous contemporary productions such as Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB 1997–2003), Allan Ball’s True Blood (HBO 2008–2014), John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In (2004) or Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), vampire

2 In Not Your Mother’s Vampire, Wilson Overstreet observes that a considerable amount of YA vampire fiction can be categorised as “Romance” (2006). 3 Kokkola points out that “the romance element” often marks a book as directed primarily at women (2013, 12).

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texts have been repeatedly read through the lens of the queer.4 The figure of the vampire has been deployed to articulate “queer fear”— shame, boundary-breaking, death and contamination; or credited with “unabashed presentation of homosexuality”, narratives of coming out (of the coffin) and the fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ communities (ElliotSmith 2012, 146).5 Today, as Wisker contends, the gay or lesbian vampire often is “the ideal icon of a celebratory otherness” (2016, 180). The queerness of the vampire, needless to say, encompasses much more than same-sex desire.6 In “Sexuality and the Twentieth-Century American Vampire”, William Hughes (2014) critiques the practice of limiting the queer to homosexuality as likely to neglect other queer(er) vampiric representations. As Angela Jones cautions in “Queer Heterotopias”, queerness cannot be confined to stable and fixed identities; it is a fluid state that signifies a wide range of social practices and expressions, seeking to confront the dominant narratives of romance, sexuality and gender. Jones advocates for the spaces with “no boundaries, and no hierarchies … no ordered categories that qualify and rank bodies” (Jones 2009, 2–5, 11, 13, 15; cf. e.g. Hughes 2014, 343). As such, queer seeks to confront and destabilise the matrix of heteronormativity (Kokkola 2013, 99; Dhaenens 2013b, 103). While the figure of the vampire is traditionally linked with transgression, resistance and subversion, a considerable number of contemporary mass-marketed vampire texts have been read as perpetuating conventional models of romance and compulsory heterosexuality. Plots spun 4 See e.g. Abdi and Calafell (2017), Azzarello (2016), Dhaenens (2013b), Dyer (2002), Elliot-Smith (2012), Gelder ([1994] 2001, e.g. 58–64), LeMaster (2011) and Ní Fhlainn (2019) among many other examples. 5 True Blood, in particular, has been repeatedly credited with featuring a wide array of queer characters, both supernatural and human. Its vampire community has often been interpreted as a metaphor for LGBTQ+ communities—a reading corroborated by Charlaine Harris, the author of the literary series on which the show has been based (Elliot-Smith 2012, 141–143; Ní Fhlainn 2019, 234; Dhaenens 2014, 525). This interpretation, however, is not without controversy. For instance, the show’s creator Allan Ball has been wary of equating vampire and LGBTQ+ communities as potentially homophobic (Ní Fhlainn 2019, 234). 6 For instance, Robert Azzarello (2016) considers the dissolution of the boundaries between the natural and the unnatural in terms of sexuality and queer desire in Dracula, setting his analysis within the frames of both queer and environmental studies. In the same volume, Phillip A. Bernhardt-House offers an examination of the figure of the werewolf as a “signifier for queerness” (2016, 159).

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around the all-consuming passion between a young and vulnerable human heroine and a worldly and powerful vampire hero have been subjected to scholarly and public critique as “a preconfigured metaphor for the dominance of men within society” (Brown 2009). Scholars have pointed out the romanticised depictions of female disempowerment and the superior position of the vampire male—in terms of age, life experience, physical capacities and education, as well as economic, social and political power. In “Men That Suck”, Kristina DuRocher recognises the true menace of the patriarchal vampire “in the disintegration of female autonomy” and self-reliance: “When introduced to the audience, each woman professes to have an independent streak, yet their identities are quickly subsumed in their relationships with vampire men” (2016, 55). This patriarchal paradigm often relies on the heroines defining themselves through their male love interests, with the storylines glamorising female youthful ignorance, passivity and uncritical love-sickness, and reiterating the romanticised notion of one and only true love.7 Vampire fiction addressed to young readers has been particularly often construed as conservative, perpetuating and rewarding the structures of heteronormativity. This trend has been observed by, among others, William Hughes (2014, 351), Hannah Priest (2013), Melissa Ames (2010) and Mia Franck (2013, 216), who all point to the genre’s valorisation of heteronormative structures and the eschewing of traditional vampire queerness. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight has been repeatedly deployed as an example of this trend, interpreted as the celebration of patriarchal norms and relationships, emphatic on its disassociation from the queer. In “A Very Queer Refusal”, Kathryn Kane reads Twilight as championing a “world order that is profoundly anti-queer” and identifies the Cullen family as “the antidote to the queer time” (2010, 113, 116). Kane evokes Carlisle’s fatherly vampirisation of Edward as one of the examples of Twilight ’s “rigid heteronormativity” (2010, 111). This point is driven home by Marion Rana, who contrasts the cinematic scenes of Edward’s and Esme’s transformations, with the former signalling

7 See e.g. Brown (2009), Crossen (2010), Priest (2013), Torkelson (2011), StasiewiczBienkowska ´ (2017), (2019) and Smith and Moruzi (2020). In “Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy”, María T. Ramos-García (2020) observes that the conventional pairing of a human heroine and a vampire hero has become less common within the last decade.

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pain, and the latter sensual pleasure (2014, 126–127).8 Other scholars, however, have studied the Cullens as a queer performance of heteronormative family that disrupts traditional familial structures and kinship (for instance that of siblinghood) (Hunt 2014); have considered Edward as a “queer vampire” (not least for all his restraint towards Bella) (Sommers and Hume 2011); and interrogated Twilight fan fiction that queers the saga’s portrayals of love and desire (Isaksson and Lindgren Leavenworth 2011). Focusing on P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s House of Night (2007– 2014) and House of Night: Other World series (2017–2020), and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015), this chapter explores the representations of romance and romantic love, and seeks to discover what it means to establish a romantic relationship “in the right way” in contemporary vampire fiction for girls. The first section examines the strategies of queering the conventional notions of heteronormative romance through the vampire custom of polyandry as it is represented in House of Night . As I trace the stories of the main heroine’s multiple romantic engagements, I aim to unpack the underlying messages about female romantic empowerment and freedom, and their intertwining with the principles of heteronormativity. The narratives of polyandry interplay with the motif of “the truest of true love” (New Moon 350), and the next part of the chapter looks into the ways in which vampire fiction relates to, reinforces and/or subverts the traditional romantic ideas of magical love bonds and predestined soul mates. This thread further leads to the themes of power dynamics in romantic relationships and the ways in which the analysed vampire stories respond to the patriarchal paradigm of inequitable love between a human girl and a male vampire. In the last section, I return to the traditional correlation between the vampire and queer romance. Acknowledging the flexible and shifting meanings of queerness, in this part of the chapter I focus primarily on what Lydia Kokkola calls “traditionally queer subjects” (2013, 18), that is gay and lesbian characters. Examining the ways in which the series articulate homosexual identities, same-sex love and desire, I hope to shed light on the possibilities that are opened—or sometimes, shut down—through the presence of the queer tropes in vampire fiction for girls. 8 See also Crossen (2010), Kokkola (2011a), (2011b), Donnelly (2011), Platt (2010), Priest (2013, 60) and Wisker (2014).

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3.1 Mates, Consorts, Oath-Bound Warriors: House of Night and Polyandry9 When newly transformed vampire fledgling Zoey Redbird of House of Night reminisces about her human life, she contemplates the now lost future that she might have had with her human boyfriend Heath Luck. Briefly envisioning herself and Heath as a married couple living a happy, mundane family life in a house in the suburbs, Zoey quickly dismisses this image as now belonging in the realms of fantasy—a conventional and heteronormative romantic resolution that is neither longer available nor truly desirable for her new vampire self (Chosen 193–194). Settling into her new life in the House of Night, a boarding high school for vampire fledglings in Tulsa, the heroine quickly begins to discover a world of new romantic decorum and possibilities. Growing ever further apart from the human girl who daydreamed about marrying her school sweetheart, throughout the series young vampress Zoey negotiates multiple, and often simultaneous, attractions and relationships with males of various ages, positions and species—a teenage human boy, a vampire fledgling, a vampire teacher, an undead warrior, a centuries-old immortal and a magically conjured shapeshifter. The heroine feels torn by her many romantic interests; therefore, she is both intrigued and momentarily relieved when she realises that she might not have to choose among them at all. In the Fan Q&A section in the first Other World volume, Loved, P.C. Cast describes her literary vampire world as one that empowers women to make independent romantic choices, including forming and maintaining polyandric relationships: I created a matriarchal society for our vampyres in the HoN, and one of the beauties of a society run by women is that women aren’t judged for choosing their own way—and that often means they date more than one guy at a time, especially if they are barely eighteen years old. (Loved 327)

9 An early version of this part of the chapter was initially presented at the Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference, held in St. Louis, MO, in October 2017. I would like to thank the participants and the members of the audience for their interesting questions and insightful comments.

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The trope of the love triangle, traced back to the story of Tristan and Iseult, is widespread in the genre of romance (Kokkola 2011b, 169–170). Agata Łuksza observes that the love triangle scenario puts the heroine in charge, openly appeals to female fantasies and questions the so-called natural female monogamy. Male characters provide the heroine with alternative, though not contradictory, models of masculinity, and she is reluctant to resign from the affection and companionship of any of them. (2015, 436)10

Łuksza suggests that the trope of the love triangle speaks against male “demands of exclusivity” (2015, 436). However, the romantic tension inherent in this formula is traditionally resolved with the heroine choosing one of her suitors and maturing into the safe space of a monogamous and often eternal union.11 Against this background, the House of Night politics of polyandry, declared both in the novels and through the authors’ statements, certainly stands out as a queer challenge to the heteronormative set of values expressed through the institutions of marriage and (female) monogamy (see e.g. Dhaenens 2013b, 103). Throughout the series, readers discover that a vampire High Priestess is customarily permitted to maintain relationships with a vampire mate and one or more human consorts (Hunted 143), and often shares a typically romantic bond with her Oath-Bound Warrior. As Kristin Cast explains, in the “heavily matriarchal” world of the House of Night “the practice of having multiple partners [for women] has been going on for hundreds of years, so it’s completely normal!” (2011, 146) The author criticises the discourses that invite social acceptance for polygyny and points to popular culture as desensitising consumers to its formal and informal forms. At the same time, Cast argues, polyandric unions are demonised or passed over in silence (2011, 149–150).12 Contrasted with the human culture depicted 10 Łuksza draws attention to the appeal of this trope, as evidenced through promotional posters which often feature the heroine flanked by her two love interests (2015, 437). 11 A number of examples involve Bella, Edward and Jacob (Twilight ), Sophia, Derek and Ben (A Shade of Vampire), or Elena, Stefan and Damon (The Vampire Diaries ). If a girl claims both of her suitors, she might lose them both, as the vampress Katherine loses Stefan and Damon (The Vampire Diaries ). However, even in this case, Katherine is clear that it is Stefan whom she truly loves (“As I Lay Dying” S2E22). 12 For a brief discussion of the practices of polygyny and polyandry in The Southern Vampire Mysteries and True Blood, see Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2019, 235–236).

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as underpinned with beliefs oppressive to women, the vampire society is portrayed as refuting the double standard, and allowing vampresses to step outside of the boundaries of conventionally sanctioned monogamous relationships (see e.g. Loved 326–327). Celebrating the presence of polyandric traditions in the cultures of the past and ancient mythologies, Kristin Cast presents the trope of polyandry in House of Night as “a tool to empower women of all ages” (2011, 152).13 Consequently, at one point of the story, Zoey, as the vampire priestess in training, maintains simultaneous relationships with human Heath and vampire Erik, accepting in the meantime a Warrior Oath from another vampire, Stark (Hunted 143). Albeit most reluctantly, both Heath and Stark seem to respect their girlfriend’s polyandric desires. As Stark explains to one of Zoey’s suitors, “Zoey isn’t mine. She isn’t yours, either. … Z is her own person … So, if she decides she wants to be with you… that is completely her decision to make” (Found loc. 2654). In contrast, Erik loses Zoey as he is unable to tolerate her multiple love interests. In “Articulations of Queer Resistance”, Frederik Dhaenens discusses strategies of queer reconstruction as ones that not only expose the hegemonic power of idealised heteronormative values and rituals (like marriage, reproduction and monogamy), but most of all that propose “queer and viable [or even preferable] alternatives to the heteronormative way of living and thinking” (2014, 526, 521–523, 527). In this light, the House of Night ’s tradition of polyandry can be read as an attempt at a “queer reconstruction of institutions and practices that are pivotal within heteronormative discourse” (Dhaenens 2014, 527). However, this re-writing of romantic conventions has proved to be unintelligible to many fans of the series, who vigorously contested polyandry as a valid romantic choice, expressing their disapproval through social media, discussion fora and direct communication with the authors. According to Kristin Cast, social media users repeatedly used “negative nouns” to describe Zoey’s romantic conduct (2011, 145); and both authors report having been asked to make their heroine choose “just one guy to be with

13 At the same time, polygynous practices are rare and penalised. Having seduced Zoey

on the orders of his lover, priestess Neferet, the vampire Loren is still punished with death, as he offends Neferet with finding pleasure in his new affair. The priestess further uses Loren’s murder as an ominous warning to her next lover, in order to force him to keep his distance from Zoey (“[Y]ou should remember I killed the last male who tried to claim me and her”; Tempted 313).

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forever and ever and ever and ever” (Cast 2011, 145). P.C. Cast further recounts “a lot of very disturbing e-mails” from readers who demanded that Zoey should “behave herself”, “settle down” and “choose her ‘one and only’” (Interview 2009, 84). Although the authors (for reasons unknown) identify this particular complaint with middle-aged females, a similar approach could also be noticed among younger readers. This can be exemplified through the conversation thread “what do you think about zoey’s double-relationship?” on the international House of Night Forums.14 In this discussion, the majority of participants expressed their disapproval of the heroine’s multiple romantic engagements, and most appeared to have missed, ignored or rejected the authors’ intended vision of polyandry as “completely normal” in the vampire universe. Those who expressed understanding towards Zoey’s romantic behaviour still deemed the idea inauthentic and irrational, or attempted to excuse the heroine’s actions with arguments about her immaturity, raging hormones, magic or the confusion brought about by the dramatic changes in her life (e.g. LectricErin 2009; Emily 2009). The majority of the discussants judged Zoey’s multithreaded love life as dishonest, foolish, selfish and/or arrogant, accusing her of vanity, indecency and inability to control herself (e.g. Erin 2010a; Calico 2009a). Some participants juxtaposed their own behaviour against the young heroine, highlighting the inexcusability of her choices (“I am the same age as Zoey is and I like more than one guy as well but there is a point in time when we have to tell ourselves no on some things”; Calico 2009b); others called her directly “a little sl…” or “a total whore” (Guest 2009; Kayliex 2009). Most urged Zoey to mend her ways and either commit to one partner or “leave all boys alone” (Guest 2009; Calico 2009a). Holding the heroine guilty for the emotional drama in the series, some posts resonated with the heterosexist notion that places the responsibility for any sexual action with the female partner, judging Zoey for what she has done and what she has failed to do (e.g. for allowing herself to be alone with Heath, remaining in the car

14 House of Night Forums. Accessed August 25, 2020. https://houseofnight. 4umer.com/t189-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. This conversation on Zoey’s multiple romantic involvements has been one of the most popular and longest discussed topics raised by the forum participants.

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when she “should have” left, and finally for surrendering to the temptation of drinking his blood; see e.g. Erin 2010b; Lilith of the Night 2010).15 In response to readers’ disapproval, Kristin Cast has claimed that, rather than encouraging anyone to engage in polyandry, she meant to inspire acceptance and solidarity among women: “I just want women to stop judging each other and stand together” (2011, 152). The positive representations of polyandry, P.C. Cast argues, aim to destabilise the double standards and question conventional gendered morality (2011; Interview 2009). A close analysis of the House of Night novels, however, reveals that—contrary to the authors’ intentions—the notion of polyandry is repeatedly refuted rather than celebrated, as both the plot and the characters’ development eventually speak against the queerness of polyandric romance. Although presented as sanctioned vampire tradition, polyandrous unions hardly ever occur within the plotline. Even the vampire goddess Nyx, seemingly involved with two immortal brothers Kalona and Erebus (a situation that brings about Kalona’s fit of jealousy and causes his fall from Nyx’s realm), ultimately proves to have always been committed only to one man. Also, the two most powerful bonds of the Casts’ vampire universe—the Imprint resulting from blood-drinking and the link created by the Warrior Oath—are strictly exclusive and no vampress can be Imprinted or oath-bound with more than one person (see e.g. Chosen 247). Any attempt at polyandrous relationships ultimately becomes a source of pain, discord and chaos. All the boys in Zoey’s life feel hurt and humiliated, and are at times reduced to tears as a result of her multiple romantic engagements (see e.g. Hunted 86, 140–144, 153). When Erik attempts to persuade Zoey to break up with Heath, he explains that regardless of ancient traditions, a union of vampress and human will always be “something other vampyres will whisper about, and humans will hate you for” (Betrayed 262). Zoey’s grandmother—a powerful and emancipated Cherokee Wise Woman—urges her to “straighten out this boyfriend issue” as none of the boys is likely to tolerate it for long (Chosen 38). Zoey herself feels unhappy and torn, and eventually comes to see that, while 15 A number of fans, however, perceived Zoey’s male love interests as manipulative and taking advantage of the heroine in order to satisfy their own desires (see e.g. kayrose 2009; WazzuMan 2011).

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liberating in theory, the practice of polyandry is emotionally draining, dishonest and just “seriously weird” (Hunted 122).16 Monogamy remains the key to a successful and fulfilling romantic life, and is narrated as a sign of maturity.17 Adolescent Zoey and her girlfriends typically explore several romantic options, and the series’ authors state explicitly that “it’s unhealthy for a teen to be focused on one guy and one guy only” (Cast 2011, 145; cf. Interview 2009, 84). As P.C. Cast explains, “[t]he truth is teenagers are confused about who they should date, and that’s great! Thinking that a young person who isn’t even old enough to vote is old enough, mature enough, to choose a life partner is ridiculous”, harmful and unrealistic (Loved 327, emphasis mine; see also Interview 2009, 84). As the heroines grow, however, they all decide to commit exclusively. For a short time Zoey maintains platonic relationships with both Stark and Heath; yet the sense of a heteronormative monogamous order is swiftly restored with Heath’s untimely death, which prevents the consummation of their union. Only then does Stark declare that he will always be with Zoey, even if she chooses to take another consort (Awakened 33). This declaration proves moot when Zoey develops feelings for Heath’s reincarnation Aurox. However, Stark does not need to worry long as his girlfriend’s attraction is terminated, yet again, by Aurox’s self-sacrificial death in Redeemed. The queer possibility of polyandry is ultimately (un)settled when Zoey’s grandmother Sylvia decides in Forgotten that none of the boys are “strong enough, mature enough to share”, and urges them to give up on the girls who already have a partner (119–120). Sylvia is confident that Zoey or her friend Aphrodite could love more than one person at once; however, she cautions their respective new suitors, Stark and Kevin from the Other World, against the feelings of jealousy that such an arrangement would inevitably provoke in them (120). As Stark mourns what he sees as the lost chance to be with his soul mate, Sylvia encourages him to look for love elsewhere.

16 She further feels that her multi-threaded love life endangers her status as a respectable woman, a theme that is examined in the next chapter of this volume. 17 Cf. K. Cast, where the author announces that Zoey may enter a monogamous relationship when she becomes “mature and experienced and truly knows herself” (2011, 145).

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3.2 The Truest of True Loves: Soul Mates and Enchanted Bonds I would like to begin this part of the chapter with a personal memory. When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me a story that she had heard from her own grandmother when she was little. It was about an elderly woman sitting in a meadow, tying colourful ribbons in pairs. The woman was a magical creature, an enchanted match-maker, busying herself with connecting soul mates all around the world. Her verdicts were irrevocable and impossible to escape, as evidenced by the failure of poor fellows who tried. The romanticised notion of soul mates—two persons predestined to meet and fall in love—has long held a powerful presence in social and cultural constructions of romantic relationships. Thriving in folklore, popular culture, religious narratives, and our own minds, it has been especially vibrant in fantasy stories and paranormal romance, particularly those marketed to women and girls. While many works of contemporary Gothic operate to disrupt such tales of all-conquering passion, others reiterate the familiar formula of love that “happens at first sight, rescues you from yourself, answers every question, solves every problem, and lasts for eternity” (Wisker 2015, 442, on Twilight; cf. 2016, 158). This bond—“the truest of true loves” as Bella declares in New Moon, Twilight (350)—is often predetermined, narrated as magical and/or biological compulsion, and can lead to grave consequences if left unfulfilled. Within the vampire genre, this concept is, for example, the basis for the romantic plotline of the Dark (Carpathian) Series by Christine Feehan, where the link between a male vampire and his soul mate is “biologically recognized and impossible to resist”; those who fail to find their preordained partner are fated to become blood-crazed monsters (Ndalianis 2012, 86; cf. Piatti-Farnell 2014, 200). Romantic love predicated on destiny and articulated through the generations of doppelgängers ever-searching for the same person throughout centuries is also explored in the televised version of The Vampire Diaries (The CW 2009–2017), as noted by Debra Dudek (2018, 4). Furthermore, according to Smith and Moruzi, “the long standing and conservatively motivated myth of the one true love”, epitomised by the relationship of Bella and Edward, is one of the fundamental reasons for Twilight ’s success (2020, 615). The famous saga further foregrounds the trope of love compulsion through the culture of

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werewolves, where males can experience a sudden, overpowering affection, called imprinting, upon meeting their female soul mate (Eclipse 109–112). Even if at first reluctant, the latter always comes to understand that the imprinted werewolf is “her perfect match. Like he was designed for her alone” (Eclipse 157). As Ashley Donnelly notes, “[t]here is no room for question and no way out for the … wolf”, and the woman herself is “passive, chosen and bound by his destiny”; a romance narrative that glamorises “patriarchal control through the institution of pair bonding” (2011, 188, 189).18 These and other examples suggest that the glamorised trope of the magical love bond often sits in tension with the notion of consent. Kristina Deffenbacher argues that the paranormal romance formulated around the existence of a “preordained bond” between a supernatural hero and his female love interest often presents consent as irrelevant. Deffenbacher refers to the blogger Alpha Lyra, who traces the trope of “forced seduction” to the romanticised idea “that certain supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, etc.) have a destined life-mate”—a “soul bond” that is to be eventually recognised by the heroine even if she initially declines the hero’s advances (Deffenbacher 2014, 923). As Deffenbacher notes, such imagery often serves as a romanticised guise for restricting women’s agency in romantic contexts and absolving the hero of any blame for forcing his attentions on the unwilling heroine (2014, 925).19 While enchanted bonds play an important role in Mead’s series, they are typically bonds of friendship, emerging when a spirit-wielding vampire resurrects a newly departed person who from that moment on will have a psychic link to their saviour. Such connection is shared by dhampir Rose and her vampire best friend Lissa, enabling Rose to sense Lissa’s emotions and whereabouts, and rescue her from trouble. In House of Night, magical love bonds are of a romantic character; however, they rarely form automatically upon laying eyes on one’s soul mate. Instead, they need to be actively chosen and created, and are typically characterised by a pre-existing affection. In Betrayed, Zoey attempts to explain to her human sweetheart Heath that his feelings for her are conjured through an 18 In “Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps”, Kokkola further points out the alarming lack of agency in choosing a life partner in the stories of girl children imprinted upon by a werewolf (2011, 172). 19 This theme is developed in Chapter 5 in this volume.

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Imprint, an enchanted link established when she was drinking his blood. Heath cannot help but laugh in response, reminding the heroine that he has loved her since childhood and that the Imprint between them was formed with his full consent (Betrayed 118).20 While destiny plays a key role in the series—after all, Zoey is the Goddess’s chosen one, divinely equipped to battle evil and transform the world—within the romantic context, fate often loses to choice and free will. Recognising his long-lost love in Zoey, the dangerous immortal Kalona sees their reunion as inevitable and utterly beyond the heroine’s control: “Not even the power of your elements can keep me from claiming what will eventually be mine again” (Hunted 179). As Zoey discovers that a part of her soul belongs to A-ya, a magical maiden conjured up with the sole purpose of loving Kalona, she cannot but acknowledge their powerful connection and be drawn to his dark charm (Hunted 185). Ultimately, however, Zoey articulates her romantic autonomy, conveying a strong message that love is neither preordained nor inevitable but instead needs to be freely given and earned: “I am not her [A-ya]! I am Zoey Redbird, and if I love someone, it’s because he’s worth loving” (Hunted 227). The incomprehensible forces of destiny and magic, while certainly at work, are defeated by the heroine’s conscious choice and her rejection of a man who neither lives up to her standards nor satisfies her emotional needs. Kalona’s declaration of his “ownership” of Zoey—“You were made for me; you belong to me”—serves as a wake-up call and alerts the heroine to the perils of their potential romantic involvement (Hunted 224–225; 317).21 This message of romantic agency, however, is not consistent throughout the House of Night series. After Zoey breaks up with him, Heath shows up drunk and uninvited, disrupts a school ritual and aggressively confronts Erik, accusing Zoey of cheating and denying her the right to not be his girlfriend (“Aw, Zo, you’re just sayin’ that”; Marked 329–330). When Zoey 20 Later on, when the Imprint between them becomes broken, Heath urges Zoey to re-establish the bond that is only to reinforce, rather than to create, their love connection (Hunted 109). 21 Similarly, the doppelgänger prophecy of The Vampire Diaries is first contested by

Elena and Damon (who allegedly are not meant to be together), and then proved to be false (“Resident Evil” S5E18). This plot development has been appreciated by the show’s fans, as exemplified by Verygloomy (2017): “Never wanted that prophecy crap to be real. I can’t stand that corny ‘destiny’ stuff lol I’m glad ‘magic’ doesn’t control love. There is no rulebook. There are no guidelines. There is no limit.”

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still attempts to terminate their relationship, Heath resorts to cutting himself with a razor and exploits her newly awakened bloodlust to maintain their connection, claiming them to be soul mates (Betrayed 123). Zoey herself is not certain at all whether soul mates exist, even when she feels “an immediate and deep connection” with her future warrior Stark (Hunted 200). Her own wise grandmother Sylvia finds the sheer idea of “one person and only one person for each of us” absurd and depreciating of both the human and vampire capacity to love. Sylvia claims that the existence of soul mates would be an evidence of the Goddess’s cruelty, condemning those who lost their single chance for love to life-long desolation (Forgotten 120–121). Sydney Sage in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines does not believe in soul mates either, deeming it “statistically unreasonable that there’s only one ideal person for everyone in the world” (GL 33). Her thoughts are seconded by vampire Sonja, who finds the idea of soul mates “ridiculous”. “What if your ‘soul mate’ lives in Zimbabwe? What if he dies young?”, she wonders (LS loc. 5258). Sylvia, Sydney and Sonja deny destiny its romanticised role in forming love connections, emphasising instead the importance of agency and the effort necessary to make a relationship work. Yet, although overtly refuted, the narrative of one true love resurfaces throughout the series. While Sonja does not believe in soul mates, she believes that souls can be “in sync … mirror[ing] each other”, and tells the young dhampir Rose that both her and her beloved Dimitri’s auras shine “like the sun” when they are together (LS loc. 5228, 5257–5260). Similarly, while her scholarly mind does not allow for the existence of soul mates, Sydney harbours a tentative longing for such a possibility (GL 33). Her romantic husband, the vampire Adrian, firmly believes that “there was something in my soul that spoke to Sydney’s, that this connection between our bodies called to something greater than us, something preordained” (FH 37). Although in their supernatural world human–vampire relationships are strictly forbidden and considered a shame and abomination, Adrian has little doubt that their love will prevail: “You and I just have to overcome hundreds of years’ worth of deeply ingrained prejudice and taboo between our two races. Easy” (IS 28). The concept of soul mates is brought into the spotlight in both the House of Night and Other World series, which—contrary to their heroines’ words—abound in couples destined to be together. Even those meant to “move from lover to lover gracefully”, like immortal Erebus,

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eventually feel the longing for a stable, monogamous relationship, and can hope to have a soul mate designed and created especially for them (Forgotten 39, 43; cf. Lost loc. 5421). The narrative of one true love in a lifetime, while verbally rejected (see e.g. Forgotten 120–121), returns through the back door when long lost and longed for lovers come back reincarnated or from parallel worlds, and are reunited with their faithful soul mates, some of whom have been waiting for centuries. When her beloved Martin dies in a fire, the vampress Lenobia vows not to become involved with another human until Martin is returned to her (albeit in another man’s body) (Hidden 1–4, 17). The goddess Nyx promises that Heath and Zoey will meet again when he reincarnates, and Nyx herself waits alone for hundreds of years for the awakening of “her truest love— her only Consort” (Forgotten 47). Finally, the vampire Dragon (Bryan) Lankford is shattered by the demise of his mate Anastasia and cannot find peace. His death in battle is narrated as a happy ending as it allows him to join his beloved in the afterlife (Destined 317). In the original House of Night series, the trauma of the loss of a soul mate is presented as insufferable and often impossible to survive. As I have stated elsewhere, “the vampire fiction often toys with the Romantic notion of self-inflicted death as ultimate passion”, and suicide linked with love emerges as a trope in a number of vampire stories for youth (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ forthcoming). The romantic storyline of Twilight provides a dramatic example of this trend as it taps into the script of Romeo and Juliet to introduce the two young lovers unable to live without each other (Kokkola 2011a). Believing that their love is lost, in New Moon Bella jumps of a cliff and Edward attempts to provoke other vampires to kill him.22 This self-destructive behaviour, Lydia Kokkola claims, is valorised and romanticised in the series—a sign of true devotion and an “appropriate response” to the anguish of the loss of a soul mate (2011a, 41, 45; cf. Ashcraft 2013). While acknowledging young readers’ ability to separate reality from fiction, Kokkola recognises the risks of presenting self-harming as a response to “the very common teenage problem of the end of a relationship” (2011a, 41). This observation is further confirmed by Donna 22 While Bella herself motivates this action by pursuing an adrenaline rush that allows her to hallucinate her vampire boyfriend, her jump has been understood as a suicide attempt both by scholars (see e.g. Kokkola 2011a; Ashcraft 2013) and other characters in the saga.

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M. Ashcraft, who identifies romanticised suicide as particularly alarming when present in the novels marketed to young people (2013, 188). These concerns seem to be shared by the House of Night ’s author. In what appears to be a response to Bella’s cliff jump, P.C. Cast firmly refutes the romanticised interplay between love and death, and reassures the series’ fans that her heroine “will NEVER be on the verge of suicide over a boy” (Interview 2009, 84; emphasis in the original). In the third volume of House of Night, under dramatic circumstances and within a span of hours, Zoey loses all three of her boyfriends (and nearly all her friends). Shunned and broken-hearted, the heroine mourns her murdered lover Loren and despairs over the hurt she has caused Heath and Erik; yet she is also determined to recover and move on. This narrative of resilience, survival and healing is, however, subjected to a dramatic revision later in the series. When Heath is murdered, Zoey’s soul shatters and she wanders the realms of the afterlife, ever-restless and disintegrating. Her warrior Stark subjects himself to extreme physical torture to separate his spirit from his body in order to follow and rescue the heroine. In a close resemblance to the Shakespearean script of Romeo and Juliet—or, closer to home, that of Edward and Bella—in the last volume of the original series both Zoey and Stark declare that they do not wish to live without each other. About to perform a potentially lethal magical ritual to protect her town, Zoey accepts Stark’s oath to follow after her in case she dies. In an eerie echo of Edward and Bella’s “suicide pact” (Kokkola 2011a, 41), the House of Night ’s heroine makes a similar pledge, promising to join her warrior in Nyx’s realm should he fall in battle (Redeemed 285, 291). Zoey’s response is validated as correct and expected of someone whose love is true by other characters in the series, who confirm their devotion by their willingness to follow their beloved to the afterlife. When Other Dragon/Bryan and Other Anastasia hear about the deaths of their alter-egos in the original House of Night world, they are consoled by the fact that they died together. As Anastasia declares, “‘If my Bryan perished, I would not wish to live without him.’ ‘And I would not draw breath in a world without you, my love’”, Dragon responds (Lost loc. 971). The narrative of the loss of the loved one resurfaces in Other World; it is, however, largely re-written as the sequel series foregrounds stories of overcoming trauma. Several characters are shown to suffer from grief and hopelessness after having lost their romantic partner. Ultimately, however, they manage to recover and often form new romantic connections. The

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vampire Kevin feels that he would welcome death as it would allow him to be again with his departed lover Other Aphrodite (Found loc. 1760). His grandmother, however, encourages him to heal—to cry, pray, meditate, drink blood and talk to his lost love—in order to prevent grief from overtaking his life (Forgotten 122–125). When in Found Kevin is briefly allowed to see Aphrodite in Nyx’s realm, she urges him to carry on: Hey, I want you to listen to me closely—I do not want you to die young. I want you to live a full, long, happy life. I want you to love passionately … to experience the world and to fulfil your destiny … Promise me you’ll try. (loc. 1762, 1771)

The trope of the loss of the soul mate and the resulting trauma emerges also in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy. The leading heroine, Rose, briefly contemplates suicide in the hope that she might become reunited with her soul mate Dimitri. In the climactic scene on a bridge, which I analyse in detail elsewhere (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ forthcoming), Rose watches Dimitri fall into the stormy river, and momentarily thinks of jumping to her death as a remedy for her heartache and their separation— a scene that brings to mind Meyer’s Bella, about to fall off a cliff. Numb with grief, at first Rose is incapable of imagining a future without Dimitri; yet she soon refuses to surrender to the glamorised script of Romeo and Juliet/Edward and Bella (BP 427). “Unlike Bella who constantly hears Edward’s voice in her head, Rose listens to her own” (StasiewiczBienkowska, ´ forthcoming)—one that urges her to find strength, live on and not to give up on love.23

3.3

Tying the Knot: Love, Marriage and Power

Ultimately, in both the Casts’ and Mead’s series, the central protagonists are granted a normative happy ending of finding love and entering a monogamous romantic union—a resolution typical for the genre of paranormal romance (see e.g. Ramos-García 2020). These relationships, however, largely withstand the patriarchal romantic model of a dominant male supernatural and a disempowered human girl. In fact, the very foundation of this asymmetrical script is challenged right at the

23 At the end of the volume, Rose discovers that Dimitri has actually survived.

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beginning, as nearly all of the heroines are themselves vampires or halfvampires, paired with the men of their own species. Consequently, a significant age gap between lovers is rare and occurs mostly in the House of Night ’s interspecies unions between vampresses and mortal men, that not only undermine but thoroughly reverse the vampire–human relationship paradigm.24 Moreover, while some girls are liberated into vampirism from the patriarchal oppression of their homes and societies (cf. Auerbach 1995, 148), they owe it to their genes and the choice of the Goddess rather than to the venom of a vampire lover. While other heroines of vampire fiction, such as Meyer’s Bella or Forrest’s Sofia, wait for their male partners to impart their vampiric powers to them, in the Casts’ and Mead’s fictional universes becoming a vampress is independent of a male vampire’s bite. Girls and women in these series rarely rely on their partners for economic security or social position, countering the archetypal formula of a class-disadvantaged heroine courted by a wealthy hero, widespread both in mainstream romance and vampire tales. This social and economic power imbalance is clearly discernible in the vampire–human relationships of Meyer’s Twilight or Bianca Scardoni’s The Marked series (2015–2020), and is drawn to the extreme in Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001–2013), Bella Forrest’s A Shade of Vampire (2012– present) or Michelle Madow’s Dark World: The Vampire Wish series (2017). In Harris’s novels, the leading human heroine is often struggling with financial hardships as she tries to earn her living as a small-town barmaid, while dating her influential and prosperous vampire boyfriends. Forrest’s male lead Derek and Madow’s Jacen are both vampire princes with nearly unlimited economic resources and political power. Their romantic partners, the humans Sofia and Annika, are, respectively, a high school girl abandoned by her parents and reluctantly brought up by a foster family, and a blood slave abducted to a vampire kingdom, forced to steal food from market stalls. This recurring scenario becomes dismantled in both the Casts’ and Mead’s series. In House of Night, the privileged material status is directly attached to belonging to the vampire species rather than being 24 The problem of the male partner’s short life span in comparison to the female is resolved through the idea of reincarnation. As the conventional vampire male-human female romance is absent from the series, it is unclear whether vampire men hold the right to take human consorts.

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conditioned by gender. Nonetheless, the matriarchal constitution of the vampiric society, the extravagant way of living and the political and religious leadership exercised by female vampires, along with some evidence of the spartan lifestyles of male vampire warriors, suggest the transfer of economic and social power to women. In contrast, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines avoid altogether the gendering of economic privilege. Extreme inequities within its supernatural society are narrated through the lens of (royal or non-royal) ancestry, the dividing line between dhampirs and vampires and, sometimes, occupation and entrepreneurship rather than gender. Even in the relationship of Adrian and Sydney—a male vampire and a female human—there is no significant socio-economic imbalance. Both lovers receive their income from external sources—Adrian from his father, and Sydney from the society of Alchemists that employs her, and both are cut off from their funding, having displeased their benefactors. Once they are married, it is Sydney who singlehandedly manages the family budget. Her vampire husband has little understanding of her intricate financial plans, and follows them without question and with much admiration (RC 342). The story of Adrian and Sydney in Bloodlines is the only one among the central romantic narratives of both Mead’s and the Casts’ series that harkens back to the trope of the star-crossed love between a mortal girl and a male vampire. Theirs is also the only one that encompasses formal marriage and teenage/young adult parenthood. Such a narrative construction might ostensibly resemble the unequal paranormal romance scenario, and come across as an imprint of Twilight with its conservative family ideals and romanticisation of teen marriage and motherhood. The story of Sydney and Adrian, however, proposes a thorough and refreshing revision of that script, offering at once a grand narrative of love and a relationship model grounded in genuine equality. Having overcome initial obstacles caused primarily by Sydney’s Alchemist-instilled prejudice against vampires and interspecies relationships, Sydney and Adrian become good friends and then fall in love. Filled with fiery passion and romantic gestures, their clandestine union is first and foremost based on mutual respect, appreciation, trust and understanding, with the vampire man being loyal and caring rather than dominant and controlling (GL 137). As Sydney explains, “we bring out the best in each other and are better people because of our love” (SS 206–207; cf. SS 29; FH 148; IS 274, 285). Eventually, in Silver Shadows, Sydney and Adrian get married and in The Ruby Circle they adopt a child.

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While in a number of YA vampire narratives matrimony and traditional family “is given a tremendous moral authority” (Kane 2010, 113), a trend exemplified by such series as A Shade of Vampire or Twilight, neither the Casts’ nor Mead’s novels position the institutions of marriage and parenthood as central to their love stories. Although at the end of Bloodlines Rose accepts her boyfriend Dimitri’s proposal, she is in no haste to tie the knot as she is deeply invested in her guardian career: “All in good time, comrade. Maybe when I’m thirty. There’s no hurry” (RC 345). Similarly, the Moroi queen Tatiana remains unmarried, while openly maintaining erotic relationships with at least two younger men; and no vampire is troubled by the fact that on formal occasions, her young successor, Lissa Dragomir, is accompanied by a boyfriend rather than a husband. Both queens are strongly committed to their duties, working to ensure the safety of their people and navigating the meanders of royal politics. Once Lissa succeeds to the throne, she focuses on enhancing social justice and furthering her education just as much—or possibly more—as on her relationship with Christian. The queens’ private lives rarely come to the spotlight as the narrative foregrounds their political actions, and even Tatiana’s assassination, although initially believed to be a crime of passion, is eventually revealed as politically motivated. While Sydney and Adrian do get married young, the wedding is neither the pinnacle nor the grand finale of their love story. Although adventurous and romantic, their hasty nuptials are primarily meant to obtain a “vampire citizenship” for Sydney, necessary to protect her from the Alchemists’ persecution. In contrast to Twilight which depicts teenage marriage as “romantic and pleasurable” (Kokkola 2013, 84), Bloodlines offers a more realistic account of marital life, emphasising both romance and the effort required to maintain a successful long-term relationship. Readers become privy to the tensions brought about by Adrian’s mental health issues, inadequate accommodation and unemployment, and the friction between Sydney and her vampiric mother-in-law, who moves in with them and taunts the young bride by feeding on humans in their living room. The couple, however, works through all these issues and at the end of Bloodlines they are shown to be living a quiet and fulfilling family life with their foster son Declan in Northern Maine, surrounded by family and friends. In her article on the themes of “race” and social change in Mead’s series, Amy Cummins argues that the marital resolution typically serves “to contain transgressive heroines like Sydney into patriarchal ideals of

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femininity” and to disrupt the imagery of female independence established earlier in the series (2015, 73, 80). At the end of Bloodlines Sydney is shown occupying the conventional feminine positions of wife and (foster) mother, ostensibly copying the script of Twilight ’s Bella. Her relationship with Adrian, however, hardly complies with the patriarchal model, nor does it truly trouble the heroine’s portrayal as an empowered, successful and independent young woman. The closing story of the familial bliss is narrated from Adrian’s point of view (RC 336–345) and the hero uses this opportunity to express his deep contentment with his role as a father and a husband, and his newly launched career as a preschool art teacher. The Epilogue opens with the vampire taking off his oven mittens and apron to welcome the guests who have just arrived for dinner. It is then that his foster son awakens and Adrian rushes upstairs to take him out of the crib.25 When Sydney comes home from her work and college, he serves her and the guests a freshly prepared meal while emphasising his own cooking expertise—an ultimate image of a domesticated vampire, but first and foremost, of a fulfilled and happy man. In House of Night, none of the vampire protagonists—male or female— are narrated as married; nor do any of them express a desire to enter such a union. In fact, it can be presumed that the institution of marriage does not exist at all in the vampire society—a possible allusion to the traditional imagery of the female vampire as rejecting the marital lifestyle (see e.g. Fong 2016, 111). Human marital relationships are largely depicted as unhappy, toxic, abusive and governed by hypocritical societal conventions—a representation that could be read as contesting the institution of marriage. However, the latter appears to be re-valorised as the ultimate happy ending, as the magical love bonds emerging among the protagonists are revealed to uncannily resemble or even surpass the marital pledge. In the eighth volume of the series, Awakened, the central romantic plot of Zoey and Stark reaches its apex in a marriage-like ceremony, disguised as the ancient love ritual of “tying the knot” (nomen omen) in the Sacred Grove of the Goddess. Having proved his love for Zoey by risking his

25 In fact, from the very moment when Declan’s dying mother hands him over to Adrian, readers are provided with a detailed account of him learning to take care of the boy (RC 185–186). While his female friend Rose “looked more terrified of the baby than a Strigoi” (RC 176), Adrian is revealed as a “baby whisperer” and increasingly thriving in his parental role (RC 176).

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own life to save hers and bonded to her through an unbreakable Warrior Oath, Stark proposes to his ladylove on the enchanted Island of Skye: Zoey Redbird, would you tie your wishes and your dreams for the future with me in a knot on the hanging tree? Yes, Stark, I’ll tie my wishes and dreams for the future with you. (Awakened 28)

After Zoey accepts, they literally tie the knot of the pieces of Zoey’s scarf and Stark’s kilt on a branch of a magical tree and seal their oath with an expected kiss. Reiterating the traditional plot of heterosexual marriage, the ceremony is followed by the wedding night, when the couple consummate their relationship in the legitimate context of an eternal, oath-bound union. The sanctity of the latter is further emphasised when, in a moment of post-coital bliss, Zoey prays to her vampire goddess to thank her for Stark and the gift of true love, sending a message about the value of romantic affection, eternal commitment and exclusivity.

3.4 The Lovely Bliss of Her Bite: Vampires and Same-Sex Romance In “It’s in His Kiss!”, Richard Dyer draws on a wide array of vampire texts in order to reveal diverse correlations between cultural imageries of vampirism and same-sex desire—with vampirism articulating social evaluations of homosexuality as horror, revulsion, “curse”, thrill of the forbidden and/or valorisation of queer identities (see e.g. 2002, 72–73, 83–86). Gina Wisker (2015, 438) and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (2017) further point to the deployment of the female vampire mythos as a vehicle for the investigation of lesbianism. Rooted in the enduring legacy of Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) and the tales of the sixteenth-century Hungarian aristocrat and serial murderess Erzsébet Báthory (Zimmerman 2004, 72–73), the female vampire has engaged with the tropes of gendered power and romantic/sexual emancipation, her subversive potential read as the celebration and/or the penalisation of female homosexual identities (Heller-Nicholas 2017; cf. Wisker 2016, 179–182; 2015, 229–230; 2014, 437–439; Hobson 2016). In “The Fantastic Queer”, Frederik Dhaenens (2013b) brings up the ambiguous and complicated nature of gay representations in the fantastic. Drawing on the scholarship on film and television, he points to the

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scarcity of overtly homosexual characters in the genre. While the popular imagination and scholarly criticism often link the figure of the vampire with homoeroticism and queerness, vampire fiction for young readers is often wary of exploring nonconforming romantic identities and can be even construed, as Kane asserts in relation to Twilight, as deliberately “drained of homoerotic elements” (2010, 104). Mia Franck suggests that girls in vampire stories often “exert themselves to the maximum” (anstränger sig till max) to emphasise their heterosexuality (2013, 216). However, as Dhaenens stipulates, “the lack of gay characters does not imply a lack of homosexuality” as homosexual undertones are often introduced by means of a metaphor and left to be uncovered by audiences and readers (2013b, 103). In the fictional supernatural universe of Mead’s Vampire Academy, all of the central characters are ostensibly heterosexual. However, particularly early in the story, the intense relationship between the adolescent vampress Lissa Dragomir and her best friend the dhampir Rose Hathaway borders on homoerotic (cf. Smith and Moruzi 2020, 615). In the opening pages of the series, and in one of the first frames of the novel’s screen adaptation (Waters 2014), Lissa drinks from Rose’s neck. A fugitive from her supernatural community, the young vampress has no access to willing human feeders so Rose sustains her with her own blood. This act both confirms her affection for Lissa and is a source of intense sensual pleasure. Rose’s erotic delight is communicated through her closed eyes, tilted head and lips parting in a soundless moan (Waters 2014). The heroine revels in the “wonderful, golden joy that spread through my body … a blanket of pure, refined pleasure … and I lost track of the world, lost track of who I was” (VA 3). Fiercely possessive of her friend, Rose attempts to take control over her romantic life. She deliberately lies to Lissa’s love interest Christian in order to separate them, and encourages her to romance a boy who is “boring, yes, but safe”, and for whom Lissa does not truly care (VA 69, 154). The dhampir heroine longs for physical contact with Lissa in the form of her highly pleasurable vampiric bite, and experiences jealousy when the vampress drinks from others (VA 45; cf. Smith and Moruzi 2020, 615). However, as in the supernatural code of conduct offering blood to vampires is considered a strict sexual taboo, “the lovely bliss of Lissa’s bite” (VA 5) is a cause for much anxiety for Rose. The dhampir heroine experiences her own desire as “a weakness”—something that she “hated feeling” (VA 3, 173)—and both girls carefully conceal their

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feeding relationship when they return to their vampire school. Once their secret has been exposed, they become the target of malicious gossip, including accusations of ritual animal slaughter as a part of lesbian erotic foreplay (VA 106). The girls’ secrecy, anxiety and the adverse social consequences they bear for their relationship mirror John E. Petrovic and Rebecca M. Ballard’s assertion about the concept of “the ideal girl” as inscribed “into the social construction of a straight identity” (2012, 196, 204). Rose herself explains away her desire for Lissa’s bite with chemical reactions caused by the endorphin rush triggered by vampire feeding. As the effects of Lissa’s drug-infused saliva gradually wear off and the young dhampir finds herself increasingly invested in heterosexual relationships— first with the dhampir Dimitri, and then the vampire Adrian—her longing for Lissa’s bite wanes. The homoerotic undertones of their friendship disappear, falling back on what Kokkola identifies as a familiar literary convention of representing homoeroticism as a temporary stage in a girl’s development; a sign of immaturity of which she will grow out with time (2013, 102, 110). It is not until the first volume of the Vampire Academy’s sequel, Bloodlines, that an overtly lesbian couple becomes introduced in Mead’s series. Rowena is an art student and a college friend of the main romantic hero Adrian, and is a positive and vibrant—if peripheral—character who emerges in the fourth volume, The Fiery Heart. Her relationship with her girlfriend Cassie appears to be supportive and loving, and the two young women demonstrate no anxiety or uncertainty about their sexual orientation. In the Casts’ House of Night and House of Night: Other World, a number of diverse characters—male and female, human and vampire, adult and adolescent—are narrated as overtly homosexual; a feature that makes the series stand out within the genre.26 On several occasions, the authors have declared their intention to create fictional societies and cultures in which “ALL are accepted” (Loved 325, emphasis original; cf. also Loved 317; Found loc. 5732; P.C. Cast 2011, loc. 66). The eighth volume in the original series, Awakened, is explicitly dedicated to LGBT

26 Responding to the inquiry of Emily Friesen in the Fan Q&A at the end of Loved, the authors declare that the universe of House of Night also includes transgender vampires (325); these characters, however, never emerge in the plot. A transgender figure is featured in another fantasy series by the Casts, The Dysasters (2019–present).

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teenagers and conveys a message of support and encouragement that resonates with the It Gets Better movement:27 It gets better. We heart you. No matter what “they” say, life is really about love, always love. (Awakened loc. 7)

The inclusion of various openly homosexual protagonists—and the positioning of some of them close to the heart of the plot rather than on its peripheries—has been appreciated within and beyond academia. Researchers have recommended House of Night both to fellow scholars and vampire aficionados searching for their next read, as a series that comprises positive depictions of gay and lesbian relationships (Anyiwo 2016, 183). Fans have cheered the presence of homosexual characters and romance as advocating acceptance and understanding, and even as helpful in their own experience of coming out.28 However, the House of Night representations of homosexual teens have also drawn critique, particularly in terms of gay-stereotyping and the absence of any “spectre of queerness” from the main heroine’s vampirism (Priest 2013, 61–62). The most important homosexual character, who has a continuing presence within the storyline throughout all the volumes, is adolescent vampire fledgling Damien Maslin, a devoted friend of the leading heroine Zoey and a loving boyfriend of Jack Twist. Other male homosexual 27 The It Gets Better project (www.itgetsbetter.org) is a non-profit organisation that began as a social media campaign to empower LGBTQ+ youth, based on the message of hope embedded in its slogan “It gets better”. Initially focused on sharing encouraging videos from various people (e.g. actors, politicians), since 2010 it has grown into an international network of support for LGBTQ+ teens. For the critique of the movement as reproducing the trope of gay victim and “omit(ting) the possibility of happiness for gay teens”, see Dhaenens (2013a, 307, 315). 28 In the discussions on the House of Night related fora, the participants emphasised that featuring both heterosexual and gay couples better reflected social reality (Nightchild 2012, “Damien Maslin”), and hoped this would work towards greater acceptance of diversity: “Really cool that the authors put up a gay couple. There is so much misunderstanding and freaky reactions on gays that I really apreciate (sic) they put Damien and Jack on it” (RakshasaTigers 2010, “Damien Maslin & Jack Twist”). One of the forum participants claimed that her experience with the novels had facilitated her coming out as gay: “Damien is hands down my favourite character. I had a little trouble with coming out to my parents and thinking of Damien helped a lot spitting it out” (Erinacchi 2012, “Damien Maslin”).

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couples are briefly introduced in the Other World series, and despite their ephemeral character they are interesting for their potential for queer resistance. When in Forgotten the immortal Kalona discovers that his brother Erebus feels lonely, he asks their Mother Earth to create a perfect companion for him. During the ritual, both Kalona and his Mother repeatedly refer to Erebus’s future consort as a woman: “I will … breathe life into her … she must be filled with spirit”, Earth says (44; emphasis mine); and Kalona cannot wait to “see her! Erebus’s mate!” (49; italics in the original). This scene speaks of the widespread assumption of heterosexuality—a way of thinking that imposes invisibility on non-heterosexual people and compels them to repeatedly “come out”, as it is presumed that a person is heterosexual unless declared otherwise. The power of heteronormative discourse implicit in Kalona and Earth’s words is likely to escape the readers’ attention. Therefore, when a beautiful man named Eros rises from the ground and the emphasis is placed on the pronoun he (49–50), it is plausible to read it as the authors’ deliberate intervention into the system of compulsory heterosexuality and an attempt to expose the mechanisms of heteronormativity that render the hegemonic perspective invisible and “natural”. While initially surprised, neither Earth nor Kalona appears to see the gender of Erebus’s mate as a matter of importance, and Kalona looks forward to welcoming Eros into their family (50). While the birth of Eros takes place in the fantastic realm of immortals and personified elements, the story of Damien and Jack is situated in the much more familiar milieu of a (vampire) high school. Both boys are openly gay and confident in their sexual identities. Theirs is not a typical teenage story of coming to terms with one’s sexuality or coming out to oneself and one’s parents and friends (Mountney 2015, 53); their “outing” experience is located in the past and in the unknown. Neither is their vampirism employed as a metaphor for homosexuality—an otherwise popular interpretation of the vampire trope (Dyer 2002). Instead, their Marking as vampire fledglings is narrated as a liberty pass, signalling their move from the human society that fears difference into the supernatural one that promises a safe space for diversity. Throughout the series readers learn little about Jack’s background and history. He enters the story to fulfil the role of Damien’s sweetheart, the group’s mascot and, ultimately, the evil vampress’s offering to Darkness, never given a chance to develop into a more nuanced character. Damien, however, is a more complicated figure, whose story opens up possibilities to discuss gay teen

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experience, including same-sex romance, discrimination and resistance against heteronormativity. In their qualitative study of the high school experiences of lesbian and queer girls, Petrovic and Ballard define school as a territory shaped by the oppressive discourses of heterosexism, which constructs heterosexuality as superior, and denigrates same-sex attraction as aberrant (2012, 195). Words signifying homosexual identity are used as slurs both within and outside the context of sexual orientation (Petrovic and Ballard 2012, 195).29 As an assumed norm, heterosexuality is often implicitly or explicitly considered essential to a high social status at school (Mountney 2015, 57). In this context, school is established as a place that is often hostile to the exploration of non-heterosexual identities, “where LGBTQ youth are forced to adopt a ‘stick it out’ attitude and hope that there is indeed ‘a better world’ [beyond the school years]” (Petrovic and Ballard 2012, 195). In the Casts’ vampire series, compulsory heterosexuality and homophobic practices reverberate both in Damien’s school and family. While in the original House of Night Damien’s story is primarily related through the accounts of others, in Other World he is presented with his own voice. This opportunity is used to discuss the far-reaching and severe consequences of anti-gay discrimination. Able to tell his own tale, the young fledgling reveals his long-term struggle against depression, and empathises with his alter ego in the parallel Other World who has chosen to commit suicide (Loved xi, 116, 176–177). Damien’s parents are narrated as fearful and unaccepting of their son’s homosexuality, and they punish him with the withdrawal of parental affection (“Damien has a mama who doesn’t like him anymore because he’s gay”; Betrayed 135, 93). They also restrict his social contacts, and Damien feels they might want to lock him (back) “in a closet” (nomen omen) (Betrayed 93). His parents’ negative attitude is further manifested through their desperate emphasis on stereotypical signifiers of hegemonic masculinity in their interactions with Damien. Drawing on Thomas Crisp, Lydia Kokkola refers to the obsolete if still oft-believed understanding of homosexuality as “remediable” through encouraging a young person to follow gender-specific rules of conduct (2013, 115). An excessively robust 29 As Katie, one of the participants of Petrovic and Ballard’s study, declares, “basically anyone who was disliked was a faggot and anything that was stupid was gay.” (2012, 200–201; see also 205).

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handshake or masculine-coded birthday gifts—like camping supplies or a subscription to Sports Illustrated—that substitute for Damien’s “feminine” birthday wish list of art supplies, are clearly aimed at correcting and “curing” what his parents consider deviant (Betrayed 3; Loved ch. 17). Ultimately, as Damien makes his Change into a full vampire, his family cuts all contact with him (Loved ch. 17). In Loved, Damien describes his transfer into a vampire society as a moment of liberation, both from human school bullies and his alienated parents (160–161, 177). However, even in the House of Night the young fledgling occasionally experiences acts of verbal and physical aggression. In Marked, he is pushed and offended by another student, and his designated roommate refuses “to room with a fag” (139–140; 107). Damien learns to expect “the disdainful looks and the sarcasm” from “the jocklike guys” and is shocked not by their insults but by the lack thereof (Betrayed 141). It is not until he befriends Erik Night, the most popular (and, needless to say, heterosexual) vampire boy in the school, that the bullying entirely stops (Loved 177). Damien appears resigned and possibly even passive in the face of abuse—a trend that mirrors the popular representations of gay teens as “vulnerable individuals” in need of assistance (Dhaenens 2013a, 307). In the case of the young fledgling, help comes primarily from his friends, who offer a certain level of resistance to homophobic practices. Throughout the series, the narrating Zoey assures the reader that Jack and Damien’s circle—“along with anyone who’s not narrow-minded and utterly judgmental”—are “cool” with their sexual orientation (Untamed 8). This recurring statement has been construed by Hannah Priest as “an awkward protest rather than an acceptance of young men’s sexuality and relationship” (2013, 61). I would like to argue, however, that it is possible to offer another interpretation. Zoey’s position as the narrator, held throughout most of the story, invites the reader to share her views and perception when she repeatedly denotes homophobic behaviour as narrow-minded, self-righteous and evidence of having “poopie for brains” (Marked 107, 140; Untamed 8; see also e.g. Betrayed 186; Hunted 9). Both Zoey and her circle of friends stand by Damien and root for his romantic relationships, first with the fledgling Jack and then human Adam. At times, they also attempt to work against homophobic attitudes; for instance, in Betrayed Zoey uses her authority as high priestess in training to engage several boy bullies in a

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project led by Damien in order to challenge their prejudice against homosexuals (Betrayed 141–142).30 The positive heterosexual male characters are narrated as attaching little importance to their friends’ orientation. Moreover, both Erik and Dragon, two hyper-masculine heterosexual vampires, are flattered rather than anxious when discovering that they have male admirers; and Zoey’s heterosexual brother Kevin, while slightly surprised, focuses on the power of love when he sees for the first time two young men kissing (Loved 272). The House of Night ’s portrayal of the homosexual protagonists, however, is not unproblematic, and encompasses a number of ambiguous imageries. Throughout the story, Damien’s homosexuality is repeatedly accentuated, even within a context that bears little relation to romance or sexuality, rendering his identity fixed. This could be exemplified by his heterosexual friends linking his orientation with his penchant for academics, unfailing courteousness and even his fear of horses—an everrecurring motif that at times reduces the smart and likeable young fledgling to his homosexuality.31 While other protagonists disassociate Damien from “fluttery-acting” or “too weird and girly” queer boys (Chosen 7; Marked 91, 108)—a statement that is problematic in itself as it reinforces the hierarchy of masculinities and discriminates against nonhegemonic masculine bodies—both Damien and Jack bear a number of characteristics that correspond with the common connection of gay males with effeminacy (see e.g. Dhaenens 2012, 61).32 The narrating heroine speaks of Damien’s “girlish tendencies”, the “cuteness” of his lecturing on shoes or his “soothing babbling” (Chosen 7), both infantilising her friend and reiterating gay stereotypes. Damien’s other friends question his masculinity, repeatedly calling him “Queen Damien” (Chosen 67, 84) or wondering whether he “counts as a guy” (Marked 91). Damien and Jack’s feminine-typed reactions (like turning “adorably pink”; Betrayed 161), interests (like fashion, cross-stitching or decorating; see e.g. Marked

30 In the sequel series, as the High Priestess of the Tulsa House of Night, Zoey hires

only those contractors who are “proequality”, consulting her choice with the Equality Center (Lost loc. 583). 31 Damien is described as trying to “stifle a very gay squeal” in the stables (Hunted 304), or as “gay, and therefore more sensitive and polite” (Untamed 6). 32 This point has been raised by Priest, who reads the depiction of Damien early in the series “as effeminate and almost asexual ‘gay best friend’” (2013, 61).

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271; Betrayed 137; Chosen 6–7, 9), reading choices (e.g. “Brides of Oklahoma” magazine; Redeemed 178), as well as their investment in bodily care rituals (like plucking eyebrows and visiting nail beauty salons; see e.g. Loved 52), position them in a stark contrast to the heterosexual male characters.33 Although Damien is a capable fencer—and thus, possesses a warrior trait that in House of Night is often narrated as demarcating masculinity—he never uses his talents in battle, his combat skills safely enclosed within the frames of an elegant hobby and a fulfilment of school requirements. As a further symbolic inclusion into the community of women, Damien is Goddess-gifted with an affinity for air which, as the fledglings learn in Vampyre Sociology, is “definitely a female affinity” (Betrayed 196). In fact, Damien is the only male student in the original House of Night series to wield the power of an element. When heterosexual Erik attempts to represent earth in the elemental circle, he becomes attacked by the earth candle, which flies away from him and presents itself to a girl student—adhering to the convention of nature and magic as feminine territory (Chosen 90–92).34 Frederik Dhaenens seeks the origins of “[t]he revalorization of the masculine gay man” in the desire to counter the common stereotype of the effeminate homosexual (2013a, 311). However, as Dhaenens contends, an identity performance that adheres to conventional gender codes offers less resistance to the rules of heteronormativity, producing homonormative subjects (2013a, 311). Within this context, it is worth noting that neither Jack nor Damien make any effort to conceal or modify their gender-queer identities. Both boys good-naturedly make fun of stereotypes and the fact that they abide by them (“Yeah, Damien and 33 The clear-cut line between gay and straight boys is further emphasised through distancing the latter from feminine-coded reactions, e.g. emotional outbursts. Thus, while gay Jack is repeatedly shown sniffling or bawling, Zoey’s brother Kevin bursts into “big, snotting man-tears” (Loved 255; emphasis mine). On another occasion, Kevin’s embrace of another man is carefully narrated as “a manly, back-slapping hug” (Loved 290), a description that sanitises the act of any trace of what could be construed as homoerotic. In later volumes, however, boy protagonists are encouraged to refute “toxic young male bullshit” (Found loc. 1866) and express their emotions, and even the toughest warriors are occasionally portrayed weeping (see e.g. Found loc. 4146, 5520). As Aphrodite explains to Stark, “it is not good for men to deny their feelings. Crying isn’t weakness—it’s healing.” (Found loc. 1867). 34 This trope is re-worked in House of Night: Other World, where Zoey’s brother Other Kevin manifests an affinity for all five elements, and Other Dragon Lankford is able to evoke fire during a ritual (Lost loc. 5028, 5030).

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I are gay. That means that we are guaranteed to be good cooks”; Hunted 13), and play up their queerness by attributing themselves with unique “gay” characteristics (such as extraordinary intuition; Chosen 5). On the one hand, this perspective serves to reinforce the stereotypical imageries of the male homosexual; on the other, it signals the boys’ lack of interest in conforming to the hegemonic, hetero-standards of masculinity, and—in the case of Damien—creates a space for negotiations between masculine and feminine conventions.35 While throughout the series heterosex is depicted on several occasions (although rarely in detail), homosexual couples appear to less often act on their desire, and most physical contact happens behind the scenes. This adheres to the general conventions of literature for adolescents; as Kokkola notes, “[e]ven in today’s more liberal society, it takes a great deal of confidence and conviction in one’s beliefs to write a novel depicting desiring gay and lesbian teens” (2013, 93). Throughout most of their story, Jack and Damien’s romance resembles brotherly affection. Damien takes care of Jack, reads him to sleep and smiles indulgently upon his mistakes, while Jack routinely looks up to Damien for emotional support, solace and guidance (see e.g. Hunted 9, 51, 121, 141; Loved 180). Jack’s asexuality is further signalled through his childlikeness—his trusting attitude, delight in toys (Chosen 12), choice of vocabulary (“Where do we go potty?”; Hunted 51), and overly emotional reactions (Chosen 20; Untamed 226, 309; Hunted 145). In comparison to their heterosexual peers, the boys demonstrate little sexual curiosity for most of the original series, and their physical involvement appears to be limited to brief kisses, brotherly embraces (“‘Honey, it’s okay,’ Damien put an arm around him”; Untamed 303), affectionate stares and romantic hand-holding—an asexual portrayal of gay persons that can be seen as reproducing the matrix of heteronormativity (Dhaenens 2012, 67). Later in the series, however, the erotic dimension of Jack and Damien’s relationship is played up, and their kisses change from “sweet” and “innocent” into “deep and long and hot” (Loved 177–178, 222). Their playful banter loses its brotherly undertones and the two boys speak about their physical intimacy (Awakened 56, 57; cf. Loved 237)—a trope that, as Dhaenens notes, “becomes

35 In the last volume of the Other World series, Found, the authors briefly introduce another male homosexual couple, Stephan and Odin, who are both warriors, and thus strongly adhere to hegemonic masculinity.

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significant as a counter-narrative to the gay teen as innocent, vulnerable, or desexualized” (2013a, 314). In contrast to the attention given to homosexual male fledglings, female homosexuality is conspicuously absent through the majority of the Casts’ series. According to Priest, House of Night “repeatedly and explicitly seeks to distance the [leading female] protagonist from the potential queerness of the vampire” (2013, 61). Priest illustrates this point through a scene in Betrayed (25) in which Zoey anxiously considers her admiration for another woman’s beauty as “bordering on weird” or “queer” (2013, 62). Throughout the first eight volumes of the original series, all female protagonists are determinedly straight, their sexual identities firmly confirmed both through their romantic interests and explicit declarations.36 Openly homosexual female fledglings do attend the school, as Zoey finds out shortly after enrolling. However, they are initially assigned to the category of Other—a distinct and separated group deeply invested in the religious cult of the Goddess, or “the moronic party girls” who kiss to attract the attention of boys. Lesbian girls who are “cool” and socialising with straight girls (“us”) are narrated as exceptions and never re-surface within the story (Marked 107–108). On occasion, girls’ experiencing and/or pursuing same-sex attractions are narrated as magic gone awry (Loved 80–81) or, as in Mead’s Vampire Academy, an inescapable effect of the chemical reactions triggered by the vampiric bite. While in the heterosexual context the act of feeding from another person is narrated as powerfully erotic, the only scene in the original series with the potential to depict femaleon-female desire through blood-drinking is meticulously sanitised of any lesbian implications. In Hunted, fledgling-turned-human Aphrodite allows her injured friend Stevie Rae to drink her blood, without which the vampress would die. While Aphrodite experiences intense erotic arousal brought about by Stevie Rae’s bite, she re-directs it entirely at her hypermasculine boyfriend, vampire warrior Darius, whom she passionately kisses throughout the feeding (Hunted 21). Their heterosexual attraction is further articulated by the narrating Zoey, whose description effectively counteracts the scene’s homosexual undertones: “The kiss between the 36 For instance, when Zoey feels self-conscious about using open showers alongside her girlfriends, she reassures herself that they “are all girls, hetero girls at that, so we really weren’t interested in each other’s boobies and such … so the awkward part didn’t last long.” (Hunted 76).

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warrior and Aphrodite had so much sizzle to it I swear I could almost see sparks flying” (Hunted 21–22). When the act of blood-drinking results in creating an Imprint—a powerful magical connection that earlier in the narrative has been reserved exclusively for lovers—Darius reassures his humiliated girlfriend that her bond with Stevie Rae is of a nonsexual nature, and that it will not affect their heterosexual union (Hunted 53–54).37 Successful—if briefly described—lesbian romantic relationships are not introduced into the original series until the two final volumes (Revealed 2013; Redeemed 2014), with further female unions emerging in the House of Night novella “Dragon’s Oath” (2011) and the sequel series Other World (2017–2020).38 These stories are marginal to the main plot; however, they do offer moments of resistance against heteronormative constructions of womanhood and the cultural marginalisation of queer identities. In “Dragon’s Oath”, the openly lesbian vampress Pandeia occupies the powerful position of St. Louis High Priestess and maintains a happy relationship with another vampress, Diana. At the school level, in Revealed, Shaylin Ruede, teenage Prophetess of Nyx and future High Priestess of San Francisco, becomes romantically involved with the fledgling Nicole. In his study of gay representations in the high school TV series Glee, Dhaenens observes that academic and cultural portrayals of gay adolescence revolve predominantly around victimisation, and are likely to underline the gay teenager’s social isolation and psychological problems (2013a, 307, 310). In a similar vein, Kokkola observes that the literary representations of young gay protagonists tend to accentuate the pain and rejection that result from a character revealing their same-sex attractions. While such representations mirror the experiences of many gay teenagers, they also “seem to imply that suffering and internalised hatred are central to a queer identity”, portraying homosexuality in terms of problem or crisis (2013, 109). In House of Night, discrimination, prejudice and finally depression are undoubtedly a part of Damien’s story; Shaylin and Nicole, however, do not seem to go through this negative experience. 37 Cf. also Hunted 127, where Zoey refers to various types of Imprints even though none of the non-sexual ones have been mentioned before. Aphrodite herself explicitly denies any homoerotic desires on her part (Hunted 25, 53). 38 Most of these texts could not have been included in Hannah Priest’s essay, published in 2013.

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Initially, both vampire girls represent ambivalent sexualities in the process of self-definition. They appear to be attracted to boys—Nicole has a boyfriend and Shaylin is courted by a young vampire—and it is unclear whether they had experienced same-sex desire before they met. However, once they realise their mutual affection, they do not need to struggle to come to terms with it; instead, the girls seem to be perfectly happy with their budding relationship. Their coming-out moment is narrated as neither scandalous or sensational, nor as dreaded or painful. The only “consequence” is a brief exchange of gossip among the protagonists as they witness Nicole ostentatiously embracing her new girlfriend in front of Shaylin’s male admirer.39 In “Daughters of Darkness”, Bonnie Zimmerman observes that the lesbian vampire has often been deployed to express the patriarchal fears of “woman-bonding” that was to undermine heteronormative masculine power through the exclusion and marginalisation of men (2004, 74). Dyer identifies similar correlations between the late nineteenth/early twentieth-century tales of lesbian vampirism and the cultural shift towards the pathologisation of women’s “romantic friendships” and independence (2002, 74). In House of Night, however, no one expresses such angst. Even the vampire rejected by Shaylin swiftly overcomes his bewilderment, and the two remain good friends. As reported by Petrovic and Ballard, lesbian high school students often feel compelled to conceal their non-heterosexual attractions and to negotiate the complicated terrain of social life at school through passing as straight (2012, 204–205). The vampire high school in Tulsa, however, is a safe and comfortable terrain for Nicole and Shaylin to develop their relationship in, articulating adolescent gay romance in a positive way and offering a vision of the world in which same-sex attraction is detached from inner conflicts, threats of homophobia or victimisation, and may be expressed without fear. While few and underdeveloped, the lesbian relationships in House of Night speak of emotional fulfilment, commitment and love, and are granted happy endings. Their stories contradict the clichéd depiction of homosexual romance as linked with grief, madness, violence and/or death, which often emerge even in the otherwise liberal narratives for

39 Only once does Zoey ask Aphrodite not to be “mean” about their friends’ lesbian relationship, emphasising that they are entitled to love whomever they want; to which Aphrodite responds that their sexual orientation does not matter to her (Redeemed 118).

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young readers (Gray 2015; Kokkola 2013, 90–93; James 2009, e.g. 89– 96).40 As Andrew M. Butler summarises, “[h]omosexual narratives often end with funerals rather than weddings” (2016, 55), prohibiting the gay couple’s happily-ever-after. Within the vampire texts marketed to young people, this trope has been exemplified and criticised through the relationship of Willow and Tara in Buffy, with their story resolved, as Emily Gray notes, in a “lesbian cliché” (2015, 137; cf. Shepherd 2013, 39). Initially celebrated by fans and queer communities, and called an iconic model of positive lesbian relationship on TV (Bernhardt-House 2016, 176), Tara and Willow’s union stereotypically ends in tragedy and grief. Tara is murdered and Willow descends into violence and madness—a resolution that has been read as ringing with homophobic undertones.41 Another example from the vampire genre is the only lesbian relationship in Madow’s The Vampire Wish series, one that ends with the vampress Laila with a stake in her heart. Her beloved, the witch Geneva, is left grieving and vengeful, and ultimately chooses to die. In contrast to Willow and Tara, who prior to Tara’s passing enjoy a loving relationship on the screen, Laila and Geneva’s love is not revealed to the reader until after the vampress’s demise. At this point, the couple have been separated for centuries with the only possibility of a reunion relegated to the afterlife.42 Also in the original House of Night series, the romantic relationship of Jack and Damien stereotypically ends in the violent death of one partner

40 Kokkola identifies the roots of this narrative in John Donovan’s novel I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip (1969), recognised as the first English language novel featuring gay protagonists written for and marketed to adolescents (2013, 91). 41 The “lesbian cliché” resolution of Tara and Willow’s union has been rejected by

the show’s fans, who re-imagined their romance through fan fiction (Gray 2015). Other scholars have emphasised the positive aspects of representing lesbian love in the show. For instance, Shepherd observes that homosexual desire in Buffy has been “validated and legitimised in a way that heterosexual relationships are not” (2013, 25–26). She further argues that same-sex relations are divorced from the violence and hurt surrounding heterosexual unions, “entirely defus[ing] any reading of female homosexuality as deviant or dark” (2013, 36–37, 39–40). 42 This longstanding cliché is also present in popular culture representations of male homosexual couples. See e.g. Elliot-Smith, who discusses the relationship of the vampires Russell and Talbot of True Blood, and Russell’s descent into madness upon Talbot’s violent death (2012, 149–150).

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and the other’s severe depression.43 However, their love is given a second chance in the series’ sequel, published three years after the original. As Hughes observes, “[c]riticism and the contemporary fictional vampire … enjoy a reciprocal existence. Authors are acutely aware of the critical debate, and are thus inclined to embody it, consciously or unconsciously, within their creative productions” (2014, 341). Perhaps for that reason, the “horrid, gaping hole” that is left in Damien’s life by Jack’s absence is filled with the latter’s alter ego—one that shares the “original” Jack’s spirit—coming from the parallel Other World. The conventional script of the gay couple’s tragic ending comes undone. Instead, the reader is offered yet again a narrative of one true love and eternal soul mating, as Damien proves incapable of finding happiness with anyone but Jack. Asked whether he would feel the same if his beloved had come back as a woman, the young vampire confesses: “I would love Jack no matter what body he returned to me in—male, female—it just wouldn’t matter. He would still be my true love. … I would want to be with him. Or her” (Loved 167; italics in the original). Damien’s formerly fixed homosexual identity becomes re-written as fluid and capable of destabilising the dichotomy of hetero- and homosexuality.44 In “The Fantastic Queer”, Dhaenens points to the moments of queer resistance in the TV series Torchwood. While his arguments consider the relationship between Ianto and Jack, the two male characters of the show, they can be equally applied to the two male vampires of House of Night. Just like Ianto, Damien “argues that his feelings for Jack are beyond gender … [He] describes his desire and love as feelings that transcend binary categories of sexual orientation” (Dhaenens 2013b, 106)—a potentially queer challenge to the hegemonic discourse of romantic love.

3.5

Conclusion

Vampire fiction offers a myriad of portrayals and understandings of love and romantic relationships, with contradictory threads and representations often evident not only among different works, but within the same 43 In the fourth volume of Other World, however, another homosexual couple meets the stereotypical end: Odin is murdered and Stephan is left in deep mourning (Found loc. 4075). 44 Also, in Found, the warrior Odin is narrated as Neferet’s ex-lover (loc. 3678) and current mate of another warrior, Stephan, with his sexual orientation remaining unlabelled.

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stories. Conservative texts include moments of resistance and subversion, and those intended as radical, liberal and progressive at times fall back on conservative formulas. The stories of love and romance are narrated in a variety of ways, creating spaces for empowered, agential and adventurous girlhood (and boyhood), or—in other stories or narrative moments— validating and perpetuating conventional and heteronormative romantic gender roles and unions. These ongoing tensions are certainly at play in the contemporary vampire fiction marketed to girls. This chapter has investigated some of the romantic tropes and storylines of the genre, with a primary focus on the narratives of soul mates and the one and only love, the possibilities of queer romance, same-sex relationships and the question of power balance and romantic equality in the vampire series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, and Richelle Mead. In an interview with the House of Night authors in 2009, Arizona, James Blasingame and Kerri Mathew characterised the series as a contribution to the larger cultural discourse of “Boy Lessons”, that is advisory narratives for girls about love and romance (84). Asked what kind of message about romantic relationships she would hope to convey to fans, Kristin Cast declared: One important message is that you have to be OK on your own before you can be OK in a relationship. You have to be able to stand alone, healthy and happy, before you can be with anybody else. Happiness doesn’t come from someone else. (84)

Yet, in contrast to that declaration the majority of vampire series addressed to young women, including House of Night, foreground a mandatory investment in romantic love. Following the larger trend in girl popular cultures, their protagonists devote a considerable amount of time and energy to discussing, contemplating and negotiating relationships, and the plot is often moved forward through the actions motivated by romantic feelings. None of the heroines of the series analysed ultimately surrender romance in order to pursue other forms of emotional fulfilment, although such moments of resistance do exist, particularly in Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. While developing a love relationship is undoubtedly narrated as an important part of growing up as a human, dhampir or vampire girl, other aspects of girls’ lives and girlhood are often brought to the forefront, the thematic shift away from the paranormal romance noticed and appreciated by the series’ fans (see e.g. Wilhelm and Smith 2014,

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124–125). This shift could be illustrated through the final scene of the cinematic version of Vampire Academy (Waters 2014). At that point, both Rose and her former instructor Dimitri are resigned to the fact that they cannot have a relationship together. Rose asks Dimitri for one final kiss and, unable to resist, the warrior leans into reach her lips. However, instead of the expected romantic conclusion, the audience is treated to Rose knocking her instructor to the ground as she takes advantage of his momentary inattention—finally managing to achieve the ultimate combat goal of their training. The heroine walks away laughing merrily, and so does Dimitri, the final act of the movie speaking about the importance of success, friendly competition and fun over romance.45 Eventually, however, all the central heroines (and heroes) in Mead’s series are granted their expected happy-ever-after in a monogamous and typically heterosexual romantic relationship. Same-sex attractions are allowed only limited space and are mostly concealed under the metaphor of vampiric feedings. The Casts’ series, in turn, distinguish themselves among YA vampire stories (and YA fiction in general) by introducing a variety of strategies meant to resist the hegemonic heteronormative models of romantic love. As Kimberley Reynolds observes, fiction addressed to young readers “is participating in changes taking place in social attitudes to sexuality by moving beyond heteronormative stereotypes”, with an increasing number of books exploring a wider range of romantic identities and expressions (2007, 115, 127; see also e.g. Mountney 2015, 53; Kokkola 2013). Featuring several diverse homosexual characters and presenting them as romantically fulfilled and (tentatively) desiring, signalling the possibility of love that transcends gender and sexual orientation, and finally, leaving ajar the door to polyandric romance, the Casts’ series use the alternative romantic mores of the vampire society in order to expose and unsettle the heteronormative structures of the human ones. The very same structures, however, become at least partly restored through gay-stereotyping, deep (if at times ambiguous) investment in the narratives of soul mates, and the eventual rejection of polyandry. The latter turns out to be but a temporary disruption—perhaps intriguing but ultimately unintelligible

45 An analogous scene in the books involves Rose punching Dimitri while the couple kiss in order to free herself from his unwelcome bodyguarding services. Although Rose loves him and desires the kiss that gives her a chance to re-establish their relationship, she prioritises her plan to help with a dangerous murder investigation and uses their intimate moment to prevent the dhampir man from stopping her (LS loc. 1105–1110).

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for both the protagonists and the series’ fans. Potentially polyandric vampire girls and women become circumscribed into more traditional romantic fantasies, and return to the familiar imagery of monogamous and unbreakable romantic unions as the key to happiness. Thus, the unorthodox vision of romantic fulfilment is eventually used to reinstall and reconfirm conventional conceptualisations of romantic love, as the positive female characters sooner or later discard polyandric practices. However, albeit wary of embracing some of the more radical ideas of romance, love relationships in both the Casts’ and Mead’s series offer much in terms of girl empowerment. Although the novels’ romantic storylines follow different narrative trajectories, they are consistent in detaching themselves from the popular narrative structure of a young and passive human heroine and her superior supernatural partner. The reader is offered the anticipated stories of passionate and undying love that is capable of crossing the boundaries of worlds, times, species, social taboos and possibly, gender; these stories, however, rarely entail the disempowerment of the heroine. Whether vampire, dhampir or human, girls (and boys) in the series position themselves most of the time as agential romantic subjects and emphasise the value of choice, even when it is intertwined with the narratives of magical bonds and soul mate connection. Girl heroines seek to establish more balanced romantic relationships, based on the principles of equality. These notions will be further explored in the following chapters, as the narratives of girl sexual awakening and erotic expressions, as well as the accounts of violence perpetrated against and/or by women, provide further insights into the representations of girlhood and gendered power dynamics in contemporary vampire fiction for young readers.

References Abdi, Shadee, and Bernadette Marie Calafell. 2017. Queer Utopias and a (Feminist) Iranian Vampire: A Critical Analysis of Resistive Monstrosity in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Critical Studies in Media Communication 34 (4): 358–370. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2017.1302092. Ames, Melissa. (2010). Vamping up Sex: Audience, Age, & Portrayals of Sexuality in Vampire Narratives. Journal of Dracula Studies 12 (5). https://res earch.library.kutztown.edu/dracula-studies/vol12/iss1/5. Anyiwo, U. Melissa. 2016. The Female Vampire in Popular Culture: Or What to Read or Watch Next. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda

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Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 172–192. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers. Ashcraft, D. M. 2013. Deconstructing Twilight: Psychological and Feminist Perspectives on the Series. New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Bern, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels, Vienna and Oxford: Peter Lang. Auerbach, Nina. 1995. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Azzarello, Robert. 2016. Unnatural Predators: Queer Theory Meets Environmental Studies in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In Queering the Non/Human, ed. Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird, 137–157. London and New York: Routledge. Bacon, Simon, and Katarzyna Bronk. 2018. Introduction. In Growing Up with Vampires: Essays on the Undead in Children’s Media, ed. Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk, 1–15. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Bernhardt-House, Phillip A. 2016. The Werewolf as Queer, the Queer as Werewolf, and Queer Werewolves. In Queering the Non/Human, ed. Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird, 159–183. London and New York: Routledge. Brown, Caitlin. 2009. Feminism and the vampire novel. The FWord: Contemporary UK Feminism, September 8, 2009. Accessed 23 August, 2020. https:// thefword.org.uk/2009/09/feminism_and_th/. Butler, Andrew M. 2006. Strange Boys, Queer Boys: Gay Representations in Young Adult Fantastic Fiction. In Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy: Beyond Boy Wizards and Kick-ass Chicks, ed. Jude Roberts and Esther MacCallum-Stewart, 53–67. London and New York: Routledge. Calico. 2009a. July 15. Accessed April 14. https://houseofnight.4umer.com/ t189-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Calico. 2009b. August 14. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight. 4umer.com/t189p25-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Cast, Kristin. 2011. Multiple Partners in Our Matriarchal (and Patriarchal) Past. In Nyx in the House of Night: Mythology, Folklore, and Religion in the P.C. and Kristin Cast Vampyre Series, ed. P.C. Cast with Leah Wilson, 145–152. Dallas, Texas: Smart Pop BenbellaBooks. Cast, P.C. 2011. Introduction. In Nyx in the House of Night: Mythology, Folklore, and Religion in the P.C. and Kristin Cast Vampyre Series, ed. P.C. Cast with Leah Wilson, loc. 59–110. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop BenbellaBooks. Cast, P.C., and Kristin Cast. [2007] 2009. Marked. London: Atom. ———. 2007. Betrayed. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition. ———. 2008a. Chosen. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition. ———. 2008b. Untamed. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition. ———. 2009a. Hunted. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition. ———. 2009b. Tempted. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition. ———. 2010. Burned. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. Kindle edition.

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Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 45–59. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers. Dyer, Richard. 2002. The Culture of Queers. London and New York: Routledge. Elliot-Smith, Darren. 2012. The Homosexual Vampire as a Metaphor For … the Homosexual Vampire?: True Blood, Homonormativity and Assimilation. In True Blood: Investigating Vampires and Southern Gothic, ed. Brigid Cherry, 139–154. London: I.B. Tauris. Emily. 2009. August 17. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight.4umer. com/t189p50-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Erin. 2010a. May 3. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight.4umer. com/t189p100-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Erin. 2010b. March 23. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight.4umer. com/t189p100-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Fong, R. D. 2016. A Feminist Bloodletting. Reading Suicide in Florence Marryat and Angela Carter. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 109–123. Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: SensePublishers. Forrest, Bella. 2012–present. A Shade of Vampire series. Nightlife Press. Kindle edition. Franck, Mia. 2013. Skamlig flickläsning. Flickvampyrer på internatskola i House of Night-serien. In Flicktion. Perspektiv på flickan i fiktionen, ed. Eva Söderberg, Mia Österlund and Bodil Formark, 208–221. Malmö: Universus Academic Press. Gelder, Ken. [1994] 2001. Reading the Vampire. London and New York: Routledge. George, Sam, and Bill Hughes. 2015. Introduction. In Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day, ed. Sam George and Bill Hughes, 1–23. Manchester University Press. Gray, Emily. 2015. Writing “Lesbian, Gay-Type Lovers”: Buffy, Postmodern Gothic and Interruptions to the Lesbian Cliché. In New Directions in 21st Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass, ed. Lorna Piatti-Farnell and Donna Lee Brien, 132–145. New York and London: Routledge. Guest. 2009. August 3. Accessed April 14. 2021. https://houseofnight.4umer. com/t189p25-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra. 2017. Seductive Kindness: Power, Space and “Lesbian” Vampires. In Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture: Letting the Wrong One In, ed. David Baker, Stephanie Green, and Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ 201–218. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Hobson, Amanda. 2016. Dark Seductress: The Hypersexualization of the Female Vampire. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 9–27. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers.

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House of Night Forums. Discussion Thread: “Damien Maslin.” Accessed August 25, 2020. https://houseofnight.4umer.com/t8638-damien-maslin? highlight=Damien+Maslin. House of Night. Character Discussion: “Damien Maslin & Jack Twist.” Accessed August 25, 2020. https://honbs.proboards.com/thread/114/damien-mas lin-jack-twist. House of Night Forums. Discussion Thread: “What Do You Think About Zoey’s Double-Relationship?” Accessed August 25, 2020. https://houseofni ght.4umer.com/t189-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Hughes, William. 2014. Sexuality and the Twentieth-Century American Vampire. In A Companion to American Gothic, ed. Charles L. Crow, 340–352. Wiley Blackwell. Hunt, R.Justin. 2014. Scent, Siblings and the Filial: Queering Twilight. In Screening Twilight: Critical Approaches to a Cinematic Phenomenon, ed. Wickham Clayton and Sarah Harman, 164–171. London and New York: I.B. Tauris. Interview With P.C. and Kristin Cast. 2009. Carried Out by James Blasingame and Kerri Mathew in Tempe, Arizona. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.1 (September): 83–85. Isaksson, Malin, and Maria Lindgren Leavenworth. 2011. Gazing, Initiating, Desiring: Alternative Constructions of Agency and Sex in Twifics. In Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight: Studies in Fiction, Media and a Contemporary Cultural Experience, ed. Mariah Larsson and Ann Steiner. Lund: Nordic Academic Press. It Gets Better Project. Accessed September 10, 2020. https://itgetsbetter.org/. James, Kathryn. 2009. Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature. New York and London: Routledge. Jones, Angela. 2009. Queer Heterotopias: Homonormativity and the Future of Queerness. InterAlia: A Journal of Queer Studies 4 (2). http://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/element/bwmeta1.element.desklight-1fa 9f372-647e-44c2-901e-1c455d673685/c/5_Jones.pdf. Kane, Kathryn. 2010. A Very Queer Refusal: The Chilling Effect of the Cullens’ Heteronormative Embrace. In Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media and the Vampire Franchise, ed. Melissa A. Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey and Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, 103–118. New York: Peter Lang. Kayliex. 2009. August 20. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight. 4umer.com/t189p50-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Kayrose. 2009. October 13. Accessed 14, 2021. https://houseofnight.4umer. com/t189p50-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Kokkola, Lydia. 2011a. Sparkling Vampires: Valorizing Self-harming Behavior in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series. Bookbird: A Journal of International

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Children’s Literature 49 (3): 33–46. https://doi.org/10.1353/bkb.2011. 0054. Kokkola, Lydia. 2011b. Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps: Romance Conventions Reconsidered in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” Series. Children’s Literature in Education 42: 165–179. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583010-9125-9. Kokkola, Lydia. 2013. Fictions of Adolescent Carnality: Sexy Sinners and Delinquent Deviants. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. LectricErin. 2009. July 14. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight. 4umer.com/t189-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. LeMaster, Benny. 2011. Queer Imag(in)ing: Liminality as Resistance in Lindqvist’s Let the Right One in. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 8.2 (June): 103–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/14791420.2011. 566277. Lilith of the Night. 2010. March 24. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseo fnight.4umer.com/t189p100-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relati onship. Łuksza, Agata. 2015. Sleeping with a Vampire. Feminist Media Studies 15 (3): 429–443. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2014.945607. Mead, Richelle. 2007. Vampire Academy [VA]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008a. Frostbite [FB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008b. Shadow Kiss [SK]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2009. Blood Promise [BP]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010a. Spirit Bound [SB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010b. Last Sacrifice [LS]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2011. Bloodlines [BL]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2012. The Golden Lily [GL]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2013a. The Indigo Spell [IS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2013b. The Fiery Heart [FH]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2014. Silver Shadows [SS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2015. The Ruby Circle [RC]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. Meyer, Stephenie. 2007. New Moon. Atom. ———. 2008. Eclipse. Atom. Mountney, Peter. 2015. Gay Subversion: Young Men Seeking Safety in Heterotopic Spaces. Papers 23 (1): 53–72. Ndalianis, Angela. 2012. The Horror Sensorium: Media and the Senses. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha. 2019. Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Petrovic, John E., and Rebecca M. Ballard. 2012. Unstraightening the Ideal Girl: Lesbians, High School, and Spaces to Be. In Geographies of Girlhood: Identities

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In-Between, ed. Pamela J. Betties and Natalie G. Adams, 195–209. New York, London: Routledge. Piatti-Farnell, Lorna. 2014. The Vampire in Contemporary Popular Literature. New York and London: Routledge. Platt, Carrie Anne. 2010. Cullen Family Values: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Twilight Series. In Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise, ed. Melissa A. Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey and Elizabeth BehmMorawitz, 71–86. New York: Peter Lang. Priest, Hannah. 2013. “Hell! Was I Becoming a Vampyre Slut?”: Sex, Sexuality and Morality in Young Adult Vampire Fiction. In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, ed. Deborah Mutch, 55–75. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Ramos-García, María T. 2020. Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. In The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction, ed. Jayashree Kamblé, Eric Murphy Selinger and Hsu-Ming Teo. London and New York: Routledge. Rana, Marion. 2014. Of Masochistic Lions and Stupid Lambs: The Ambiguous Nature of Sexuality and Sexual Awakening in Twilight. In Screening Twilight: Critical Approaches to a Cinematic Phenomenon, ed. Wickham Clayton and Sarah Harman, 114–127. London: I.B.Tauris & Co., Ltd. Reynolds, Kimberley. 2007. Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. sHoundsmille, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Shepherd, Laura J. 2013. Gender, Violence and Popular Culture: Telling Stories. London and New York: Routledge. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2020. Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction. In The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic, ed. Clive Bloom, 609–622. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Sommers, Joseph Michael, and Amy L. Hume. 2011. The Other Edward: Twilight ’s Queer Construction of the Vampire as an Idealized Teenage Boyfriend. In Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on a Pop Culture Phenomenon, ed. Giselle Liza Anatol, 153–165. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. 2017. The Lower Dog in the Room: Patriarchal Terrorism and the Question of Consent in Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries. In Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture: Letting the Wrong One In, ed. David Baker, Stephanie Green, and Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ 183–200. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. 2019. Lustful Ladies, She-demons and Good Little Girls: Female Agency and Desire in the Universes of Sookie Stackhouse. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 33 (2): 230–241. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2019.1569393.

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Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. Forthcoming. Suicide, Depression and Mental Disorder in Vampire Fiction: When the World Starts Crumbling. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, special issue “Vampiric Transformations: The Popular Politics of the (Post)Romantic Vampire.”. The Vampire Diaries. 2011. Season 2, Episode 22. “As I Lay Dying.” Directed by John Behring. Aired May 12. The CW. The Vampire Diaries. 2014. Season 5, Episode 18. “Resident Evil”. Directed by Paul Wesley. Aired April 17. The CW. Torkelson, Anne. 2011. Violence, Agency, and the Women of Twilight. In Theorizing Twilight: Essays on What’s at Stake in a Post-Vampire World, ed. Maggie Parke and Natalie Wilson, 209–223. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Company. Verygloomy. 2017. “The Doppelgänger Prophecy”. The Vampire Diaries Wiki, January 1. Accessed August 25, 2020. https://vampirediaries.fandom.com/ f/p/2912160769460145143. Walkerdine, Valerie. 1990. Schoolgirl Fictions. London and New York: Verso. Waters, Mark (dir.). 2014. Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters. Angry Films, Kintop Pictures, IM Global, Montford & Murphy, Preger Entertainment, and Reliance Entertainment. WazzuMan. 2011. July 31. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://houseofnight. 4umer.com/t189p150-what-do-you-think-about-zoey-s-double-relationship. Wilhelm, Jeffrey D., and Michael W. Smith. 2014. Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—And Why We Should Let Them. New York: Scholastic. Wilson Overstreet, Deborah. 2006. Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction. Lanham, Maryland, Toronto and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Kindle edition. Wisker, Gina. 2014. Contemporary Women’s Gothic: From Lost Souls to Twilight. In A Companion to American Gothic, ed. Charles L. Crow, 433–446. Wiley Blackwell. Wisker, Gina. 2015. Love Bites: Contemporary Women’s Vampire Fiction. A New Companion to the Gothic, ed. David Punter, 224–238. Wiley Blackwell. Wisker, Gina. 2016. Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction: Carnival. Hauntings and Vampire Kisses: Palgrave Macmillan. Zimmerman, Bonnie. 2004. Daughters of Darkness: The Lesbian Vampire on Film. In Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film, ed. Barry Keith Grant and Christopher Sharrett, 72–81. Lanham, Maryland, Toronto and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press. Revised Edition.

CHAPTER 4

Pangs of Pleasure, Pangs of Guilt: Girls, Sexuality and Desire

In Radical Children’s Literature, Kimberley Reynolds identifies sexuality and carnal desire as the most rapidly and radically changing thematic areas in contemporary fiction for young adults (2007, 114–115). As Reynolds notes, “what was once one of the most vigorously patrolled boundaries separating fiction for adults from that for juveniles has been [largely] redrawn” (2007, 115). This shift manifests itself through the growing presence of adolescent sexual activities within stories for young people. First and foremost, however, it is communicated through more inclusive representations, comprising explorations of previously ignored, sensitive topics and/or a positive portrayal of the outcomes of sex (Kokkola 2013, 9, 40; Reynolds 2007, 122). However, as Lydia Kokkola elucidates, adolescence and sexuality remain a combustible mixture in which the carnal desires of young people clash with the Romantic vision of childhood innocence—“defined so exclusively as a bodily function, and so rigidly placed in opposition to sexuality” (2013, 27).1 Consequently, a large body of literature for young readers continues to adhere to conservative values when representing sexually active teenagers, with scholars observing a strong impact of abstinence movements on the contemporary depictions of adolescent sexuality (Kelly 2016; Kokkola 2013). 1 See Kokkola (2013, 21–41), for a comprehensive explanation of the controversies produced by the intertwining of the discourses of adolescence and sexuality.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_4

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Located at the heart of both cultural imaginings of girlhood and the narratives of the Gothic, the themes of sex and sexuality are central in most contemporary vampire stories for adolescent women.2 Vampire fiction has often been identified as the most sensual among the classic Gothic tales, with the figure of the bloodsucking monster as the incarnation of human erotic fantasies and illicit appetites, able to provide illuminating insights into the politics of desire and sexual power (PiattiFarnell 2014, 1, 8; Ames 2010; DuRocher 2016, 45; Ndalianis 2012, 91).3 Conditioned by the sexual ethics, taboos and fears of their eras, vampires have come to represent a broad spectrum of sexual behaviours— from “restraint and chastity as a significant moral code in Twilight, to soft-core porn aesthetics and graphic straight and queered sex and desire onscreen in Allan Ball’s HBO series True Blood (2008–2014)” (Ní Fhlainn 2019, 231). From early vampire stories such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) and manifold iterations of Dracula’s wives and lovers, through the lesbian/bisexual vampresses of the 1970s, to the female protagonists of such contemporary hits as Twilight or The Vampire Diaries , vampire stories have long been seen as a fruitful terrain for interrogating cultural understandings, desires and anxieties surrounding female sexualities. Long linked with feelings of shame, and disapproved of as “dirty” (Frank 2013, 211), these stories have conventionally served as cautionary tales against transgressive sexual activities, risqué identities, fatal seduction, pollution and infection—validating and perpetuating culturally accepted ways of performing sexuality. Simultaneously, the figure of the vampire, and particularly the female of the species, has functioned as a metaphor for sexual emancipation and awakening, providing young heroines with moments of resistance against the politics of sexual repression and female disempowerment (Kord 2009, 211; Heller-Nicholas 2017; Wisker 2016, 166). In “Love Bites”, Gina Wisker recalls the conventional connotations of the vampress with “unlicensed sexuality and excess”; an embodied

2 Acknowledging the pervasiveness of the idea of sex and sexuality as the organising principle of vampire fiction, William Hughes (2014) warns against the potentially reductive effect of this perspective on the scholarly interrogations of the vampire figure. 3 Both Bernhardt-House (2016, 164) and Wilson Overstreet (2006, loc. 39) exclude the figure of the werewolf from the body of “sexy” Gothic figures, particularly in comparison to the vampire (cf. Dyer 2002, 75). However, many contemporary narratives cast lycanthropic characters as erotically desirable and highly sexualised.

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warning against the threat of falling prey to the demonised female sexuality that was to be defeated through a stake in the heart (2015, 224, 226; cf. Łuksza 2015, 439). However, in many contemporary vampire stories, vampirism—and female vampirism in particular—translates the erotic from “a site for control and prohibition” into “a site for liberation”, foregrounding female sexual energies (Wisker 2015, 233, 2016, 166). The vampire’s allure and freedom, bold immersion in the forbidden and the perceived ability to respond to adolescent sexual angst and desires have been identified as one among the key reasons of the genre’s popularity among teenage and young adult consumers (De Marco 1997, 26, 28; Byron and Deans 2014, 90; Smith and Moruzi 2020, 612). In Reading Unbound, adolescent informants who commented on sexual content in their favourite vampire books construe their reading experience as “a way to safely contain and reflect upon something that may be dangerous to experiment with or consider in real-life contexts” (Wilhelm and Smith 2014, 129). Contemporary vampire fiction marketed to adolescent women is rife with erotic tension. However, as scholars observe, many mainstream texts are infused with negative depictions of sex, with a particular emphasis on the policing of female erotic expressions (see e.g. Priest 2013, 72). For instance, Carys Crossen observes that YA “American vampires … appear to have inherited a streak of Puritanism, where sex—if it takes place at all—regularly leads to chastisement of the parties involved, like naughty schoolchildren” (2010, 114). Crossen discusses the storylines that demonise adolescent sex as “a disruptive, corrupting force” in contemporary vampire tales such as Meyer’s Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2010, 115).4 Laura Shepherd further observes that heterosex in Buffy is frequently linked with physical and psychological violence, and often poses a dire threat to the characters’ self-esteem, souls or even lives (2013, 31–36).5 Scholars have also repeatedly brought to the fore the rigorous regulation of female sexuality

4 Importantly, Crossen emphasises that Buffy is far from consistent in depicting sexual activities as problematic, as the show contains examples of positive teenage sexual experience (2010, 115–116). 5 See Shepherd 2013, 31, for other examples of scholarly analyses of the interconnection between sex and violence in Buffy. Shepherd further underlines the difference between the representations of hetero- and lesbian sex in the series, and emphasises that the latter as depicted in positive and unthreatening terms (2013, 36–40).

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in Twilight and the conservative idea of sexual fulfilment as possible and legitimate exclusively in the marital context (see e.g. Platt 2010; Allan and Santos 2016).6 Other YA vampire stories, however, appear to offer more liberated visions of girl sexual agency and desire, a strain that can be exemplified through The CW show The Vampire Diaries (Williamson and Plec, 2009– 2017), dramatised for the small screen after L.J. Smith’s literary series under the same title (1991–2014). In Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions and Contemporary Horror, Rikke Schubart points to the critics’ positioning of the show as “the middle ground between teen abstinence and crazy kinkiness” of the vampire genre (2018, 139), and Rhonda Nicol commends The Vampire Diaries for its liberalised perspective on the questions of female virtue and sexuality. As Nicol emphasises, young heroines “must still negotiate a complex set of social codes in order to be ‘appropriately’ sexual, and behaviours perceived as transgressive are likely to result in social censure” (2016 147). However, teenage sex is commonly presented as “value-neutral” or even a positive force, and being sexually active does not automatically position a girl as “bad” (Nicol 2016, 146).7 This chapter explores the representations of sex and carnal desire in the contemporary YA vampire series, focusing on House of Night (2007– 2014) and House of Night: Other World (2017–2020) by P.C. and Kristin Cast, and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015). While thus far not studied in detail, these series have been commended for offering a positive depiction of adolescent sex and sexualities. In her chapter on Vampire Academy as a Third Wave feminist text, Janine J. Darragh emphasises the novels’ non-didactic and non-judgmental portrayal of sexually active girls as capable of making informed and responsible sexual choices (2016, 261). In turn, in “The Female Vampire in Popular Culture: Or What to Read or Watch Next”, U. Melissa Anyiwo recommends House of Night as worthy of attention for its “frank and open exploration” of young adult sexuality (2016, 183).

6 Other, competing readings of Twilight ’s representations of female sexuality that identify the moments of women’s agency and empowerment include Rana (2014) and Bellas (2017, ch. 3). 7 Referring to the figure of the vampire Caroline, Nicol further points to the heroine’s awareness of the injustice of double sexual standards, and praises Caroline’s agency over her sexuality (2016, 15). For a detailed analysis of the character of Caroline, see Schubart (2018, ch. 5).

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On a closer look, the messages conveyed in these series prove to be ambivalent, conflicted and, at times, problematic, with both patriarchal and feminist powers operating in their visions of girl desires and sexual expressions. In this chapter, I consider the representations of female sexual agency and pleasure in order to interrogate the power struggles and cultural notions of sexual (dis)empowerment underlying the depictions of girls’ sexual choices and activities. I look into the narratives of female virginity and sexual awakening as the question of gendered power dynamics transpire through the accounts of the young heroines’ sexual debuts. Focusing on the figure of the vampiric sexualised predatoress and the practices of slut shaming, I further hope to shed light on some of the meanings and social hierarchies produced by the conflation of female respectability and sexuality, and the gendered scripts of sexual morality and decorum.

4.1 It Tasted like Liquid Desire: Virginity, Blood Consumption and Sexual Awakening When in The Vampire Trick, part of Michelle Madow’s The Vampire Wish series, the witch Camelia asks a powerful faerie prince to help her in her quest to become a vampire, the man demands in return “[s]omething that belongs to you and you alone, that you’ve never given to anyone before” (203). Although Camelia fears that the price might be her powers, memories, or even her soul, she accepts the bargain. Only then does she discover that the devious faerie intends to claim something “far more precious” than all the things above—her virginity (204–208). The figure of the virgin and the notion of virginity—with their biological, medical, emotional, legal, religious and moral dimensions—have long been a “hot, and hotly contested topic” in the narratives of the West (Jeffers McDonald 2010, 1; Driscoll 2002, 140–144; Farrimond 2013, 2016; Zehentbauer and Santos 2016). Reverberating with the echoes of diverse and often contradictory discourses on femininity and female desire, and commonly contained in the sphere of anatomy or a single sexual act, virginity is a complex concept that can be defined and experienced in multiple ways, as evidenced by a growing field of scholarly

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inquiry (Farrimond 2016).8 Within popular culture, the tropes of sexual awakening and initiation have long been believed to hold a shared fascination for coming of age narratives and the genres of horror and Gothic (Farrimond 2016; Zehentbauer and Santos 2016).9 In “Supernatural Hymens and Bodies from Hell”, Katherine Farrimond argues that “the gothic body offers a crucial site in which the centrality of virginity to popular understandings of sexual life becomes apparent” (2016, 150). In her discussion of the meanings of virginity in two popular TV series, True Blood (Ball, HBO 2008–2014) and Supernatural (Kripke, The WB, The CW 2005–2020), Farrimond traces the moments “where the cracks begin to show in conventional narratives of what virginity is, and when it is lost” (2016, 150). As a locus of intense social fears and desires, cultural constructions of virginity and sexual initiation are particularly revealing of the broader social perceptions and imaginings of sexual identities (Driscoll 2002, 140; Farrimond 2016). While it may be applied to persons of any age or gender, virginity is often essential in the cultural, political, social and educational discourses of young female bodies and (hetero)sexualities, and is intimately connected with the notions of power, morality, agency and control (Jeffers McDonald 2010; Driscoll 2002, 140–141, 144).10 An explicit depiction of female virginity as “far more precious than your memories, your soul, or even your power” (VT 208) is as dramatic as it is antiquated. Referring to the works of Laura Harvey and Rosalind Gill, Farrimond discusses the postfeminist shift in constructions of girl sexuality from the celebration of innocence and restraint to the expectation of sexual confidence and “the performance of a particular level of sexual awareness and expertise” (2013, 50–51; emphasis in the original). However, along with the celebratory tales of the sexually empowered

8 See Farrimond 2013 and 2016 for a concise overview of the feminist scholarship on virginity. 9 For the trope of virginity in the horror movies, see e.g. Falconer 2010. Virginity within contemporary vampire narratives has been analysed in relation to True Blood (Zehentbauer and Santos 2016; Farrimond 2016), Twilight (Allan and Santos 2016; Crossen 2010) and The Vampire Diaries (Nicol 2016). 10 The concept of virginity is also important in the discourses of young masculinities; however, these narratives are markedly different from the ones concerning girls. For an interesting examination of the male virgin in fantasy/Gothic tales, see Farrimond (2016), Crossen (2010), Zehentbauer and Santos (2016) and Allan and Santos (2016).

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and knowing postfeminist girl, narratives fetishising chastity and abstinence, and demonising the consequences of sex, continue to hold a powerful position in the contemporary popular constructions of girlhood (Kelly 2016; Kokkola 2013; Seelinger Trites 2000; Allan et al. 2016, 7). Consequently, as Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos and Adriana Spahr succinctly observe, virginity “often appears at once as enviable and undesirable, as valuable and detrimental, as normative and deviant” (2016, 1, 3). Within the Gothic genre, these contradictions are epitomised and satirised through Jessica Hamby of True Blood. A sexually adventurous vampress and an eternal virgin whose hymen ever-regrows, the figure of the adolescent undead Jessica “mirrors a society that simultaneously hypersexualizes young women and demands their sexual abstinence” (Allan et al. 2016, 8; see also Zehentbauer and Santos 2016; Farrimond 2016, 156–157). When the readers first meet Zoey Redbird, the leading heroine of House of Night, she is a sixteen-year-old virgin, and defends her choice to remain one (for the moment) as preferable to “being a skank” (Chosen 119).11 In her essay on sex and sexuality in YA vampire tales, Hannah Priest construes Zoey’s polarised vision of female sexuality as formulated in terms of the Madonna/whore dichotomy (2013, 74); a perspective that plays into “a division of women into ‘the pure’ and ‘the impure’”, long reiterated by vampire tales (Łuksza 2015, 439). However, Zoey’s conversation with her friend Aphrodite may also point to the series’ awareness of the contradictory social expectations placed on girls’ sexual performance. Aphrodite’s amused reaction to Zoey’s “innocence”, which earns her the nickname “Miss Goody-Goody”, and her patronising comment “You have a lot to learn, Z” (Chosen 117, 119), suggest the shift of a girl’s virginal status from desirable to amusing and possibly even embarrassing. Aphrodite herself would rather lie than admit that she is not having sex, and she does precisely that when her boyfriend Darius delays the consummation of their relationship.12 Zoey’s defensive response to

11 A common understanding of the term “virgin” as a woman who has yet to have her first vaginal intercourse with a man is both gendered and heteronormative, and presents limitations in analysing the highly complex notion of virginity. While prevalent in the series under analysis, this understanding is sometimes challenged and subverted, which I hope to point out in this chapter. 12 The motif of a girl concealing her virginal/sexually inactive status is a recurrent one in the stories for young people (see e.g. Farrimond 2013; Kokkola 2013, 50). In YA

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Aphrodite’s teasing, however, challenges this discourse, explaining as it does that “there is nothing wrong with being a virgin” (Chosen 119). These complex and conflicted discourses permeate vampire series marketed to girls, an increasing number of which, as P.C. Cast declares, aspire to destabilise the conventional gendered constructions of sexual decorum (Cast 2011; Interview 2009). Neither overly graphic nor cryptically described, in House of Night adolescent sexual activities are often included in the plot and, particularly in the later volumes, narrated in positive terms. The vampire culture of the Casts’ universe is repeatedly presented as one that valorises sexual pleasure—a philosophy that is meant to puncture human conservative views about sex and to set vampires apart from sexually repressed human cultures. As Zoey learns from one of her schoolbooks, it is the human pathological anxieties surrounding erotic gratification that have given birth to the tales of the voracious vampiric bite. She reads that “the ecstasy of blood drinking is the key reason humans have vilified our race. Humans feel threatened by our ability to bring them such intense pleasure … so they have labeled us as predators” (Betrayed 169). This imagery of the devouring vampire is immediately dismissed as nonsensical and unfounded. As Zoey explains in Hunted, [e]ven being bit by a fledgling will cause the bitee (a human) and the biter (a fledgling) both to experience a very real jolt of intense sexual pleasure. It’s how we survive. The old myths about vamps ripping open throats and taking victims by force is pretty much bullpoop. (21)13

The erotic delight linked with blood-drinking is described as a divine gift from the vampire goddess Nyx “so that both could feel pleasure in an act that could otherwise be brutal and deadly” (Chosen 63). In House of Night, blood consumption is thus largely sanitised from its conventional associations with abuse and dark seduction, and drinking from the vein is

vampire fiction, it emerges for instance in the literary version of The Vampire Diaries, as well as in Vampire Academy, where the respective central heroines Elena and Rose are virgins. Yet, being as they are popular, desirable and confident, they are regarded as sexually active or even promiscuous; and they appear to be mostly content with such a persona. 13 Earlier in the series, a vampire high priestess openly criticises fundamental Christianity as a religion that vilifies pleasure and connects it to guilt and fear (Betrayed 13).

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typically narrated as the privilege of lovers (or sometimes that of wounded friends in need of blood’s healing properties).14 In vampire fiction, the vampiric feeding has been routinely read as a metaphor for sexual activities.15 Piatti-Farnell notes that “in previous centuries sex occupied the latent position when the vampire’s sucking was concerned” (2014, 199). Bloodlust and blood exchange were the way to express and resolve erotic tension in YA vampire fiction of the past; in the words of Joseph De Marco, they were “sex without sex” (1997, 28). In contemporary texts, blood-drinking and fang penetration are often interlaced with other sexual activities—narrated as a foreplay or an experience that enhances sexual arousal. In House of Night, fledglings are taught early on by both their teachers and textbooks that blood sharing, just like sex, must always be consensual. In fact, it is narrated as a ritual of teenage vampire courtship; at different points of the story, all Zoey’s boyfriends— human, fledgling and vampire—offer their blood to her, and her two vampire lovers drink from her in exchange. The heroine’s craving for the blood of her human love Heath serves as a powerful image of her erotic awakening: It tasted like liquid desire, hot and thick and electric. It made my body burst alive in places that had only begun to rouse before. And those places were starving. I wanted to drink Heath’s sweet blood while he satisfied my yearning for his touch, his body, his taste …. (Betrayed 266)

Zoey’s sexual awakening and development are placed in the spotlight of the early volumes of the series. Along with her transformation into a vampire fledgling (a thinly cloaked metaphor for human puberty), the heroine begins to experience powerful erotic desires and to contemplate the prospect of losing her virginity—“[t]he thought [that] scared me as much as it fascinated me” (Betrayed 126). Zoey’s autodiegetic narration offers an intimate insight into the heroine’s sexual longings—and 14 Except for the case of feral red vampires and fledglings who drink blood and eat flesh, and whose feedings are narrated as repulsive acts of violation with no erotic undertones. 15 See e.g. Dyer (2002, 75–76), Nakagawa (2011), Hughes (2014) Piatti-Farnell (2014,

70–73), Byron and Deans (2014, 90), Rana (2014, 124), Smith and Moruzi (2020, 612). In the vampire narratives advocating conservative sexual values, abstinence from blood and sex often go hand in hand. As observed by Ní Fhlainn in relation to Twilight, blood and semen are subjected to similar regulations, with both blood and sexual cravings narrated as dangerous and in need of containment (2019, 231).

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the mixture of doubt, delight, disgust and excitement that they inspire throughout her increasingly erotic encounters with vampire fledgling Erik Night, human Heath Luck and the vampire teacher Loren Blake. Simultaneously intrigued by and terrified of her budding sexuality—feelings that manifest through “equal pangs of pleasure and of guilt” (Betrayed 171)— Zoey remains a virgin until the third volume, when on the spur of the moment she has passionate sex with Loren on the floor of the school’s rec hall. As the policy of the House of Night explicitly prohibits teachers from romancing students (Betrayed 73), the torrid affair of Loren and Zoey initially offers a familiar thrill of a grand, forbidden passion.16 However, alongside Zoey’s emotional and erotic delight, the narrative increasingly foregrounds the alarming imbalance of power in their relationship. Discussing the ideas of Catharine MacKinnon, Clare Chambers points to the hierarchical structure of sexual relationships as an essential foundation of oppressive gender relations (2008, 49–51). Within vampire romance fiction, the asymmetrical power in sexual unions often manifests through the figure of a young and virginal heroine whose sexual awakening occurs upon meeting a centenarian, paternalistic and sexually dominant male vampire. The latter is frequently narrated as introducing his female partner into the world of the erotic, and guiding her sexual development, imposing abstinence and/or determining the “correct” moment for her sexual initiation. The reliance on these old-fashioned patriarchal romantic conventions has evoked critical concerns about the gendered imbalance of power that eroticises male supremacy and female submissiveness in sexual relationships.17 While at the beginning of both House of Night and Richelle Mead’s series, all but one of the central heroines are virginal, they all distance themselves, to varying degrees, from the popular paradigm of a human girl–vampire man sexual union. The imbalance of power, however, does occur, even though it stems from the differences in social positions and experience rather than that of species. Such stories serve as cautionary

16 Zoey’s best friend Stevie Rae compares them to Romeo and Juliet (Betrayed 73). 17 For the ways in which the relations of power embedded in the account of female

sexual awakening in the literary series The Southern Vampire Mysteries (Harris 2001–2013) have become re-scripted in its televised adaptation True Blood, see Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2019).

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tales, emphasising the abuse of power and the risks of relying on patriarchal narratives of romance. In House of Night, this is foregrounded through the affair between a fledgling student and a vampire teacher. The problem of the power relations explicit in teacher–student unions has long been subjected to public debates and recognised in both legal regulations and school policies that often ban or restrict them. Such relationships have been recurrently depicted in popular culture, varying from true love thwarted by social limitations, through the demonic affair that disrupts and destroys, to a meaningful but ultimately doomed romance, as evidenced, among others, by Fisher et al. (2008, ch. 5) and Reynolds (2007, 123–127). In House of Night, Zoey initially narrates her affair with Loren as exciting and empowering. While she is strongly attracted to both Heath and Erik, it is the gaze of the mature and seductive vampire teacher that she sees as the force that truly awakens her as a woman: [S]omething happened within me. I stopped feeling like a goofy, jittery, dorky teenage girl. The look in his eyes touched the woman inside me … and as this new me stirred I found a calm confidence in myself that I had rarely known before. (Betrayed 51; cf. 149)

In Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory, Catherine Driscoll points to the patriarchal narratives of virginity and sexual awakening as “designat[ing] girls’ maturity as something gifted by men” (2002, 141). Zoey reflects that notion when she further explains the effect of Loren’s advances on her budding sexual self: “I was a woman, mature and powerful, and I knew what I wanted and how to get it, too” (Chosen 78). Soon, however, the heroine begins to realise that this is merely an illusion as she feels increasingly frightened and ever less in control of her developing connection to Loren. The narrative foregrounds the tensions inherent to their illicit relationship and the resulting isolation of the young heroine. Zoey understands that she ought not to deal with this situation alone (“I really needed someone to talk to”; Betrayed 150); yet she feels like there is nobody to whom she can turn. One by one, she discards her grandmother, school mentor, best friend and other adult vampires as potential confidants, fearful of their reaction—a decision that is to become her undoing (Betrayed 150). In Education in Popular Culture, Fisher et al. observe that relationships between male teachers and female students are often depicted in terms of mutual threat, abuse and corruption: “In such tales adolescent

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female sexuality often acquires an almost terrifying power, threatening any male teacher who steps out of the strictly desexualised role he must maintain” (2008, 104). The story of Zoey and Loren, however, resists such imagery. Disassociating the teenage heroine from the stereotyped figure of the alluring schoolgirl, the narrative over-emphasises Zoey’s naïveté, youthful abashment and self-consciousness in her interactions with the vampire: He nodded at the empty seat beside me. “… do you mind if I sit with you a little while?” “Yeah, sure. I need a break. I think my butt’s asleep.” Oh God, just kill me know. He laughed. “Well then, would you like to stand while I sit?” “No, I’ll—uh—just shift my weight.” And then I’ll hurl myself out the window. (Betrayed, 31)

Loren’s skilful seduction—seemingly accidental encounters, feigned irresolution between his feelings and responsibilities as a teacher, poems recited under the moonlight and planted in Zoey’s locker (see e.g. Betrayed 49–53, 69–70)—allows him to assume control over their relationship. It is him who decides where and when they may meet (see e.g. Chosen 82) and who seeks Zoey out, intruding on her time and interfering with her obligations. Zoey often feels that she is “playing with something so far beyond what I’d ever experienced that it could easily spiral out of control” (Chosen 77). Ultimately, Loren explicitly communicates the superior position that allows him to take advantage of Zoey, dismissing her as “easy to lead around. A shiny present here, a pretty compliment there, and you have true love and a popped cherry sacrificed to the god of deception and hormones” (Chosen 262). It is clear that although Zoey agrees to have sex with Loren, her agency is, in fact, taken away from her, their unequal relationship rendering consensual intercourse impossible.18 It soon transpires that Loren acts at the orders of Zoey’s nemesis vampire priestess Neferet, alienating the young heroine from her loved ones, manipulating her into drinking his blood and having sex, and eventually exposing their secret romance to ruin her 18 In “Mary Sues, Sluts and Rapists”, Gaïane Hanser construes this scene explicitly as rape, and criticises the series for failing to reflect upon the abusive dimension of Zoey and Loren’s union (2018, 10–11). I, however, argue to the contrary and claim that in this particular storyline, the novels clearly emphasise the wrongness of Loren’s actions.

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friendships and relationships. Responding to fans’ queries and occasional frustration over Loren’s violent end, P.C Cast dispels any doubts about the message underpinning this particular thread of the plot: Adults who abuse their positions of power (teachers, the clergy, politicians, public servants) instead of serving and protecting those in their care should be held responsible. Loren is not a romantic character—no matter how handsome and charming he appears. He’s an abuser and a predator. (Loved 328; cf. also Interview 2009, 84)

In House of Night, female teachers are also capable of exploitative behaviour. Hannah Priest draws attention to the presence of the paedophilic undertones in YA vampire texts, pointing to the “problematic grey areas of human/vampire relationships, which are brought about by the generational and experiential gap between the human [most often teenage] girl and her undead lover” (2013, 67).19 In the Casts’ series, these undertones are reversed and highlighted in an intimate encounter between the century-old, sexually well-versed vampire headmistress Neferet and the adolescent fledgling Elliot. It is with horror and disgust that the narrating Zoey witnesses Elliott drinking Neferet’s blood. The scene carries strong implications of paedophilia and a sense of breaking a powerful taboo. This transpires not only through the age, and experiential and social gap between Neferet and Elliott, but also, quite literally, through the difference in height, as the vampress has to bend down to kiss the fledgling’s lips (Betrayed 158). The seductive headmistress clearly revels in the boy’s youthful, blind infatuation and finds pleasure in forcing him to beg for further intimacies: “Please, Goddess!” Elliott whimpered. “You know you don’t deserve it.” “Please, Goddess!” he repeated. His body was shivering violently. “Very well, but remember. What a goddess gives, she can also take away.” (Betrayed 158)

Both Neferet and Elliott derive erotic gratification from their encounter; but the bond they form is one of fear and dependence, abuse of power and 19 Discussing Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires (2006–2014), Priest identifies this series as exceptional among other YA vampire texts as it “demonstrate[s] awareness of the uneasiness generated by placing teenage girls alongside older, adult vampires” (2013, 67).

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child exploitation, as it is clear that Elliott is addicted to the vampress’s intoxicating blood. The transgressive nature of their liaison is amplified by the setting of the scene—they meet in the middle of a cold night, at the “spooky east wall” of the school where evil powers dwell (Betrayed 157– 163). Both Neferet and Loren freely offer their own blood to Elliott and Zoey; however, their blood is poison meant to control and addict rather than please and nourish, rendering their relationship with the fledgling students predatory and vampiric.20 The only positive romantic union between a teacher and a student occurs in the House of Night novella Dragon’s Oath, revealing the beginning of the love story between fledgling Dragon Lankford and vampress Anastasia. Their romance, however, is carefully purged of any traces of power abuse. The narrative over-emphasises Anastasia’s youthfulness and innocence, as well as Dragon’s erotic experience and the minimal age gap between the lovers (as she is only two years his senior). More importantly, Dragon swears his Warrior Oath to Anastasia and matures into a full vampire—automatically relinquishing his student status—the very same night the couple share their first chaste kiss. In the human high school world of Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines , where witches, vampires and dhampirs attend undercover, the school rules forbid teachers to touch students unless necessitated by a medical condition or a need to break up a fight, and even grabbing a student’s hand could result in a law suit (GL 169). In Vampire Academy, however, the forbidden love between a schoolgirl and her instructor is positioned as the central romantic storyline. Already in the first volume, the adolescent dhampir heroine Rose Hathaway falls in love with her combat instructor, the dhampir Dimitri Belikov. Their first intimate encounter is triggered by an evil spell that spurs them to act on their mutual desire, and is immediately terminated by Dimitri once he comes to his senses. The teacher is further exonerated from any potential blame when he urges Rose to report him (a request that she firmly denies).21 Dimitri acknowledges the wrongness of his actions, refusing to accept the spell as an extenuating circumstance 20 An interesting case of a literalisation of a predatory female pedagogue can be found in the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. In the episode “Teacher’s Pet”, a female teacher seduces and then imprisons male students to have sex with them and then devour them as she turns into a monstrous giant praying mantis (S1E4). 21 In their interpretation of the scene, Smith and Moruzi point out that Dimitri burdens Rose with the decision whether to keep or reveal their secret (2018, 14).

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(VA 313–314). He also attempts to cut any romantic connection with Rose, explaining his decision with the differences brought about by the age gap between them: Rose, I’m seven years older than you. In ten years, that won’t mean so much, but for now, it’s huge. I’m an adult. You’re a child … We’re in two very different places. I’ve been out in the world. … And you … You’re still growing up and figuring out who you are and what’s important. You need to keep doing that. You need to be with boys your own age. … you need to understand that it was a mistake. And it isn’t ever going to happen again … (VA 313–314)

In “Consent is Sexy”, Evie Kendal and Zachary Kendal call into question Rose’s ability to give a legitimate consent to Dimitri based on the power imbalance in their relationship—after all, she is an underaged virgin propositioned by a man of superior experience and in a position of authority. In the light of these arguments, it is not unexpected that Kendal and Kendal frame the couple’s intimacy in terms of a statutory rape (2015, 30). However, this interpretation comes across as problematic when Rose reacts with anger to Dimitri’s attempts to infantalise and patronise her. The heroine is deeply upset with the hero calling her a child whose “life is about homework and clothes and dances”, and feels insulted by his suggestion that their erotic encounter has been volitional on his but not on her part (VA 313). When Dimitri exclaims: “I took advantage of you!”, Rose answers curtly: “No … You didn’t” (VA 313). In “Scandalous Stories and Dangerous Liaisons”, Pat Sikes observes that within public and media discourses, sexual intimacy between a student and a teacher, even if consensual, is predominantly narrated as “illegitimate, abusive and exploitative on the part of the teacher” (2006, 266). However, as Sikes points out, other narratives should also be given voice, as they can propose “an alternative view of gendered sexual agency and the exercise of power that does not cast women as the passive recipients of active male desires and the inevitably weaker and harassed party in any relationship” (2006, 267). While in House of Night the emphasis is placed on the differential of power and agency between teacher and student, as well as the potential for abuse and the breach of trust, the romantic connection between Rose and Dimitri embraces an alternative option. Rose refuses to accept the position of an unknowing, innocent

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child or a non-agential female victim, and firmly rejects the view of her erotic relationship with Dimitri as non-consensual or predatory.

4.2

Didn’t the Earth Move or the Planets Align? The Tales of the “First Time”

Rose and Dimitri do not consummate their passion until Rose is nearly eighteen, when they give into their long contained desire in a secluded cottage at the edge of the school in the series’ third volume (SK 344–351). While their romance begins with Dimitri in the position of authority—negotiating against Rose’s expulsion from school and taking upon himself the role of her mentor—their teacher–student relationship ultimately proves unproblematic, with the narrative strongly emphasising the equality of power relations between the lovers and highlighting the humorous aspects of their situation (like the fierce warrior Dimitri fearing Rose’s mother). Their early erotic encounters are, however, narrated as either preceded or followed by dangerous events and/or consequences. In Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature, Roberta Seelinger Trites delineates fiction marketed to adolescents as generally aiming to police and control young people’s sexual activities. This results, she observes, in common representations of the consequences of sex as disastrous and traumatising. Adolescent sex is closely followed by regret, betrayal, unplanned pregnancy or/and the breakdown of the relationship, conveying the message that “sex is more to be feared than celebrated” (2000, 85). As Seelinger Trites crisply states, “all hell breaks loose” as soon as the characters choose to give into their carnal desires. Over a decade later, Seelinger Trites’ arguments were confirmed by Kokkola, who underscores the persistence of English-language YA fiction in representing the outcomes of sex as catastrophic. As Kokkola argues, “[a]ssociating the loss of virginity, even when mutually desired, with violence and pain underscores the view that teenagers should curb and control their sexual desires or expect to suffer” (2013, 49; see also 51–94).22 In her analysis of sexual abstinence in contemporary vampire stories, Carys Crossen cites the relationships of Buffy and Angel in Buffy, and

22 Kokkola notes that Nordic literary works for young readers generally offer more liberal perspectives on adolescent sex (2013, 6–7).

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Edward and Bella of Twilight, in order to demonstrate how the consummation of carnal desires can be turned into a cautionary tale (2010, 115, 117–119). Both couples become penalised for engaging in sex; Angel suffers the loss of his soul, Buffy suffers humiliation and the loss of Angel; Edward is punished with guilt and fear of losing Bella, and Bella with bruises and life-threatening pregnancy.23 As his intercourse with Buffy activates a curse and turns Angel evil, the narrative of her sexual initiation further comes to manifest key cultural fears about the loss of female virginity—“that the boy will cease to value the girl after sex and that the act itself is much less important to him than to her” (Fisher et al. 2008, 72; cf. Shepherd 2013, 32). Although experienced under radically different circumstances, both in the case of Mead’s Rose and House of Night ’s Zoey, a brief delight in sex is followed by emotional pain, the end of the relationship and the brutal (if at times reversible) death of the loved one—a course of events that stems directly from sex or simply occurs soon after. While mutually longed-for and deeply satisfying, Rose and Dimitri’s early erotic encounters occur in the context of violence and threat, linking sexual maturation with danger (cf. Smith and Moruzi 2018, 14). Spellbound, they are distracted by their desire while Rose’s best friend Lissa is kidnapped and tortured in the first volume. In Shadow Kiss, in turn, Dimitri drags Rose into a cabin in the woods to restrain her from attacking and possibly killing an adolescent vampire bully. As her rage subsides, their desire awakens and leads to intercourse. Their post-coital bliss, however, becomes swiftly obliterated by a sense of mortal danger as the lovers find themselves surrounded by the murderous Strigoi invading the school. Rose is forced to leave Dimitri behind as she flees to alarm other guardians; Dimitri falls in battle and becomes forcibly turned undead. In a similar, if more gruesome way, Loren and Zoey’s sexual liaison is shortly followed by Loren’s betrayal and his disembowelment, decapitation and crucifixion performed by his other lover—a course of events that understandably results in Zoey’s heartbreak and loss of self-esteem. Seduced by a mature vampire, the heroine still partly blames her sixteen-year-old self for having fallen for his lies, and feels undeserving of friendship and respect (see e.g. Chosen 268, 283). Her disappointment over what she sees as “the biggest mistake of my life” 23 As noted by Shepherd, Buffy is further compelled to “atone” for acting on her desires when she must deliver a fatal blow that sends her beloved straight into hell (2013, 32). For an insightful analysis of Bella’s monstrous pregnancy, see e.g. Kokkola (2011).

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(Hunted 61)—that is losing her virginity to an unworthy man—results in her decision to abstain from sex altogether and leaves her with a sense of mistrust towards other men’s intentions (Untamed 164; Hunted 61). The heroine’s declaration—“I’ve totally learned my lesson” (Untamed 164)—turns the story of her affair with Loren into a warning against a rash and imprudent sexual debut, and communicates the need to carefully consider decisions regarding sex. Importantly, while initially devastated, Zoey overcomes her distress and draws on her experience with Loren to emphasise the value of agency and choice. As Fisher et al. observe in regard to Buffy, “[t]he girl’s fears about sex might come true in that men will prove cruel and predatory but she is able to fight back” (2008, 72). Consequently, the message becomes one of empowerment rather than of damage and lingering trauma. When in the later volumes Zoey resumes her relationship with the vampire Erik, she does not hesitate to reject his sexual advances when she feels that he has moved too far (Hunted 57–61). As her narration of their encounter shifts from passion and desire to the sense of entrapment and “being groped in the dark”, the heroine begins to suspect that Erik might feel entitled to intimacy with her as she has already slept with another man: “Did Erik think because I’d had sex (once!) that now it was open season on nailing Zoey? Ah, crap!” (Hunted, 61; italics original). Zoey’s angry and determined reaction stands as a challenge to the cultural narration of the value of female “sexual exclusiveness”. The latter, as Martha Burt elucidates, valorises virginity as the source of female bodily autonomy and a guarantee of safety, construing the non-virginal, non-marital female body as “a fair game” ([1998] 2003, 132–133; cf. Farrimond 2016, 153). As jubilant Erik fails to register Zoey’s change of heart despite her verbal and bodily attempts to withdraw, the girl pushes him away and categorically orders him to stop (Hunted 61–62), recognising herself as an agential sexual subject and firmly asserting her right to her body. One of the most interesting and celebratory accounts of female sexual initiation is offered in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines . As the romance plot in the series seemingly resembles the familiar scenario of a youthful, virginal heroine sexually awakened by an erotically well-versed supernatural male, the story of human Sydney and vampire Adrian may at first glance appear unlikely to offer an empowering vision of female sexuality. Sydney’s erotic experience is limited to several unexciting kisses with her human boyfriend. Not until she develops a romantic connection with Adrian does she truly begin to explore her carnal desires. However,

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regardless of his gender, supernatural status and vast sexual expertise, Adrian is never granted an exclusive position of agency and authority in sexual matters. While he incites Sydney’s passion, she does not ask for his guidance nor does she question her own ability to gain or give sexual satisfaction, and is open to pursue her erotic desires. Sydney’s decision to become sexually active is preceded by careful consideration and methodical preparation, as she emphasises the importance of “doing it responsibly” (FH 75). The heroine visits a doctor, researches contraceptive options (preparing, to somewhat comic effect, a colour-coded chart entitled “Oral-Contraceptive Comparison”), discusses the matter with her boyfriend and begins to take birth control pills well before their first intercourse (FH 62–63, 74–76). In her analysis of English-language youth literature published within the span of the last several decades, Kokkola observes “a noteworthy decline in the frequency with which the characters negotiate birth control, and so teenage readers are not offered insights into when and how the subject could be raised” (2013, 55). Given the common construction of the figure of the vampire as biologically incapable of conceiving or producing a child, this topic is routinely passed over in silence within youth vampire fiction.24 In House of Night, all vampires are rendered infertile upon their metamorphosis—a condition that, as the authors claim, is highly unlikely to change (Loved 329). Vampires also appear to be immune to sexually transmitted diseases, and consequently Zoey and her girlfriends never need to contemplate or discuss contraception. In A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest, producing children requires a deliberate metamorphosis from vampire to human— an excruciatingly painful and typically temporary process that the married couples typically undergo with the sole purpose of enabling pregnancy. In Mead’s series, however, vampires are capable of procreation through penetrative sex, and can have offspring with other vampires, dhampirs and humans. Resultantly, the question of contraception is presented as important and relevant to the protagonists’ lives. While not denying the young women the right to act on their desires, the series conveys a clear 24 Playing upon the trope of the vampire’s alleged infertility, some vampire stories are built around an unplanned and “miraculous” pregnancy. Notably, it is typically a vampire male who turns out to be capable of biological procreation, usually with a woman of another species. The two well-known examples involve the vampire Edward, who impregnates his human wife Bella in Twilight, and the vampire Niklaus Mikaelson of the TV show The Originals (The CW 2013–2018), who becomes a father after a one-nightstand with werewolf Hayley Marshall.

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message about the serious consequences of reckless sexual behaviour. Health posters on the walls of St. Vladimir’s warn students to “practice [only] safe sex” (LS 4412) and all the central heroines demonstrate knowledge about contraception and are careful to apply it in practice. Occasionally, this is signalled through a brief mentioning of a condom being taken out before intercourse (FB 104); at other times the matter is discussed in detail. In Spirit Bound (439–444), Rose and her thenboyfriend Adrian refrain from consummating their passion at the very last moment, as Rose realises that they do not have protection. Adrian is willing to take the risk, persuading his girlfriend that “[t]he odds of anything bad happening are pretty low” (441). Overwhelmed with desire, Rose is about to agree, nearly yielding to Adrian’s reasoning. Yet, when she recalls her friend Karolina, a dhampir single mother, the heroine begins to consider the potential ramifications of her decision. Implying that the costs of unplanned pregnancy are higher for girls than for boys, contemplating the amount of effort necessary to raise a child, and worrying about her professional career, as well as the possibility of contracting a disease, Rose concludes that “[h]uge life changes [are] made from small, careless actions” and refuses to “just risk it” (440–441). In “Making a Choice: Virginity in the Romance”, Brittany Young discusses the idea of “the gift of virginity” and the empowerment intrinsic to the heroine’s choice to present this “gift” to the hero (1992, 122– 123). As Young emphasises, it is the heroine who decides “what will and will not happen” in the relationship (1992, 122–123), occupying a position that Chiho Nakagawa interprets as “an ideal of female autonomy and self-possession” (2011, unpaginated). In contrast to such best-selling vampire stories as Twilight or The Southern Vampire Mysteries (Harris 2001–2013; the latter marketed to adults rather than to adolescents), in both the Casts’ and Mead’s series most heroines demonstrate considerable power and agency in determining the moment that is right for their sexual initiation. In Vampire Academy, it is Rose who first knocks at the door of Dimitri’s room and starts touching him (even if spellbound) (VA 281–282). Similarly, House of Night ’s Zoey initiates her first intercourse with her warrior Stark, stripping off her clothes and saying: “I’ll show you what I want” (Awakened 35). “Whenever I’m ready”, responds Sydney in The Fiery Heart when Adrian asks her tentatively when they might start having sex (77). The first intercourse of Sydney and Adrian offers an empowering vision of girl sexuality, focusing on the agential expression of female desire and

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constructing the heroine as a vocal romantic subject. Stranded in a cosy inn in the middle of a snow blizzard, Adrian is rendered speechless when he finds Sydney awaiting him naked in bed. The heroine clearly holds the initiative in their encounter, telling her boyfriend to approach her “in a voice that offered no arguments”, physically guiding his hands onto her hips, and taking off his shirt (FH 299–300). The scene is narrated through the eyes of the vampire, for whom, despite his previous extensive experience, sex with Sydney is just as much the “first time” as it is for her. While Sydney feels nervous, she is also clearly secure about her decision. It is Adrian who trembles, has trouble speaking and—like many human heroines before him—worries about being an adequate lover for Sydney (cf. Fisher et al. 2008 on Buffy; Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2019 on Sookie). As Adrian relates, [t]hose long-lashed eyes, brown and amber and every shade of gold, met mine with a certainty that made me feel like the novice here … it was like everything that had ever happened to me had simply been a warm-up for this moment, that this was where my life truly began. (FH 299–300)25

Both Sydney and her friend Rose “lose” their virginity in their late teens to the men of their dreams, experiencing their first intercourse as physically exhilarating and emotionally fulfilling. However, less romanticised and more ordinary narratives of female sexual initiation are also available in Mead’s series. Vampress Lissa Dragomir is only sixteen when she has sex for the first time with her vampire boyfriend Aaron. As their relationship is already over when the series begins, the account of Lissa’s sexual debut is mediated through Rose’s memory of a brief, post-factum conversation between the girls: “So what was it like?” She shrugged and took another drink. “I don’t know. It wasn’t anything.” “What do you mean it wasn’t anything? Didn’t the earth move or the planets align or something?” “No,” she said, smothering a laugh. “Of course not.” (VA 130)

25 However, even in the case of Adrian and Sydney sex is followed by disastrous events. In a post-coital moment they lose a phone that becomes a proof of their relationship and results in Sydney’s imprisonment by the Alchemists.

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Rose, who at that time is still a virgin, confronts Lissa’s experience with her own expectations, which clearly resonate with the glamorous accounts of sex ubiquitous in popular culture. Lissa’s response, however, punctures the myth of the breath-taking, heart-stopping “first time”, dismissing the experience as nothing extraordinary. As Kokkola contends, the public and cultural discourses on sex often employ the imagery of sexual initiation as a life-altering experience. Such an understanding, Kokkola observes, is conspicuous already on the level of language.26 Designating the first sexual intercourse as a “loss” (of virginity), the “end” (of innocence) or as “making a man/woman” out of somebody, signals irreversibility, and invokes—if rather preposterously— the power of sexual initiation to transform a child into an adult (2013, 7–8; cf. Crossen 2010, 112). As Athena Bellas notes in her analysis of Twilight, in the cultural narratives marketed to teens, female sexual initiation is typically represented as one of the “ritual milestone events that mark out maturation and the postliminal conclusion of the rite of passage” (2017, 80). As Kokkola observes, these imageries continue to thrive in literature for adolescents, with the first experience of sexual intercourse persistently construed as “the end of childhood, and with it the end of idyll, innocence and happiness”, often followed by suffering and regret (2013, 47). In contrast, Lissa’s sex with Aaron is neither life-altering nor represented as a loss of innocence; nor does it affect—adversely or otherwise—her life or identity in any apparent way. Contrary to the traditional romantic narratives that paint the vision of sex outside the boundaries of eternal love as “sinful, or at least unfortunate” (Nakagawa 2011, unpaginated), the young vampress expresses neither regret nor shame over having had sex out of curiosity rather than all-consuming passion. As Darragh observes in relation to Vampire Academy, “[t]he series suggests that young women should … respect their bodies, not be ashamed of their desires, and make the choice that is best for them” (2016, 261; cf. Reynolds 2007, 122). Both Lissa and Zoey of House of Night experience sex with their respective soul mates, Christian and Stark, as their “first time”, even though “technically” they are no longer virgins at the time. Discussing various theorisations of virginity, Farrimond critiques the dominant narratives that locate virginity in the body/hymen as failing to reflect the 26 Kokkola is careful to note that her remarks regard English; other languages can reveal different understandings of sexual initiation.

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complicated nature of the concept. Drawing on the research of Hanne Blank, Kate Monro, and Laura M. Carpenter, among others, Farrimond turns to the feminist conceptualisation of the loss of virginity as a moment that is identified subjectively “by feeling and instinct” rather than rooted in biology or dependent on the single act of penetration (2016, 153– 154). In a similar vein, Jonathan A. Allan and Cristina Santos draw attention to various understandings of what constitutes sexual intercourse—a fluidity of meanings that results in divergent definitions of “virginity loss” (2016, 69). These complex articulations clearly resonate in Zoey’s post-coital musings in Awakened (nomen omen), where she dismisses her previous sexual experience as one that does not count: So, Stark and I had done it. “I don’t feel any different,” I told the nearest tree. “I mean, except for feeling closer to Stark and kinda sore in unmentionable places, that is.” … I studied myself. I looked like, well, me. “Okay, so technically I’d done it once before, but that had been a whole different thing.” I sighed. Loren Blake had been a giant mistake. James Stark was totally different … “So, shouldn’t I look different now that I am in a Real Relationship?” I squinted at my reflection. Didn’t I look older? More experienced? Wiser? Actually, no. The squint just made me look nearsighted. (Awakened 85)

In her account, Zoey clearly evokes—and then repudiates—the dominant cultural imageries surrounding sexual initiation (such as “the magical belief” that sex will change a young person into an adult; Kokkola 2013, 35, 41). She acknowledges her intercourse with Stark as meaningful and gratifying, yet certainly not life-altering. For both Zoey and Lissa, the loss of virginity (even to one’s soul mate) is stripped of its culturally constructed position of “a ritual milestone event”. Both heroines seek and find the turning points of their maturation stories elsewhere— Zoey in her victory over her nemesis Neferet and Lissa in managing her mental disorder and self-harming tendencies—challenging the conservative constructions of girlhood that centre girls’ coming of age on their sexualities and that neglect other important aspects of girls’ development. It is noteworthy that neither Christian nor Stark ever bring up or appear to be bothered by their girlfriends’ “non-virginal” status, clearly signalling that this is a matter of little importance. The narrative of young female sexuality becomes disassociated from the patriarchal discourse that translates the “loss” of virginity into the loss of a woman’s value and

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power within “the patriarchal marketplace” (Zehentbauer and Santos 2016, 102; cf. also Burt ([1998] 2003, 132–133).27 This disassociation is further reinforced through the humorous banter of girl fledglings Shaunee and Erin with their male friend Damien. When the latter turns up in the girls’ dorm after curfew, Shaunee feigns shock and jokingly accuses him of an insidious plan “to defile us virgins”; this supposition is followed by the girls bursting into laughter (Betrayed 237). Along with revealing their non-virginal status, the scene operates to ridicule and dismiss the sexist implications of this obsolete expression that links female respectability with sexual restraint, and the sexually active female with disgrace and pollution. However, even if at times narrated as desired, the identity of a sexually knowing girl can easily become precarious. The line between a “skank” and a reputable woman—while critical—is often wavering and murky, and developing sexuality can at once signify maturation and danger. Drawing on Kathleen Rowe Karlyn, Farrimond points to the contradictions inherent within the postfeminist rhetoric, where the celebration of girls’ sexual agency as linked to female empowerment fails to recognise the often exploitative and antagonistic contexts in which young women negotiate and explore their sexualities; nor does it consider “the systems of oppression and power imbalance circulating around young women’s sexuality” (2013, 52; cf. also Charles 2014, ch. 5). Pushing against the boundaries between the “respectable” and “risqué” young femininities can prove both dangerous and highly problematic, and “excessive” female sexuality continues to hold its age-old terrors even in the stories meant to reflect the feminist agenda.

27 Cf. Nicol’s (2016) remarks on The Vampire Diaries, where she contrasts the show’s

imageries of female sexual initiation with those conjured in Twilight and Buffy. Nicol draws attention to the “uncertain” status of the central heroine Elena who might or might not be a virgin upon meeting her first—although not her last—true vampire love, emphasising that female chastity is depicted as a matter of relatively little importance in the show.

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4.3 A Bloodlust-Filled, Hornie Freak: Slut Shaming and “Excessive” Desire In “Bad Blood: The Cost of Sexual Curiosity in Archetypal Tales”, Susanne Kord locates female power and sexuality “amongst the most forceful [cultural] taboos for women”—a fusion of two spheres that can easily become “a spectre of horror”, transforming female sexual desire into a corruptive, demonic force (2009, 205, 215). In particular, the figure of the alluring and lethal female vampire—the pinnacle of the cultural archetype of the hyper-sexualised “dark seductress”—has long thrived in popular culture, its roots traced back to Carmilla and Dracula’s brides (Hobson 2016, 25, 9). Ever since, as Amanda Hobson reminds us, the sexualised vampress has been the locus of fears and fascination surrounding female sexuality, typically focusing on “women who embrace their sexual hungers and who act as agents of their own desire” (2016, 10). In the figure of the voluptuous vampress, the threat of monstrous violence becomes enhanced by the imagery of the voracious, uncontrollable and uncontrolled female erotic allure that is used to destroy and gain power over men (Hobson 2016).28 While the House of Night series is set in an openly matriarchal vampire society that ostensibly celebrates female freedom and desire, the sexuality of “bad” women is inevitably presented as dangerous and monstrous (cf. Hanser 2018, 7–8). A tool of deception and a powerful weapon, it is consciously used by the fallen vampire priestess Neferet in order to manipulate, trap and punish men.29 Employing a wide range of seduction strategies and assuming a myriad of personas ranging from a sexually voracious dominatrix to a vulnerable girl in distress, Neferet is portrayed as a violent predatoress whose desires are nearly impossible to satiate. With her

28 For an interesting discussion of the sexualised predatory female figure in Twilight see Kokkola (2011, 173–175). See also Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2019), for the study of “extreme” female sexuality in True Blood. 29 Female sexuality can also be used by the forces of good as it is the case in the story of A-ya, a perfect maiden created by the magic of Cherokee Wise Women in order to defeat an immortal serial rapist Kalona. A-ya lures Kalona underground with the promise of intimacy and imprisons him there in a centuries-long embrace (Untamed 220). Another example can be found in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress (2007–present), a series that caters to an adult readership, in which the vampire huntress Cat lures the monsters in with her highly sexualised performance. In both cases, female erotic allure is still a threatening power, used as a trap and a weapon.

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sexual transgressions ranging from age-inappropriate blood-consuming relationships, through sadism, murder and a penchant for men covered in battle gore, to intercourse with Evil Incarnate in the form of a bull—the fallen priestess epitomises the physical and moral dangers posed by unfettered female sexuality. The narrative of her sexual expressions, described as “nasty”, “disgusting”, “R-rated” and vomit-inducing (Hunted 174), is clearly meant to invoke a sense of repulsion. Her uncontained hunger for (hetero)sexual pleasure fused with an “obsessive” need for independence evokes a conventional image of monstrous female sexuality that speaks to social and cultural “concerns about the strong … woman that can survive unconnected to men” (Hobson 2016, 24). Neferet herself appears to be aware of the monstrosised connection between female sexuality and abjectified power, and taps into this cultural imagery when she attempts to discredit the leading heroine Zoey. Having accused her of an alliance with Darkness and multiple murders, the vampress reinforces her claims with a fabricated account of Zoey’s debauchery (Untamed 252–253). The young heroine is understandably outraged; what she challenges, however, is the report’s inaccuracy and its unmerited attack on her reputation, rather than the underlying premise that aligns insidious evil with what is framed as sexual “excess”. Throughout the House of Night series, the discourse of respectability— frequently conflated with a girl’s sexual reputation—occupies a central position in narrating female desire. Anxious that her virtue might be brought into question, Zoey withdraws from her boyfriend Erik’s embrace as soon as she realises that they could have been seen kissing (Marked 291). Reassuring the reader that her involvement with Erik has not “gone very far”, Zoey articulates her refusal to “act like a slut” (Betrayed 148)—a statement that appears to suggest that girls must delay intimacies in a relationship to maintain respectability. While the heroine finds pleasure in exploring her desires, she clearly places a high value on her reputation and is tormented with a deep sense of shame over her erotic appetites: “Hell! Was I becoming a vampyre slut? What was next? Would no male of any species … be safe around me? Maybe I should avoid all guys until I … knew I could control myself” (Marked 212). Throughout the early volumes of the series, Zoey is often anxious about being unable to contain her sexuality; at one point she actually wonders whether the death of her new love interest might be a punishment for her previous erotic adventures (Untamed 130). As Hannah Priest notes, the heroine attempts to establish a self-regulatory “internal

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regime of prohibition” in order to police her passions (one that Priest compares to the strictures imposed on Bella by her controlling boyfriend Edward in Twilight; 2013, 69). This regime involves self-directed sexualised name-calling as a penalty for acting on her desires. When she encourages her boyfriend to touch her breasts; when she kisses and caresses her human love Heath; even when she entertains an erotic fantasy—she refers to her behaviour as “skanky”, “slutty” and “ho-ish”, and dubs herself a “ho-bag” and “a bloodlust-filled, hornie freak” (Chosen 59, 82, 188, 201; Betrayed 168, 174; Untamed 131). Adverse sexual labelling is also routinely applied to other female characters. This script unfolds in stark contradiction to the authors’ recurrent critique of slut shaming and the ensuing discrimination of women (see e.g. Loved 327). Both Zoey and her friends often describe other human and vampire girls in sexually derogatory terms that cast doubt on their respectability, stigmatising them as “the biggest ho in school”, a “sneaky, spoiled slut who’s screwed half of the football team” or reckless, promiscuous girls who are bound to end up pregnant or develop “a really nasty STD that eats your brains and stuff” (Marked 9, 22, 42, 77; Chosen 188). In “The Laugh of the Medusa”, Hélène Cixous identifies the cultural position of women in society as “the place reserved for the guilty” (1980, 250). This sense of guilt, Cixous argues, is attached primarily to various aspects of female bodily existence that serve to keep “immense bodily territories [of women] … under seal” (1980, 250). Several decades later, in a study on the trope of shame in contemporary women’s writings, J. Brooks Bouson discusses the process of female socialisation “as a prolonged immersion in shame”. The latter, Bouson argues, often finds its locus in female carnality and its persistent cultural depictions as “dirty and defiling”, driven by uncontainable passions that need to be corralled (2009, 2–3). In “Slut-shaming, Girl Power and ‘Sexualisation’”, Jessica Ringrose and Emma Renold point to slut shaming practices and experience as a prevalent form of sexual regulation among teenage girls (2012, 335–336; cf. also Attwood 2007, 235).30 Slut shaming forms a powerful discourse, intended to police female sexual expression through branding “transgressing” women as deviant, and can constitute a severe form of gender-based bullying (Attwood 2007, 235; cf. also Ringrose and Renold 2012; Sweeney 2017; Liston and Moore-Rahimi 2012). 30 For more examples of scholarly works on slut shaming as a regulating practice in girl teen and tween cultures, see Ringrose and Renold 2012, 335–336.

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However, as scholars observe, “[t]here is no general consensus about what qualifies a girl as a ‘slut’” (Tanenbaum 2000, 88). In their qualitative study of girls’ high school experience of being slut shamed, Delores D. Liston and Regina E. Moore-Rahimi point to the arbitrariness of meanings associated with such terms as “slut”, “ho”, “whore” or “skank”. While these adverse sexual labels are commonly understood as referring to women who are considered promiscuous, they can also become attributed to girls with no sexual experience or even to rape survivors (Liston and Moore-Rahimi 2012; cf. Tanenbaum 2000, xv). In fact, sexualised namecalling is often divorced altogether from an individual’s actual or supposed sexual activities. Instead, it is associated with other spheres of girl existence and experience—style, bodily development, “excessive” confidence, flirting or socialising within the “wrong” circles, belonging to an ethnic, sexual or class minority, having a larger size or simply, as Tanenbaum defines it, being seen as “‘weird’ for whatever reason” (Tanenbaum 2000, xv; Liston and Moore-Rahimi 2012; cf. also White 2002; Sweeney 2017). While “slut” is a common signifier of shame, the controlling power of the term is grounded in its fluidity, which allows its imposition on women regardless of their actual sexual conduct.31 Within the universe of House of Night, the pervasiveness and arbitrariness of slut shaming vividly transpires in the story of Aphrodite LaFont. In the first several volumes of the series, the beautiful and arrogant fledgling Aphrodite is Zoey’s main adversary. As such, she is repeatedly labelled a “slut” and a “ho” (see e.g. Marked 77; Betrayed 133–135, 149; Chosen 58, 274), even though at this point little has been revealed about her actual sex life. Yet other girl protagonists persistently judge various aspects of Aphrodite’s style, tastes and behaviour within the frames of her promiscuous reputation. They discredit her dance performance as a “crotch-flailing display”, giving it a mock-headline of “Some Ho Grinds Her Bootie” (Marked 182–183); they criticise her outfits as likely purchased from a “Goth ho store” and deem her laugh “way too sexual to be appropriate” (Marked 316, 318). Even her choice of music is deplored on the grounds of “excessive” sexuality and identified as a combination of “one of those nasty bootie-humping songs with a tribal mating dance” (Marked 182). 31 See Attwood (2007), and Ringrose and Renold (2012), for reflections upon the possibilities of re-signification and re-appropriation of the word “slut” for the feminist agenda.

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As Aphrodite shifts her loyalties to Zoey and her circle, she is largely absolved of the slut stigma. The transfer of her allegiance prompts a change in the narrative of her sexuality (cf. Franck 2013, 219). Initially described as shameless and obscene, Aphrodite’s confident expression of her sexual self evolves into a source of power and a reflection of her unique personality.32 In “Skamlig flickläsning”, Mia Franck notes that Aphrodite embraces her peer-imposed “bitch-identity” as it opens the possibilities for verbal and bodily conduct inaccessible for those “limited by [appropriate] girlhood” (2013, 219). Instead of feeling embarrassed over her real or perceived erotic adventures, the heroine appropriates and strengthens her image as a sexually active girl and refuses to be shamed for her “sexy” style (Franck 2013, 219). As she enters a monogamous, loving relationship with the vampire Darius, Aphrodite further confirms—for her peers and the reader—her new position as a respectable girl. The status of respectability, however, is not to be taken for granted, and can easily be lost for a variety of reasons. Sporting attractive clothing, dating male fledglings and advising her friend Damien to “loosen up some or … [you’re] never gonna get any” in response to his plan to wait for “true love” (Betrayed 136), Zoey’s friend Erin Bates effectively navigates the meanders of acceptable young female sexuality. Confidently expressing her erotic desires and not afraid to present herself as “sexy”— yet never narrated as promiscuous—Erin appears to successfully reconcile the conflicting Western postfeminist cultural imageries of an ideal girl as both innocent and sexually emancipated (see e.g. Renold and Ringrose 2011). However, as she becomes increasingly alienated from her former circle of friends and begins a relationship with the evil vampire Dallas, Erin crosses into the territory of a “traitorous, skanky ho” (Hidden 205)—“a disdained and abject identity … an archetype of failed womanhood” (Sweeney 2017, 1579). Emphasising her sexual availability (“I won’t be saying yes-no, yes-no. I’ll just be saying yes-yes!”; Hidden 213), reacting with delight to Dallas touching her intimately in public and performing a strip-tease act in a secluded school fountain (Hidden 213– 215), Erin confirms her new “slut” status both in the eyes of her fictional peers and readers. Even her alter-ego in the parallel Other World cannot escape adverse sexual labelling; her description as “[b]lond, real hot, and 32 Even after they have become friends, Zoey and her circle occasionally refer to Aphrodite as “skanky” (see e.g. Untamed 154). Hanser suggests that this development presents “the stigma of a bad reputation” as impossible to shake (2018, 7).

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kinda slutty” makes her immediately identifiable for Zoey, even though she has never met Other Erin (Loved 284). It is noteworthy that Erin’s status as a sexually active girl has been implied in the early volumes. Yet no adverse sexual labels are applied to her until she becomes involved with Dallas. Contrary to the common understanding of such terms as “ho” and “skank”, Erin does not engage in sex with multiple partners. Rather, the stigma is attached to her as a result of her romance with a “wrong” boy and her (self-)exclusion from her former social group. As in the case of Aphrodite, the shame imposed on Erin has little to do with her actual sexual conduct; rather, it is a tool of Othering and a punishment for misplaced loyalty.

4.4 Blood Whoring, Female Virtue and Defensive Othering In “Sluts and Riot Grrrls”, Feona Attwood points to the distinct class dimension present in the early understandings of the word “slut”, historically connoting female domestic service, low social status, dishonour, pollution and dirt (2007, 234–235). Many of these beliefs continue to inform the discourses of female (un)respectability even today (Charles 2014, 94; Tannenbaum 2000, xvi). The classed and possibly racialised imagery of the “slut” clearly resonates in Mead’s fictional universes, where they find their locus in the figure of the female dhampir. In Vampire Academy and Bloodlines, the glaring disparities in socioeconomic status between the two “races”—half-human, half-vampire dhampirs and vampire Moroi—manifest through the dhampirs’ limited economic power and educational opportunities, as well as their subordination to the Moroi political leadership. While dhampirs are valued for their combat expertise and faithful service to the Moroi, their agency in their romantic and professional lives is often severely restricted.33 For the large part of the story, only two life paths appear to be available for dhampir women: the honourable if often lethal career of guardian or the despicable fate of a “blood whore”—a prostitute addicted to being bitten by a vampire who offers her blood during sex. While dhampir girls are narrated as objects of conquest and the ultimate erotic fantasy 33 It is against these restrictions that the two leading heroines rebel. Nonetheless, ultimately the lower status of dhampirs and their subjugation to the Moroi remain largely unchallenged.

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for Moroi men, they are also considered unmarriageable and often end up as single mothers. The tales of the “blood whore towns” where they supposedly live carry out a powerful cautionary function, warning young dhampirs not to become involved with Moroi men, who are bound to leave them for a girl of their own class and species /“race”. In the cinematic version of the story, these tales are further used to keep dhampir female students in check, as school authorities present “blood whoring” as the only alternative for those expelled from guardianship training (Waters 2014).34 It is, thus, hardly surprising that the dhampir Dimitri is “raging as a storm” when he catches his teenage protégé Rose in a deserted lounge with a Moroi boy, Jesse (VA 120). While Rose remains a virgin until the third volume of the series, her fun-loving, carefree and rebellious nature often inspires her to seek mild erotic adventures, and she seems relatively unconcerned about her reputation as a sexually active girl (see e.g. VA 169). Neither seeking nor expecting romance, Rose looks for casual fun, and explores her erotic desires with vampire boys from her school.35 It is not until Dimitri lectures her sternly on the value of female virtue (“So don’t you have any respect?”; VA 122) that she begins to feel regretful over acting on her desires.36 Their confrontation reaches its turning point when he alludes to the rumours about her reputation in a way that Rose reads as a form of slut shaming: “Now get back to your room—if you can manage it without throwing yourself at someone else.” “Is that your subtle way of calling me a slut?” “I hear the stories you guys tell. I’ve heard stories about you.” (VA 122–123)37

34 Paradoxically, while tarnishing the involved dhampir’s reputation, intercourse with a Moroi is believed to be the only way for dhampirs to reproduce—a highly desirable outcome as the numbers of guardians need to be constantly replenished. 35 In one of the early scenes in the Vampire Academy movie (Waters 2014), Lissa admonishes Rose for flirting with vampire Jesse, who apparently has a “terrible personality”. “Jesse has a personality? I didn’t know”, Rose replies jokingly, clearly signalling that she is only interested in Jesse’s physical charms. 36 Admittedly, as Dimitri and Rose are falling in love Dimitri might have an underlying—if yet not entirely realised—motive in preventing her erotic exploits. 37 The question of female reputation surfaces again when Rose’s guardian mother drags her out of a party, scolding her for wearing an attractive dress and talking to a Moroi

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Momentarily defiant and hurt by his remarks, Rose comes to surrender to Dimitri’s point of view, feeling “as cheap as he’d implied I was” and eager to redeem herself (VA 123). As Dimitri explains, her reputation is not her private affair as it reflects on both himself as her mentor and her Moroi friend Lissa whom she is to guard (VA 122). Rose’s virtue is presented as a matter of trust between her and Dimitri, who wonders whether he can rely on her to cast “things like this” aside (VA 125). Most importantly, Dimitri believes that Rose’s erotic flings divert her from her combat training, which is to ensure Lissa’s future survival. Consequently, Rose’s ability to moderate her desires comes to represent much more than a means of establishing her position as a respectable dhampir girl. It is narrated as a part of her calling as a guardian and possibly a question of life and death for her best friend. Notably, such restrictions do not apply to Moroi girls, and the question of their virtue rarely comes across as important. Dimitri explicitly explains to Rose that were she a vampire, she would be able to “have fun” with boys (VA 125). As a dhampir, however, she is required to carefully manage her carnality to avoid distraction, humiliation and disgrace. Rose experiences the power of female reputation—and the trauma of its loss—when she becomes untruthfully accused of having had sex with two Moroi boys while letting them drink her blood. As this practice constitutes a violation of the ultimate sexual taboo for dhampir women—“[t]he dirtiest of the dirty. Sleazy. Beyond being easy or a slut. A gazillion times worse than Lissa drinking from me for survival” (VA 170)—she becomes branded by her peers with the most abusive of adverse sexual labels: a “blood whore”. Many researchers point to the long-lasting, traumatic consequences of sexualised name-calling on girls’ well-being and mental health, including low self-esteem, depression and social isolation. The difficulties of disassociating oneself from the arbitrary status of the “slut” testify to the persistence of the sexual label that has come to represent a “soiled femininity” (Tanenbaum 2000, xv; Liston and Moore-Rahimi 2012; White 2002; Sweeney 2017). The story of Rose reflects both the harsh realities of slut-shamed female students and the effort required to erase the stigma. As the heroine bitterly explains, “You couldn’t come back from

man. The matter emerges also in Rose’s conversation with Lissa when the latter denies having had sex with her new love interest Christian, at the same time implying Rose’s promiscuity: “No! … I told you that already. God … Not everyone thinks—and acts—like you.” (VA 108).

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something like this. Not among the Moroi. Once a blood whore, always a blood whore” (VA 173).38 Popular and beautiful, a fearless warrioress and a sassy rule-breaker, Rose feels defenceless and utterly defeated, suffering through the aftermath of the gossip of her alleged sexual transgression. Her distress manifests itself through crying, sleep problems, social withdrawal and loss of appetite (VA 171–176). Diminishing her respectability in the eyes of her peers and marking her as undeserving of respect, the blood whore shaming of Rose opens the way to further sexual harassment, explicit sexual propositions and unwanted touching (VA 193–194; cf. Attwood 2007, 234; Sweeney 2017; Tanenbaum 2000, xv). It takes the help of Rose’s friends, Lissa and Mason, and the use of magic, blackmail and their high social status at school, to rescue her from the blood whore stigma. Most of all, however, it takes the shifting of the “slut” label onto another girl, Mia, who is revealed to have paid the boys with sex for spreading rumours about Rose. Research on slut shaming reveals its function as defensive othering (Sweeney 2017, 1579), where stigmatisation of the “slut” serves to confirm other girls’ respectability, and often signifies rivalry between women (White 2002; Tanenbaum 2000; Liston and Moore-Rahimi 2012; Ringrose and Renold 2012). As Attwood notes in her discussion of Bonnie Blackwell’s work, slut shaming has been used “in an exorcism of the unclean”, allowing reputable women to articulate their own moral and sexual integrity (2007, 234; cf. Charles 2014, 94). In this context respectability becomes, as Beverley Skeggs contends, “a discourse of normativity … in which sexual practice is evaluated” in a way that validates divisions and (re)produces inequalities (2002 [1997], 118). In “Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction”, Michelle J. Smith and Kristine Moruzi identify the storyline of Mia as one that works to oppose, and partly—to undo, the series’ progressive message about girl empowerment and female camaraderie. Mia’s actions, they argue, “speak to the limited powers of girls who can only borrow patriarchal ways of oppressing women to improve their own position” (2020, 616). This statement may hold true in regard to the first volume of the series to which Smith and Moruzi confine their analysis. However, Mia’s radical 38 Interestingly, in a later volume of the series, Spirit Bound, Rose invites her vampire boyfriend Adrian to feed off her in an erotically charged scene in her bedroom. Formerly terrified of being branded a “blood whore”, in this encounter Rose rejects social labels and restrictions, and is willing to act on her long suppressed desire.

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transformation in the later books offers an active and deliberate resistance against the denigrating imagery of young women as preoccupied with petty revenge and female rivalry, with sexuality as “one of the most readily available forms of power for girls” (Smith and Moruzi 2020, 616). A scheming mean girl obsessed with looks and social status and desperately aspiring to the royal circles, in the course of the series Mia becomes Rose and Lissa’s friend, a fierce fighter and an agent of social and political change. Stricken with grief and burning for revenge after her mother has been murdered by Strigoi in Frostbite, the adolescent vampress devotes her time and energy to a regular, if unsanctioned, training in physical and magical combat, and saves Rose’s life in a fight (FB 303–305). In time, Mia begins to seek a systemic rather than merely personal change. With the support of her former high school adversaries, Rose and Lissa, she organises a trial combat programme for vampires with the ultimate objective of introducing it into the Moroi schools—an idea with a revolutionary potential both for vampire education and the Moroi way of life (RC 69–73). The initial tale of female competition over social status and attention of boys defers to the narrative of empowerment through girl solidarity and genuine friendship, collective action, personal growth and forming alliances for justice and political change. In the House of Night series, defensive othering is a common practice among the vampire girl fledglings, discernible already on the level of language.39 Positive female protagonists enjoy sexually fulfilling, loving relationships; those narrated as “bad” ensnare boys in their “spiderweb (and by web I mean crotch)” (Betrayed 178) or inappropriately “hang all over” their men (Revealed loc. 100). In each of the first three volumes of the series, the narrating heroine Zoey accentuates her own virtue through juxtaposing herself against “those ho-ish girls”, particularly Aphrodite. Zoey is especially careful to make sure that her current love interest and Aphrodite’s former boyfriend Erik understands the difference between the two girls (Hunted 122; Betrayed 149; Marked 291; Chosen 57; cf. Hanser 2018, 7). In response, Erik reassures the heroine that were she sharing Aphrodite’s promiscuous ways, he would not be attracted to her at all (Marked 291; Chosen 57). In Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut, Emily White observes that a tarnished reputation, which is to adversely affect a girl’s 39 Cf. Hanser (2018, 6) who notes that in House of Night, slut shaming occurs primarily among female protagonists.

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romantic prospects, is often placed at the core of slut shaming practices (2002, 49). Dismissing his former girlfriend as someone who was only able to please him physically but failed to touch his heart, Erik confirms the allure and value of female sexual virtue as an important asset on the romance market (Marked 291; Chosen 57). This concept emerges in a less than subtle way in The Vampire Wish series (2017), in which the vampire princess Eve competes for the hand of the vampire prince Jacen. Eve’s night with the prince, while pleasurable, becomes an argument for Jacen to disqualify the princess as a suitable bride. While Eve intends for sex to increase her chances in the competition, her sexual availability degrades her in the eyes of the prince to “a fun distraction” that could never become his fiancée (VP 103, 193–194; VT 11). Reflecting the double sexual standard permeating both human and supernatural societies, Eve is narrated as a worthless “slut”. At the same time, no such label is imposed on Jacen even when he intends to have sex with other candidates (VP 200). Within normative gender discourses, the stigma of the “slut” is rarely attached to men, reflecting the divergent social levels of acceptance for male and female sexual activities (Sweeney 2017; Liston and MooreRahimi 2012; Charles 2014, 101). The same behaviours are valorised in men and penalised in women, and the antiquated formula that renders a woman responsible for sexual occurrences in a relationship persists. In the supernatural community of Mead’s series, dhampir women and their bodies are specifically designated as the bearers of morality. Caught with Jesse, Rose is severely chastised for tarnishing her reputation; her vampire companion, however, gets away with a warning for transgressing the unspecified “rules about male and female interactions” (VA 120). Male respectability seldom suffers from a perception of promiscuity, and sexual relations stereotypically remain a source of prestige for boys. The young Moroi who have allegedly drunk from Rose are quick to advertise their adventure, using the tale of taboo sex to raise their position within the school social hierarchy. Ultimately, they are exposed as liars; neither, however, is marked as a “slut”. In a similar vein, in the first volume female “blood whores” are narrated as despicable and/or tragic addicts with no self-respect. Many of these initial prejudices attached to non-guardian dhampir women are challenged later in the series as both Rose and Sydney visit the semi-legendary infamous dhampir towns. There they meet admirable dhampir mothers and grandmothers, high school students, pharmacists, warrioresses and

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political leaders who have chosen not to fight Strigoi or do it independently of Moroi rules and politics. Yet women who sell their blood and sexual services to vampires continue to appear at the margins of the plot, scandalous and pitiable, their stories functioning as a warning but typically left undeveloped (see e.g. RC 141).40 At the same time, the only male dhampir who offers female vampires both blood and sex, Ambrose, is narrated as a positive figure, content with his high-class life at the Moroi royal court. Unlike female “blood whores”, Ambrose is not anonymous; he is allowed to voice his reasons for not becoming a guardian and eventually becomes Rose and Lissa’s friend (see e.g. SK 222–230). Both Rose and her mentor Dimitri, as well as her friend Mason, explicitly recognise these gendered inequalities (VA 122, 169, 274); yet they do little to challenge or negotiate them. Their unquestioning acknowledgement of gender-unbalanced social perceptions of sexual conduct testifies to the persistence of the inequitable cultural scripts of sexuality.

4.5

Conclusion

In Education and Popular Culture, Fisher et al. refer to young people’s experience of high school “as an arena of sexual competition, tension and opportunity” (2008, 87). With their complex messages about sexuality and sex, conjured within and through the fantastic milieu of vampire high schools and cultures, the vampire series analysed here raise important questions that are linked with the larger social and cultural debates on girls’ carnal desires. Within the contemporary Western societies, the discourses of young female sexualities are highly conflicted, encompassing a number of contradictory messages and systems of values. These tensions are ever-present in the vampire series marketed to adolescent women, as evidenced through the ambiguities embedded within their representations of girl sexuality and sex. In this chapter I have addressed accounts of female virginity, sexual awakening, initiation and development, and power relations in sexual unions, as well as the trope of “excessive” female sexuality and the ensuing

40 Interestingly, in Bloodlines the presence of “blood whores” is used as a way to engage with the debates on prostitution, women’s rights and safety. The dhampir leader Lana explains her decision to allow prostitution in her community: “[T]here are some girls who would do it anyway. They’d sneak off, live somewhere unsafe. I’d rather keep everything under my control” (RC 142).

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processes of othering. From the ecstasy of bloodlust and recreational “fun” to sexual initiation within the context of eternal love, the tropes of girl carnal desire and sexual expression recurrently emerge across both the Casts’ and Mead’s novels, with House of Night being particularly invested in exploring various aspects of young female sexualities. The alternative vampire society and its sexual mores in the series are narrated as a counterpoint to the angst-filled approach of the human culture—an idea that holds a potential to overthrow unequal gendered constructions of sexual morality and decorum. The series underscores on multiple occasions the physical and emotional value of erotic pleasure and the sexual emancipation of women (a notion explicitly voiced both in the novels and by the series’ authors), signalling the return to the imagery of the vampress as a signifier of female sexual freedom and exploration. As the House of Night vampires are narrated as both supernaturally healthy and infertile, the potentially negative consequences of sex are primarily articulated in relation to the emotional trauma following the imbalance of power, with a particular emphasis on the dangers of an unequal union with a sexual predator(ess). While not neglecting the emotional aspects of becoming sexually active, Mead’s fiction further considers its physical/biological ramifications, breaking with the genre’s fantastic premise of a non-reproductive vampiric body (cf. Darragh 2016, 261). As Reynolds asserts in Radical Children’s Literature, “[f]iction offers a unique way to learn about and prepare for experiences to come, including sexual and romantic relationships” (2007, 120). In this context, Mead’s frank and informative, yet non-didactic and often intentionally comic discussions on safe sex—contraception, sexual health, the risks of unplanned pregnancy and negotiating sexual decisions in a relationship—come across as particularly valuable. The question of power imbalance in a sexual union is addressed through the tabooed intimacy between a student and her teacher and a pairing of a virginal human girl with an erotically experienced vampire. In both cases, however, these conventional scripts become re-written in ways that empower the girl heroine and move even further away from the ideal of submissive female sexuality. In several cases, Mead’s series further question the traditional connection between desirable masculinity and sexual prowess, present in many romantic (and) vampire narratives.41 Adhering 41 See e.g. Piatti-Farnell (2014, 87), Allan and Santos (2016, 72), Wilson Overstreet (2006, loc. 466, 470) and Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2019).

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to the latter convention, Rose’s lover Dimitri is described as “wise, skilled and infinitely patient” in bed although little is revealed as to his previous experience (SK 350). However, we can safely assume that Lissa is the first sexual partner of both her vampire boyfriends, considering Aaron’s young age and Christian’s previous social isolation. More interestingly, a former womaniser vampire Adrian narrates himself as a “novice” in his sexual encounters with Sydney, as never before has he had sex with a woman he loved. Both the Casts’ and Mead’s series foreground the urgency of female carnal cravings and present the vision of the girl as a desiring subject. In most cases, the young heroines are capable of exercising agency over their sexual life and of carving out “a resistant space, where the construction of girlhood as desirability without desire is thoroughly refused and undermined” (Bellas 2017, 81). The series assert girls’ rights to erotic intimacy and pleasure, providing an alternative to the more conservative strains in YA vampire fiction. Their plots offer various scenarios of girls’ sexual awakening and debut, most of them emphasising girl empowerment and emancipation. In some cases, the stories offer a progressive vision of virginity loss as situated in subjective perception and emotion rather than in the hymen. Typically, virginity loss is narrated as important but not necessarily transformational experience, and in most cases the reader needs to look elsewhere for the turning points in the heroines’ development. Notably, these narratives are restricted to heterosexual experience; while sexually active gay and bisexual characters are relatively common in House of Night , homosexual virginity and sexual debuts remain largely unexplored. This mirrors the wider trends in academia; as Allan, Santos and Spahr observe, “virginity studies remains, in many ways, an untouched field of study, especially when it tries to move beyond the traditionally defined subject of the [heterosexual] female” (2016, 11).42 Although adolescent sex is sometimes followed by trauma and tied to violence and death, all the central heroines (come to) enjoy fulfilling sexual relationships at some point of their stories. Most find sex satisfying and “invigorating” (“I was wired afterward. I felt like I could take on a hundred projects. I wanted to eat”; Sydney in FH 306), and perceive 42 In a similar vein, the question of the male sexual debut remains largely undiscussed, confirming, yet again, the understanding of virginity studies as “a field dominated by the idea that virginity is female” (Allan et al. 2016, 11; see also Allan and Santos 2016, 68–69).

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physical intimacy as an emotional haven that reassures them in difficult times: In the chaos of the future, the memory of being wrapped in Stark’s arms, sharing touches and dreams, and for that moment in time being completely, utterly content, would be something I cherished, like the warm glow of candlelight on the darkest of nights. (Zoey in Awakened 36)

While neither guilt nor shame is attached to non-marital sexual relations, positive depictions of sexual activities are predominantly articulated within the frames of a committed relationship. Narrating her sexual debut with Dimitri, Rose foregrounds their emotional connection (SK 350), and Zoey does not consider herself sexually initiated until she has her first intercourse with Stark. Contemplating her intimate moments with Adrian, Sydney deems “emotionless sex” to be “such a waste” (FH 306). While explicitly dismissing the idea of marriage as the only appropriate context for legitimate sexual expression, the heroine brings to the fore the importance of love and commitment. As she explains, “If there is any sin involved, it’s doing it in a … [c]heap way. With people you don’t care about. When it’s meaningless” (FH 75). Thus, positive narrations of sex are framed within the context of deep emotional attachment, and sexual pleasure without regret or shame is rarely divorced from romantic love. Women who live out their desires outside of these boundaries expose themselves to the threats of social ostracism and condemnation, signalling the presence of other, less celebratory narratives of female sexuality. Within contemporary Western discourses of girlhood, girls are often envisioned as sexually empowered and agential subjects, reflecting postfeminist understandings of young femininity; yet at the same time they are always in danger of being positioned as “sluts”. These tensions clearly transpire in the House of Night ’s conflicting portrayals of female sexuality as a site of pleasure, autonomy, controversy, social regulation, shame and monstrosity. While the vampire society in the series is narrated as championing guilt-free conceptualisations of sexuality and consensual desire, in the vampire high school of Tulsa girls’ erotic expressions are policed through peer-controlled sanctions. The House of Night ’s declared feminist agenda contrasts sharply with the sexualised name-calling that permeates the storyline. In the Q&A section in Loved, P.C. Cast declares her intention as an author to challenge the sexual double standard shaping the social perceptions of women and men. Emphasising the contrasting ideas

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of female sexuality that are to underpin the vampire and human societies, she explicitly speaks against the discriminatory and gendered practices of slut shaming girls who are considered promiscuous (326–327). Yet the very same practices become legitimised and validated when employed by the heroine who wields the narrative power. Female virtue and sexual reputation remain central to the narratives of girlhood—a construction that functions to re-inscribe the empowered girl vampress into the patriarchal discourses of girl sexuality. In the Mead’s series, similar tensions materialise in the figure of the dhampir “blood whore”. Particularly in the first volume, reputation—and the risk of its loss—is narrated as a powerful regulatory force in the lives of dhampir girls; those who aspire to respectability are warned to monitor their desires. However, while in House of Night, slut shaming remains unproblematised and ostensibly consequence-free, Vampire Academy focuses on its damaging effects: emotional suffering, anxiety and depression, social retribution and sexualised violence—to which the reader is privy through Rose’s autodiegetic narration. These representations mirror the real-life experiences of slutshamed schoolgirls, and acknowledge the unequal gendered contexts and prejudices that frame girls’ sexual development even if, at the same time, some of these premises are still left unchallenged.

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Cixous, Hélène. 1980. The Laugh of the Medusa. In New French Feminisms. An Anthology, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, 245–264. Trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press. Crossen, Carys. 2010. “Would You Please Stop Trying to Take Your Clothes Off?” Abstinence and Impotence of Male Vampires in Contemporary Fiction and Television. In The Monster Imagined: Humanity’s Recreation of Monsters and Monstrosity, ed. Laura K. Davis and Cristina Santos, 111–123. Oxford, United Kingdom: Inter-Disciplinary Press. Darragh, Janine J. 2016. Beyond Cruel. Female Heroines and Third-Wave Feminism in the Vampire Academy Series. In Girls’ Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, ed. LuElla D’Amico, 251–267. Lanham, Boulder, New York and London: Lexington Books. De Marco, Joseph. 1997. Vampire Literature: Something Young Adults Can Really Sink Their Teeth Into. Emergency Librarian 24 (5): 26–28. Driscoll, Catherine. 2002. Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory. New York: Columbia University Press. DuRocher, Kristina. Men That Suck: Gender Anxieties and the Evolution of Vampire Men. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 45–59. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers. Dyer, Richard. 2002. The Culture of Queers. London and New York: Routledge. Falconer, Pete. 2010. Fresh Meat? Dissecting the Horror Movie Virgin. In Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film, ed. Tamar Jeffers McDonald, 123–137. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Farrimond, Katherine. 2013. The Slut That Wasn’t: Virginity, (Post)Feminism and Representation in Easy A. In Postfeminism and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, ed. Joel Gwynne and Nadine Muller, 44–59. Houndsmille, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Farrimond, Katherine. 2016. Supernatural Hymens and Bodies from Hell: Screening Virginity through the Gothic Body. In Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy: Beyond Boy Wizards and Kick-Ass Chicks, ed. Jude Roberts and Esther MacCallum-Stewart, 150–164. London: Routledge. Fisher, Roy, Harris Ann, and Christine Jarvis. 2008. Education in Popular Culture: Telling Tales on Teachers and Learners. London and New York: Routledge. Forrest, Bella. 2012–present. A Shade of Vampire series. Nightlife Press. Kindle edition. Franck, Mia. 2013. Skamlig flickläsning. Flickvampyrer på internatskola i House of Night-serien. In Flicktion. Perspektiv på flickan i fiktionen, ed. Eva Söderberg, Mia Österlund and Bodil Formark, 208–221. Malmö: Universus Academic Press.

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Hanser, Gaïane. 2018. Mary Sues, Sluts and Rapists: The Problematic Depiction of Sexuality in P. C. and Kristin Cast’s Young Adult Series The House of Night. Publije: e-Revue de critique littéraire: Teenage Cultures: From Consumption to Production, ed. Heather Braun, Elisabeth Lamothe and Delphine Letort, 1: 1–14. http://revues.univ-lemans.fr/index.php/publije/article/view/41/52. Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra. 2017. Seductive Kindness: Power, Space and ‘Lesbian’ Vampires. In Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture: Letting the Wrong One In, ed. David Baker, Stephanie Green, and Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ 201–218. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Hobson, Amanda. 2016. Dark Seductress: The Hypersexualization of the Female Vampire. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 9–27. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers. Hughes, William. 2014. Sexuality and the Twentieth-Century American Vampire. In A Companion to American Gothic, ed. Charles L. Crow, 340–352. Wiley Blackwell. Interview With P.C. and Kristin Cast. 2009. Carried Out by James Blasingame and Kerri Mathew in Tempe, Arizona. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.1 (September): 83–85. Jeffers McDonald, Tamar. 2010. Introduction. In Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film, ed. Tamar Jeffers McDonald, 1–14. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Kelly, Casey Ryan. 2016. Abstinence Cinema: Virginity and the Rhetoric of Sexual Purity in Contemporary Film. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press. Kendal, Evie, and Zachary Kendal. 2015. Consent is Sexy: Gender, Sexual Identity and Sex Positivism in MTV’s Young Adult Television Series Teen Wolf (2011–). COLLOQUY Text Theory Critique 30: 26–41. Kokkola, Lydia. 2011. Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps: Romance Conventions Reconsidered in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” Series. Children’s Literature in Education 42: 165–179. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583010-9125-9. Kokkola, Lydia. 2013. Fictions of Adolescent Carnality: Sexy Sinners and Delinquent Deviants. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Kord, Susanne. 2009. Bad Blood: The Cost of Sexual Curiosity in Archetypal Tales. Oxford German Studies 38 (2): 203–217. https://doi.org/10.1179/ 007871909x467985. Liston, Delores D., and Regina E. Moore-Rahimi. 2012. Disputation of a Bad Reputation: Adverse Sexual Labels and the Lives of 12 Southern Women. In Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-Between, ed. Pamela J. Bettis and Natalie G. Adams, 211–229. New York, London: Routledge.

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Łuksza, Agata. 2015. Sleeping with a Vampire: Empowerment, Submission, and Female Desire in Contemporary Vampire Fiction. Feminist Media Studies 15 (3): 429–443. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2014.945607. Madow, Michelle. 2017a. Vampire Prince [VP]. Dreamscape Publishing. Kindle edition. ———. 2017b. Vampire Trick [VT]. Dreamscape Publishing. Kindle edition. Mead, Richelle. 2007. Vampire Academy [VA]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008a. Frostbite [FB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008b. Shadow Kiss [SK]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2009. Blood Promise [BP]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010a. Spirit Bound [SB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010b. Last Sacrifice [LS]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2011. Bloodlines [BL]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2012. The Golden Lily [GL]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2013a. The Indigo Spell [IS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2013b. The Fiery Heart [FH]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2014. Silver Shadows [SS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2015. The Ruby Circle [RC]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. Nakagawa Chiho. 2011. Safe Sex with Defanged Vampires: New Vampire Heroes in Twilight and The Southern Vampire Mysteries. Journal of Popular Romance Studies 2 (1): unpaginated. Ndalianis, Angela. 2012. The Horror Sensorium: Media and the Senses. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha. 2019. Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Nicol, Rhonda. 2016. “You Were Such a Good Girl When You Were Human”: Gender and Subversion in The Vampire Diaries. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 145–160. Rotterdam, Boston and Taipei: SensePublishers. Piatti-Farnell, Lorna. 2014. The Vampire in Contemporary Popular Literature. New York, London: Routledge. Platt, Carrie Anne. 2010. Cullen Family Values: Gender and Sexual Politics in the Twilight Series. In Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, and the Vampire Franchise, ed. Melissa A. Click, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey and Elizabeth BehmMorawitz, 71–86. New York: Peter Lang. Priest, Hannah. 2013. “Hell! Was I Becoming a Vampyre Slut?”: Sex, Sexuality and Morality in Young Adult Vampire Fiction. In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, ed. Deborah Mutch, 55–75. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Rana, Marion. 2014. Of Masochistic Lions and Stupid Lambs: The Ambiguous Nature of Sexuality and Sexual Awakening in Twilight. In Screening Twilight: Critical Approaches to a Cinematic Phenomenon, ed. Wickham Clayton and Sarah Harman, 114–127. London: I.B.Tauris & Co., Ltd.

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Renold, Emma, and Jessica Ringrose. 2011. Schizoid Subjectivities: Re-theorising Teen-girls’ Sexual Cultures in an Era of Sexualisation. Journal of Sociology 47 (4): 389–410. Reynolds, Kimberley. 2007. Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. Houndsmille, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Ringrose, Jessica, and Emma Renold. 2012. Slut-shaming, Girl Power and “Sexualisation”: Thinking through the Politics of the International SlutWalks with Teen Girls. Gender and Education 24 (3): 333–343. https://doi.org/10. 1080/09540253.2011.645023. Schubart, Rikke. 2018. Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions and Contemporary Horror. New York, London, Oxford, New Delhi and Sydney: Bloomsbury. Seelinger Trites, Roberta. 2000. Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. Shepherd, Laura J. 2013. Gender, Violence and Popular Culture: Telling Stories. London and New York: Routledge. Sikes, Pat. 2006. Scandalous Stories and Dangerous Liaisons: When Female Pupils and Male Teachers Fall in Love. Sex Education 6 (3): 265–280. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681810600836471. Skeggs, Beverley. [1997] 2002. Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable. London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi: SAGE Publications. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2018. Vampires and Witches Go to School: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, Gender, and the Gothic. Children’s Literature in Education 49: 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583018-9343-0. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2020. Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction. In The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic, ed. Clive Bloom, 609–622. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. 2019. Lustful Ladies, She-demons and Good Little Girls: Female Agency and Desire in the Universes of Sookie Stackhouse. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 33 (2): 230–241. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2019.1569393. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. Forthcoming. Suicide, Depression and Mental Disorder in Vampire Fiction: When the World Starts Crumbling. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, special issue “Vampiric Transformations: The Popular Politics of the (Post)Romantic Vampire.” Sweeney, Brian N. 2017. Slut Shaming. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender, ed. Kevin L. Nadal, 1578–1580. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Tanenbaum, Leora. 2000. Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation. New York: Harper Perennial.

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Waters, Mark, director. 2014. Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters. Angry Films, Kintop Pictures, IM Global, Montford & Murphy, Preger Entertainment, and Reliance Entertainment. White, Emily. 2002. Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney and Singapore: Scribner. Wilhelm, Jeffrey D., and Michael W. Smith. 2014. Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—And Why We Should Let Them. New York: Scholastic. Wilson Overstreet, Deborah. 2006. Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction. Lanham, Maryland, Toronto and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Kindle edition. Wisker, Gina. 2015. Love Bites: Contemporary Women’s Vampire Fiction. In A New Companion to the Gothic, ed. David Punter, 22–238. Wiley Blackwell. Wisker, Gina. 2016. Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction: Carnival. Hauntings and Vampire Kisses: Palgrave Macmillan. Young, Brittany. 1992. Making a Choice: Virginity in the Romance. In Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance, ed. Jayne Ann Krentz, 121–124. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Zehentbauer, Janice, and Cristina Santos. 2016. Lady of Perpetual Virginity: Jessica’s Presence in True Blood. In Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen, ed. Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos, and Adriana Spahr, 97–123. Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina Press.

CHAPTER 5

Save Your Butt from Getting Raped: Girls, Vampires, Violence

A night walk on a beach can rapidly turn into a nightmare when you are a girl, seventeen, alone and wearing a bikini. Sofia Claremont, the leading female protagonist of Bella Forrest’s literary series A Shade of Vampire (2012–present), will never make it back to her hotel room. A dark, handsome stranger approaches her and, finding her unwilling, drugs her into oblivion, brutally injecting a soporific substance into her neck (SoV loc. 288–299). Sofia awakes chained to a dungeon wall in the mysterious vampire kingdom The Shade, where she is forced to join the harem of its ruler, Derek Novak. Led “like a dog on a leash” (SoV loc. 394) or carried upside down, she is delivered to a spa where her body is beautified and clad for the pleasure of the prince. Having laid his eyes on Sofia, the blood-crazed Derek loses all control. During an eroticised act of assault in which pain and imminent death threat coalesce with swirling emotions and hips pressed together, the vampire decides to honour Sofia with the position of his “personal slave” (SoV loc. 604–654). Narratives of violence against girls and women abound in popular culture. As Kelly Oliver notes, in the contemporary cultural landscapes even the most extreme imageries no longer remain confined to the realms of horror and/or pornography. Instead, they are increasingly adapted, normalised, aestheticised and glamourised within the mainstream culture. Scantily clad female models are depicted as unconscious, restrained, murdered or as hunting trophies mounted on the wall among © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_5

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animal heads, as popular reality shows, fashion photography and advertising campaigns exploit the “corpse chic” trope to attract attention (2016, 1–4).1 From blockbuster movies with bruised yet happy adolescent brides to archetypical fairy tales with the non-consensual kissing of a comatose princess, the themes of violence against women are particularly widespread in texts addressed to teenage and college-age girls. As Debra Jackson (2017) emphasises in her review of Hunting Girls (Oliver 2016), popular culture often depicts “the transition from girlhood to womanhood as dangerous, rife with the threat of sexual abuse and rape”, with girl coming-of-age stories repeatedly interrogating questions of violence, coercion and consent.2 These tropes demonstrate a particularly powerful presence in the intersecting genres of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and Gothic marketed to female consumers (Ferguson Ellis 2012, 457–460; Deffenbacher 2014, 2016; Kendal and Kendal 2015). In the scholarly tradition, these stories have been alternately lauded as featuring adventurous and agential heroines—capable of protecting themselves and their loved ones, and subjected to severe criticism as romanticising male-on-female abuse and formulating romance in terms of rape myths.3 Evie Kendal and Zachary Kendal identify Gothic characters, particularly vampires and lycanthropes, as vehicles of narrative tension between the promise of love and the threat of abuse (2015, 27). As Kristina Deffenbacher explains, [t]he otherworldly, animalistic “natures” of the genre’s vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures make possible the reanimation and transformation of a host of rape myths, from “he just couldn’t help himself” to “deep down, she wanted it.” An infusion of the paranormal 1 Oliver analyses in detail the 2012 America’s Next Top Model photograph session, where young women were asked to insert their heads into wooden frames on the wall to pose as hunting trophies. During the evaluation process, the judges criticised contestants who had failed to look “dead” (2016, 1–3). The advertising industry is particularly notorious for its highly controversial representations of violence against women, including female models stuck in coffins and car trunks, choked, gagged, in bondage, or about to be (gang-)raped (see e.g. Oliver 2016, 4; Jhally and Kilbourne 2000, 2010). 2 For a detailed discussion of the Sleeping Beauty tale as “the quintessential rape fantasy”, see Oliver (2016, ch. 1). For further insightful analysis of the Sleeping Beauty figure in girl popular culture, including instances of feminist retellings and gender reversals of the tale (exemplified by Twilight ), see Bellas (2017, ch. 3). 3 See e.g. Torkelson (2011), Rana (2013), Ferguson Ellis (2012), Deffenbacher (2014, 2016), and Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2017).

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thus allows otherwise unviable narratives—stalking and rape as courtship and seduction, jealous ownership and control as love—to appear in a sort of twilight, at once receding and returning, disavowed and embraced. (2014, 923)

Violence against women has long been a central theme in vampire lore and popular fiction. From the folkloric revenants preying on innocent maidens, through the abject, racialised vampiric Other whose evil powers and raw sexuality were to corrupt vulnerable White girls, to the presentday stories starring bloodsucking lovers, abuse is narrated as an inherent part of growing up a girl and being a woman in the supernatural vampire worlds.4 The heroines of vampire stories are repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment, childhood abuse, rape, involuntary blood-drinking, beating, biting, forcibly administered drugs, kidnapping, confinement, death threats and sometimes death itself.5 The representations of these violent acts and the responses they elicit are telling of the cultural ambiguities and stereotypes surrounding young womanhood and gendered relations of power. “And let’s make no mistake; this is about power”, as Wanda Teays emphasises in her introductory remarks to Analyzing Violence Against Women (2019, 2). Therefore, while many threads in this chapter touch upon the questions of romantic relationships and sexual desire, I choose to examine the narratives of violence against girls and women, including intimate partner violence, separately, as I aim to expose and accentuate the element of abuse rather than that of romance. Through examining the ways in which young heroines and their communities construe, experience and respond to sexual and non-sexual coercion, I tease out some of the tensions built around the notions of gendered violence and rape mythology as they intertwine with 4 For a comprehensive analysis of representations of vampire men and their relationships

with women, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the contemporary texts, see DuRocher (2016). 5 It is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide an exhaustive account of research on vampires and violence. Some contemporary examples include critical studies of the representations of abuse in True Blood (HBO 2008–2014); e.g. the analyses of the brutalisation of “promiscuous” and “vulnerable” female, gay and non-White bodies (Waters 2012), the “mixture of predatory sex and violence” in the series (Tyree 2009, 34; see also Brick 2012) or the justification and romanticisation of abuse against women in True Blood’s literary prototype The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 2019). Other examples of scholarly works on the topic are provided throughout the chapter.

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the various iterations of girlhood in the vampire story. The first section of this chapter focuses on male-on-female abuse in vampire–human relationships, illuminating the persistence of the narratives that downplay, normalise and romanticise violence in intimate contexts. Drawing on a range of popular vampire texts for girls, it looks into the implications of portraying violence as a prelude to romance and depicting abuse as inconsequential and forgivable; these are motifs that intertwine with the figure of the heroine as a monster-tamer and with the power plays between male characters. The next section focuses on the vampire series House of Night (2007–2014) and House of Night: Other World (2017–2020) by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast, and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy (2007– 2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015). Searching for points of resistance against the formulas that justify male-on-female abuse and identifying the series’ potential for unravelling and subverting the common myths about violence and rape, this part aims to engage with the scholarly works that dismiss House of Night and Vampire Academy as disregarding consent and trivialising coercion. The two following sections of the chapter consider the representations of girls as perpetrators and/or instigators of violence. Interrogating the narratives of rape and rape-revenge and the figure of the girl as a warrioress, protectress and avengeress, they shed light on some of the ways in which YA vampire series engage with the themes of postrape trauma, the boundaries of (self-)defence and the figure of the rape survivor. These questions are inscribed into larger social and political discourses as alarming reports by human rights’ organisations, social movements like #MeToo and mass civil actions protesting the violations of women’s rights in many countries around the world signal yet again the urgency of the need to interrogate popular beliefs on violence against girls and women.6 According to the World Health Organization, over one third of women globally have experienced domestic violence and non-partner sexual abuse, and 38% of femicides are committed by a male intimate partner (WHO 2017). As Laura J. Shepherd observes, “[i]nstances of violence are one of the sites at which gender identities are reproduced. Thus, gendered violence is the violent reproduction of gender” (2013,

6 As I am writing these words, mass protests opposing the violation of women’s rights erupt all over Poland, triggered by (albeit not limited to) the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling that introduces a near-total ban on abortion.

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17). A critical examination of these questions has an illuminating potential for understanding the gendered hierarchies and addressing inequalities that are at play in contemporary societies and cultures (Jowett 2010; Ackley 1990; Gunne and Brigley Thompson 2010).

5.1 No Anger and No Condemnation: Vampires and Romanticised Abuse Violence, particularly in a sexualised context, has come to be seen as a signature characteristic of Gothic and vampire texts for adults. These tropes, however, are also ever-present—and often just as graphic—within the stories marketed to young people. Michelle J. Smith and Kristine Moruzi point to the YA Gothic genre’s deep investment in the exploration of “the frightening nature of the sexual threats that young women continue to face” (2020, 619–620); and Kendal and Kendal identify the inescapability of abuse as one of the central messages of YA paranormal romance (2015, 27). In vampire series for girls, extreme physical and psychological violence often marks the beginning of a successful love story and becomes a tool for the consolidation of the couple’s relationship. Such narratives typically feature an aggressive supernatural man who confines his ladylove-to-be and often feels the urge to kill her, and an initially resistant human heroine who in time develops a loving bond with her captor. As Kendal and Kendal observe, “[t]his radically unbalanced power relation requires a tremendous amount of trust on the part of the weaker party and a heroic level of self-control for the monster”, with the story itself often rendering women responsible for avoiding abuse and presenting violence as inherent to masculinity (2015, 27). Foregrounding a cultural shift in representing male vampires in “Men That Suck”, Kristina DuRocher observes that despite his appeal, the contemporary vampire lover often fails to display the qualities sought after in a long-term partner (2016, 56–57). Monster stories “at their core”, “[t]hese vampire narratives offer viewers a safe way to face the fears of, and reject, a patriarchal, aggressive, and possessive version of masculinity”, as the vampire’s advances are eventually declined by the heroine (DuRocher 2016, 57). Yet, in many YA vampire romance texts, girls end up in long-lasting or even marital relationships with abusive supernatural men. These issues have been primarily studied in relation to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005–2008) and its cinematic adaptations (2008–2012), drawing a considerable scholarly and public criticism for

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guising violence against women as passion and care. Extensive research carried out on the saga has revealed multiple similarities between the conduct of the two male romantic leads, particularly the vampire hero, and real-life abusers, including sadism, threatening or belittling behaviour and controlling the heroine’s mobility, sexuality and social interactions, as well as stalking, kidnapping and destroying her property.7 These scripts have been reiterated and amplified in other vampire series for girls, many of which rely heavily on the oft-repeated story of Beauty and the Beast. The human heroine is often physically or magically trapped in a relationship with a vampire man and forcibly inducted into his world, where she is (stereo)typically tasked with taming the Beast within him. Sofia of A Shade of Vampire (Forrest 2012–present), who is abducted to join Derek’s harem; Eleira of The Vampire Gift (E. M. Knight 2016– 2020), forced into a strategical marriage with Raul; or Jemma of The Marked (Scardoni 2015–2020), compelled to establish a magical blood connection with Dominic, are just a few of many such examples. The stories of Sofia and Derek, and Raul and Eleira commence with the heroines awakening in chains—injured, terrified and ripped away from their human lives into the alternative worlds of vampire kingdoms.8 Neither girl remembers their arrival as they were both unconscious— drugged or knocked out cold by a vampire bite (SoV, ch. 4; VG loc. 274, 1540). Eleira wakes up isolated in a see-through atrium, with her every move recorded and analysed by vampire Raul and his brothers. In Hunting Girls, Oliver discusses the alarming practice of “creepshot” photography (taking and sharing pictures and videos of unsuspecting girls in compromising positions) as a new form of “spectator sport” among some young men—one that operates to proliferate and normalise abuse against women (2016, ch. 2). Strongly redolent of the “creepshot” phenomenon, the three male vampires exchange laughing remarks in a surveillance room about Eleira’s visible fear and contemplate her lack of 7 See e.g. Ashcraft (2013, ch. 6), Kokkola (2011), McMillan (2009), Pugh (2011, ch. 7), Housel (2009), and Torkelson (2011). While most studies focus on the relationship between the leading heroine and her two supernatural love interests, Torkelson considers a wide array of the series’ female characters, including those previously neglected in research. 8 Later in the series, a nearly identical scenario is recreated in the romance between Sofia and Derek’s daughter Rose and the vampire Caleb. Like Sofia, Rose is brutally kidnapped and held captive on an island until she gradually becomes emotionally involved with her captor. Just like her mother before her, Rose grows to understand Caleb’s inner torment, rescues him from his emotional plight and ultimately marries him (SoN).

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resilience when they think she is crying (VG, ch. 5; loc. 334, 489). The first encounter of both Eleira and Sofia with their future vampire love interests is painful and ripe with threat; the men barely manage to refrain from killing them (SoV, loc. 310–654; VG ch. 1–3, 5). While Jemma meets Dominic under less dramatic circumstances (in a pub rather than a dungeon), their date ends with the heroine being forcibly fang-penetrated (Inception 139–146)—a long-established metaphor for rape. The blame for the abuse is often placed with the girl or shifted to the instincts beyond the man’s control. When in rage or pain, Derek experiences “black-outs” and injures those around him. Raul explains his assault on Eleira with her “giving him reason to”; after all, she has flipped her hair, torturing him with her scent (VG loc. 910). Their justification of these violent acts relies on both she deserved it and he could not help it, two long-standing rape myths that blame the occurrence of the abuse on female “provocation” and the male’s inability to control himself (Burt 1998, 134–136; Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 187–191). In The Marked, Dominic at once declares his heartfelt devotion for Jemma and continues to exhibit abusive behaviour, threatening her with no less than bleeding her dry or cutting her tongue out (Infernal 57, 73). A pivotal scene that marks the breakthrough in their relationship occurs when the vampire forces the heroine into his room and compels her not to move or scream after she has refused to let him drink her blood. Openly revelling in her panic and helplessness, Dominic enchants the incapacitated heroine into confessing her most intimate thoughts for him, leaving her feeling “naked and completely exposed”; he then feeds upon her against her pleas and bewitches her into forgetting the whole incident (Iniquitous 251, 254– 255). When in the following volume, Infernal, Jemma discovers a gap in her memory and suspects that she might have been raped, Dominic reluctantly reverses the compulsion in order to put her at ease (sic!). What the vampire truly fears is that Jemma will remember his passionate declaration of love uttered at the end of their violent encounter—one that leaves him vulnerable. Sure enough, having regained her memories, the heroine becomes preoccupied with Dominic’s confession, utterly overlooking the psychological and fang rape that he committed against her (Infernal 62–73)—as though no harm was actually done.9 9 A brief scan through the Kindle readers’ reviews reveals that the romantic development in Infernal has been appreciated by the majority of fans, with 359 reviewers granting the volume a five-star evaluation and only nineteen a one star (as of October

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The script of no harm was done—a rape myth defined by Martha Burt as acknowledging the occurrence of a violent act, but denying or belittling its harmful consequences, and de-problematising the abused woman’s trauma as minor or unimportant (1998, 132–133)—has a powerful presence in vampire fiction addressed to adolescent girls. A severe violation of human rights, violence against women has far-reaching personal, social, political and economic consequences, including increased fatality rates, injuries, mental health problems, mood and eating disorders, or inability to work, to name but a few (WHO 2017). Yet these negative outcomes are often glossed over in popular culture. “Controlling, aggressive, and possessive men are put forth as ideal lovers” in adult, YA and children’s texts alike, as evidenced by the popularity of such stories as Beauty and the Beast, Twilight (Caputi 2019, 211) or the recent success of the movie 365 days (Białow˛as 2020; see e.g. Spencer 2020). In her illuminating essay on agency and gendered violence in the vampire genre, Anne Torkelson (2011) dissects the narratives of no harm in Twilight, highlighting the saga’s disregard of the victims’ mental and bodily distress, and its silencing of the aftermaths of abusive acts.10 Both Torkelson and Marion Rana evoke the storylines of Bella and Jacob, in order to criticise the series’ portrayal of Jacob’s unwelcome sexual advances (forcing kisses upon Bella

16, 2019). Most reviewers have welcomed Dominic and Jemma’s conflicted passion. As Vanessa rodriguez states in her appreciative comment (enthusiastically entitled “HOLY FREKING COW!!”; August 3, 2018), “I’m absolutely drooling over Dominic and hoping he gets his HEA [Happy Ever After] with Jemma” (2018; cf. Nick vega, “Love this author!”, August 3, 2018). Some reviews further criticise Jemma for her initial “darn restraint aginst Dominic!” (Stacy, “Must Reades” May 25, 2019; spelling original), and express understanding towards the vampire’s possessive attitude, falling back on the for her own good myth and legitimising his actions with a desire to protect his loved one (see e.g. Thomisha Matthews, “SPOILERS!!”, August 4, 2018). A few readers, however, have taken up the problem of the series’ depictions of violence against women, articulating their disappointment over the heroine’s easy forgiveness of Dominic’s crimes, describing their relationship as manipulative and outright “gross” (see e.g. Adrienne R., “Meh”, February 15, 2019; Amazon Customer, “Disappointed”, August 17, 2019), and shedding light on the distinction between “forbidden love” and “just abuse” (Amazon Customer 2019; cf. MomofTwoBoysi, “This book needs to have a trigger warning”, August 24, 2018). 10 One of the examples is the story of Emily Young’s mutilation by her werewolf fiancé

Sam. Emily’s trauma is passed over in silence, signalled only by the musings over her lost beauty. The girl is refused the agency to tell her own story which is controlled and told by men (Torkelson 2011, 215). As Donnelly remarks, “[t]hrough the relationship of Emily and Sam, readers are offered a lesson in the tolerance of domestic abuse” (2011, 189).

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despite her verbal and bodily resistance) as “endowed with humorous undertones”, easily forgivable and condoned by Bella’s father, who roots for their romance (Rana 2013, 237–238; Torkelson 2011, 211–212).11 In Disruptive Desire, Rana further points to a similar trivialising approach to violence in another successful vampire series for young readers, J. L. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries . Focusing on the grim scene in a graveyard between the leading heroine Elena and her classmate Tyler in the first volume, The Awakening (1991), Rana notes that Elena never identifies Tyler’s actions as attempted rape, nor does she exhibit any symptoms of trauma. Instead, she delights in winning the heart of her rescuer Stefan and deems suspension from school an adequate punishment for the rapist (2013, 232–233, 239–240).12 The televised version of The Vampire Diaries (The CW 2009–2017) picks up the narrative of no harm was done in the story of Caroline Forbes and Damon Salvatore. Caroline, a naïve, attention-seeking teenager, is seduced by the centuries-old vampire Damon, who exploits her for blood and sex, and forces her to pose as his girlfriend. The heroine is magically compelled into obedience and a beguiling sense of contentment with their toxic relationship—to the point where she quietly accepts that she will be murdered once she has outlived her usefulness (“Friday Night Bites” S1E03).13 When Caroline is turned into a vampire, she becomes physically and psychologically empowered to confront her assailant. In a scene strongly resembling a rape attempt, Damon pins her down, mockingly

11 See also Kokkola (2011, 44), Ashcraft (2013, 155–156), and Kendal and Kendal (2015, 27–28). Meyer herself exonerates Jacob’s actions with reference to his youth and justifies them with the heroine’s love for the young werewolf (quoted in Ashcraft 2013, 161)—blurring the distinction between desire and consent that will be discussed further in this chapter. In her detailed analysis of violence within Twilight ’s central love triangle, Ashcraft emphasises that the message of abuse as acceptable and romantic is additionally reinforced by the complicity of Edward’s family in enforcing his rules upon Bella (2013, ch. 6; cf. Kokkola 2011, 43). 12 This incident is analysed in detail in Rana’s doctoral dissertation (2013, 232–233, 239–240). See Rana (2013, ch. 7), for her interesting examination of other incidents of sexual violence in YA literature. 13 In “Sleeping with a Vampire”, Łuksza refers to the show’s recurrent portrayal of

Damon “behind the bars, on his knees, in chains, with open wounds, unconscious from pain etc.”, the representations that are to deem the vampire “at least equally victimized as the female character” and to challenge the potential construction of the violence as gender-specific (2015, 435–436); however, she does not address the question whether these instances of abuse are based in Damon’s gender.

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addressing her as “little girl” and claiming to be stronger. The heroine, however, replies feistily: “Well, I’m angrier!”, and pushes him violently off herself and into the wall (“Disturbing Behaviour” S3E04). In the first season of the series Damon is cast as the villain of the story. His ruthless exploitation of Caroline is narrated as evil and deserving punishment, and ultimately compels his (temporary) downfall. Yet, while morally wrong, Damon’s violation of Caroline is also narrated as forgivable.14 Having her memories restored, the heroine confronts Damon verbally, thrusts him to the floor and then turns her back on him and walks away in a self-assured manner (“Brave New World” S2E02). In her analysis of the scene, Rikke Schubart recognises Caroline’s response as “a spectacle of postfeminist independence”, with the heroine transformed both visually and mentally from “soft and vulnerable and … a sexual target” into a confident and assertive young woman (2018, 138). Yet Caroline’s response to Damon’s abuse cannot but come across as a slap on the wrist rather than a retaliation proportionate to death threats and repeated sexual assault. A rape-revenge narrative is absent from the plot. In fact, the vampire’s crimes are never explicitly named as rape, despite the clear implications.15 Over the following seasons, Damon and Caroline become friends, with no evidence of any lasting damage to the violated girl—a scenario that reiterates the message of no harm was done. In her analysis of rape representations in crime series Lorna Jowett suggests that violence against women is frequently used as a tool to articulate power games between men, with women’s bodies exploited and objectified in order to assert the supremacy of one male over another (2010, 220–221). In Twilight, Bella’s body becomes a terrain of conflict between Edward and his vampire enemy James, with the villain torturing the heroine to enrage the hero (Rana 2014, 127). In this context, Bella becomes cast in the role of the token woman or damsel in distress—“a passive object that connects active male subjects”, existing to “escalate the conflict between enemy males” and to offer the hero a chance to

14 My analysis here is indebted to a discussion with Rikke Schubart, which I gratefully acknowledge. See also Schubart (2012). 15 See Schubart (2018, 137), for a detailed description of the incident. Caroline herself uses the less specific term “abuse” (“Brave New World” S2E02). For a comprehensive analysis of Caroline’s self-development and transformation, see Schubart (2018, ch. 5).

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prove himself (Łuksza 2015, 434, 436).16 In a far more drastic way, violence against women becomes “a conversation between men” (Gunne and Brigley Thompson 2010, 8) when A Shade of Vampire villain Lucas attempts to intimidate his brother, prince Derek, with threats against his ladylove Sofia. When Lucas murders one of Derek’s harem girls and leaves her brutalised corpse on display in Sofia’s bathtub, the infuriated prince considers it “a deliberate affront” to himself and demands that his guards discover “who has insulted me in this way” (SoV loc. 1571–1579; emphasis mine). For Damon in The Vampire Diaries, one of the incentives for abusing Caroline is his desire to taunt his vampire brother Stefan, whom he holds accountable for his gloomy undead existence. Although Stefan condemns him for treating Caroline like “a puppet” (“Friday Night Bites” E1S03), he himself uses her without her consent to defeat Damon. Caroline’s body is turned into a trap when Stefan stealthily spikes her drink with vervain—a substance that incapacitates his malicious brother as soon as he feeds on the girl’s blood (“Family Ties” E1S04). In these narratives, women and their suffering or death become an argument in the quarrel between men and “an act of triumph” of one male over another (Gunne and Brigley Thompson 2010, 8).17 Alarmingly, violence against women is often construed as acceptable as long as it is performed in good faith and with noble intentions. Such representations strongly resonate with the myth of it was for her own good where the abuse is motivated with the victim’s well-being: “[H]armed, forced into unwanted states or manipulated for their own good”, the heroines in vampire fiction often end up hurt as a result of men’s “benevolent” actions (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 191; cf. Crossen 2010). The woman’s initial sense of rage or betrayal typically gives way to acceptance and gratitude for the perpetrator’s devotion, good judgement and true understanding of her needs—a deeply infantilising and oppressive script widespread throughout the genre (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 16 Athena Bellas offers an alternative reading of Twilight, emphasising Bella’s transformation into the powerful warrioress and protectress of her loved ones—a role that facilitates the power shift in her relationship with Edward (2017, 88). Similarly, Łuksza notes Bella’s departure from her initial damsel persona (2015). 17 Violence against women can also become a “conversation” between men and other women, as exemplified by the vampress Katherine’s murder of Caroline in order to challenge Damon and Stefan Salvatore in “The Return” (S201). Having become a vampire, Caroline is forced to convey a message from Katherine to the Salvatore brothers: “Game on” (“Brave New World” E2S02).

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191–193; cf. Ashcraft 2013; Crossen 2010).18 Whenever Dominic uses magical compulsion to bend Jemma to his will—whether to force her into sleep or drinking his blood—he states that he acts “for your own good, angel” (Iniquitous 78–80, 97). As he further explains, “I know you better than you know yourself … I know what you need. I know what you want even before you beg me for it … You don’t know what you want” (Iniquitous 88, 96). While a critical reader might doubt Dominic’s intentions, it is more difficult to question Stefan’s treatment of Caroline. When he drugs her with vervain and exposes her to further suffering at Damon’s hands and fangs, it is convincingly narrated as necessary to save both herself and other would-be victims. Thus, violating a girl’s body paradoxically becomes the means to stop violence against girls. As Damon would eventually have killed Caroline, Stefan’s abuse becomes re-conceptualised as beneficial for the victim, and validated through its moral purpose and positive outcome. Caroline herself never holds the incident against “the good brother”, and eventually falls in love with him.19 In “Sex, Blood, and Death”, Benita Blessing highlights the oftrehearsed transition of the vampire figure from initially repulsive to desirable, and the vampire fiction’s portrayal of the female victim as “longing for the return of her seducer”. It is in these tropes that Blessing traces the traditional Gothic sensibility within the modern vampire tale (2016, 86). The contemporary male vampire is often written as a Heathcliff-like hero, “a dark and brooding sexual fantasy” (Wilson Overstreet 2006, loc. 101), wild, cruel and tormented by his dark past. In the texts marketed to adolescent women, the Heathcliff character has been resurrected in Twilight ’s Edward (see e.g. Priest 2013, 58; Sandhu 2008), but his spectre looms in like manner over other vampire men.20 Their darkness needs to be tamed by an affectionate heroine who alone is capable of turning the monster into a proper dating and marital candidate. In this,

18 In “The Lower Dog in the Room” (2017), I have analysed the presence of this myth in The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. 19 Schubart further invokes the example of Caroline’s father who, in season 3, episode 3, tortures his beloved daughter in order to cure her vampirism (2018, 147–148). While it falls beyond the scope of this volume, it is worth emphasising that violence inflicted on men in The Vampire Diaries is portrayed in a similar way—with male characters physically tortured “for their own good”; a trope inviting further analysis. 20 Damon and Stefan of The Vampire Diaries, Derek and Caleb of A Shade of Vampire or Dominic of The Marked, are just a few of the numerous examples.

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they continue the tradition of coming-of-age stories grounded in Beauty and the Beast; as Oliver observes, “[i]n a sense, our young heroines must save their boyfriends from their own violent impulses, brainwashed into them by a violent culture. These violent lads are redeemed through the love of our good-hearted heroines” (2016, 21, 56). In all of the series analysed in this section, the heroines fall for violent vampire men, allowing them to forgive and forget their criminal pasts.21 When the vampires admit to multiple murders (a confession likely to alarm even the most infatuated girlfriend), the primary concern of the heroines is how to console their remorseful men. Ultimately, these vampire (anti-)heroes are presented (and present themselves) as protectors and defenders of the endangered heroines—the “only one[s] who can offer sanctuary” (VG loc. 2234). Their status as positive romantic characters is further reinforced through contrasting them with the figure of the “real rapist”, embodied through an evil brother or a malicious rival for the heroine’s love.22 This strategy is particularly visible in A Shade of Vampire, which pushes the level of violence against women to the extreme. The dangerously volatile vampire hero Derek repeatedly assaults his slave/girlfriend Sofia, who avoids death at his fangs by soothing him with love songs or reassuring whispers. Derek brutalises other women in the series on a regular basis, pinning them to walls, grabbing their hair, fang raping, threatening to kill, choking and bleeding them dry (see e.g. SoB loc. 2219–2227, 2242). Even his gentle sister Vivienne is not safe from his rampages; when she disobeys him, he hits her hard enough to knock her to the ground (SoB loc. 1235). Derek is a rapist, a murderer and a brute; therefore, another character must be introduced, one even more cruel and misogynistic, in order to restore the prince to the position of the hero. As the narrative painstakingly emphasises, the “real” threat is posed not by Derek but by another vampire, Boris—a despicable paedophile and sadist, whom no woman would touch volitionally. It is Boris who is pointed to as “the real rapist”—and a much-needed antithesis to the figure of the hero, whose violent transgressions are, in contrast, easily forgiven. Lying on the ground with her face bruised by 21 Admittedly, Eleira occasionally considers that she might be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome (see e.g. VG loc. 3381, 1622). 22 See Deffenbacher 2014 for an analysis of the “real rapist” category in paranormal romance (2014, 926–927). Cf. Łuksza (2015, 434), on women as providing the space for contrasting the hero and the antagonist.

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her brother’s hand, Vivienne looks up at Derek with “no anger, no accusation, no condemnation” (SoB loc. 1238); and Sofia throws herself into his arms just after having seen her beloved nearly raping and murdering her dear friend Ashley (SoB loc. 2228–2231). Their devotion is presented as a force for change and redemption—clearly portrayed as enviable and deserving admiration—a dangerous reiteration of the myth that true love alone can change an abusive man.

5.2 A Questioning Touch of Teeth: Violence and Consent in House of Night and Vampire Academy This popular narrative takes an interesting turn in the love story of dhampir Rose Hathaway and undead Dimitri Belikov in the fourth volume of Vampire Academy, Blood Promise. When Dimitri, Rose’s former instructor and lover, becomes involuntarily transformed into an evil vampire Strigoi, the warrior heroine embarks on a heart-breaking quest to find and execute him. In the decisive moment, however, Rose hesitates to plunge a stake into her beloved’s heart, and ends up beaten and confined in a luxurious prison-apartment. With a powerful monster hero—at once cruel and affectionate, and a caring heroine who grows capable of seeing beyond his monstrous nature, the story of Rose and Dimitri reads initially like yet another version of Beauty and the Beast.23 The tension between the hero and the heroine is rife with brutality and eroticism; the closeness of their struggling bodies reminds Rose of their first night together and she is distracted from the imminent threat of the monster’s bite by the nearness of his sensual lips, experiencing “love mingled with terror” (BP 287–290). As time passes, the heroine grows accustomed to her beloved’s monstrous nature and starts feeling at home in her gilded cage (295). However, rather than comfortably falling into the conventional fairy-tale pattern, Vampire Academy shifts to tell a disturbing tale of abuse and patriarchal terrorism. Redolent of the schema of domestic violence (see e.g. Caputi 1993, 9), the Beast-Dimitri alternates between tenderness and aggression (297, 299, 335), while the Beauty-Rose becomes physically and emotionally

23 Rose’s transformation into Beauty is manifested, among other things, through her bodily metamorphosis, and analysed in more detail in Chapter 2 of this volume.

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dependent on her captor: “My time was divided into Dimitri or notDimitri. He was my world … I only needed Dimitri” (318; cf. 326, 331). The heroine rationalises his acts of violence, avoids actions that might anger him, and—upon failing—tries to placate the Beast with tender words and kisses. She cherishes every moment of his affection, while fearing his vicious temper and mercurial behaviour (321–323, 326): The desire and fondness that I’d just seen now fractured into a million pieces and blew away. The hands that had just stroked me suddenly grabbed my wrists and held me in place as he leaned down … His grip hurt, and I often wondered if that was his intent or if he just couldn’t help his violence. (323)

Dimitri’s control of Rose’s body and mind is nearly absolute: he isolates her, dresses her to his liking, threatens to tie her up if she is disobedient and intends to make “the right choice” on her behalf if she refuses to become Strigoi (332, 335). He is also the one who lays down the rules of their erotic life, withholding or forcing sexual activities as he sees fit.24 In their respective articles on violence and consent in Vampire Academy and House of Night, Kendal and Kendal (2015, 30–31), and Gaïane Hanser (2018) criticise the series for their representations of instances of violence against women, and denounce them as failing to critically address the issues of rape and lack of female agency. Focusing on the relationship between Rose and Dimitri and contrasting Mead’s novels with another paranormal narrative for young adults, the TV show Teen Wolf (MTV 2011–2017), Kendal and Kendal argue that Vampire Academy follows in the footsteps of Twilight, romanticising abuse, supporting rape culture and disregarding female consent (2015, 30–31, 38). In turn, Hanser contends that men in the House of Night novels are portrayed as predatory—a construction designed to cast women as stereotypical prey—and criticises the series for providing “little to no commentary” on such representations (2018, 8–9, 12). Both articles offer some persuasive arguments. 24 As Kendal and Kendal observe, the couple’s erotic encounters are closely reminiscent

of rape scenes, as Strigoi-Dimitri often physically restrains Rose and forces her into intimate situations (2015, 30–31). The vampire treats penetrative sex as a “bargaining chip” to push Rose into the ranks of the evil undead (BP 334–335). For the use of forced abstinence as an instrument of subjugation, see Crossen (2010, 120), Ashcraft (2013, 154–155), and Allan and Santos (2016, 74).

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However, in this part of the chapter I hope to contribute to the discussion by complicating these interpretations, identifying and exploring the emancipatory potential and moments of resistance present in these series’ storylines on violence against women. In both the Casts’ and Mead’s novels, the themes of abuse, rape and consent are explored through multiple storylines and discussed both by individual characters and on a structural level in terms of the rules of their respective supernatural communities. While both series (albeit to a different extent) validate warrior masculinity, male aggressiveness outside of the context of battle is often vigorously contested. Depicting the male possessiveness of a woman as a sign of care is unusual, and male attempts to restrict a woman’s freedom are deprived of romantic associations. When in a fit of jealousy the vampire Erik physically restrains Zoey from approaching another boy, the heroine calls him “a possessive Neanderthal” and frees herself immediately, naming his behaviour “bullying” and “insane” (Hunted 104, 134, 238; cf. LS loc. 2389). Zoey refuses to read Erik’s jealousy as a sign of devotion; instead, at that moment she sees him as “mad and mean, and … more a stranger than a boyfriend” (Hunted 104).25 Asking for consent is firmly inscribed into the rules of courtship. Kisses resembling “a sweet question mark” are much more likely to be favourably answered than those “groping, intrusive [and] filled with possessiveness” (Hunted 272; see also Marked 290); and boys narrated as desirable romantic partners are prepared to gracefully accept refusal at any stage of an intimate encounter (see e.g. Betrayed 126; Hunted 87). When in Hidden Erik erroneously believes that the young fledgling Shaylin desires a kiss (“It seemed she was tilting her lips to his”; 212) but is shoved away, he immediately withdraws and apologises (“What you saw was me trying something stupid. … I was being a dick”; 213). Erik’s attempt to kiss a girl without her explicit consent is mentioned by Hanser 25 Heath mockingly encourages Erik to “try to boss her around a bunch” in order to dispose of his vampire rival (Hunted 139). Eventually, even Erik admits that he has behaved like a “jerk” and “a possessive asshole” (Hunted 142). It is noteworthy that Zoey herself feels possessive of her various boyfriends. When she learns that the monstrous red fledglings have tasted Heath’s blood, she reacts with a furious—and conventionally vampiric—declaration of “ownership”: “Heath was mine and no one else was ever, ever going to feed from what was mine” (Betrayed 280). Similarly, she feels inclined to strangle, “squash … like a bug” and “burn all the hair” of a girl interested in her former boyfriend (Hunted, 11, 30–31, 34, 51, 91).

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in her critique of the series’ representations of violence. However, the development of this scene serves, in fact, to valorise consent as it is clear that the latter cannot be assumed or even implied but needs to be actively sought. Therefore, when Zoey and Rose decide to have sex with, respectively, Stark and Adrian, both boys are careful to ask whether they are certain. Zoey and Stark in House of Night begin to drink blood from each other with “a brief, questioning touch of … teeth”, and do not proceed until the other person verbally confirms their willingness (Awakened 285). In many intimate scenes, anything short of enthusiastic consent is read as refusal. Therefore, when Rose shifts away seconds before penetration, Adrian immediately asks whether she has changed her mind. He does not try to seduce the heroine with his vampiric psychic powers, nor does he attempt to persuade her; instead, he explicitly states that once she has said “no”, there is nothing else to add (SB 439–441).26 Earlier in the series, when another boy becomes angry with Rose for interrupting their sexual encounter, her friend Lissa quells any doubts that may linger, stating firmly: “That was your right” (FB 217). In the House of Night series, the questions of consent and abuse are discussed at length in the tenth volume Hunted, when Stark, prior to his transformation into a force of good, sexually abuses girls at his vampire school and drinks their blood without consent (193–196). He is about to violate a vampire student named Becca when he is discovered and stopped by the central heroine Zoey and her warrior friend Darius. Like Jemma and Rose before her, Becca explicitly rejects the vampire’s advances; yet, like Dominic and Strigoi-Dimitri, Stark is confident that the girl whom he has chosen lusts after him. All three vampire men assume that the unwilling women simply hide their true feelings and that their (presumed) desire overrides their verbal dissent. As Dominic says to Jemma, “We both know what you want. Why are you denying it?” (Iniquitous 245) Utterly disregarding the heroines’ protests, the men operate within the script of deep down, she wanted it/liked it —a rape myth based on “a belief that ‘women never mean no’”, even if they say it, and that they can enjoy sexual coercion (Burt 1998, 133–134; Deffenbacher 2014, 923). Equalling the heroines’ desire and erotic gratification with their consent, the three male characters adopt the popular (if highly erroneous)

26 In The Fiery Heart, despite being certain that she desires it, Adrian refrains from drinking his girlfriend’s blood as he has not received her explicit permission (364).

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perspective that wanted sex cannot be non-consensual (see Peterson and Muehlenhard 2007). Paradoxically, the heroines themselves appear to participate in this narrative as the vampires’ assumptions prove to be correct. Jemma does desire Dominic, and eventually finds their forced encounter highly pleasurable: “My body wanted him the way the desert wanted rain, the way a lonely heart ached for love. Every inch of me hungered for him to devour me” (Iniquitous 253). Likewise, the initial terror that Rose experiences when Dimitri bites her neck quickly melts into a “rush of bliss and joy” (BP 316). In her study on romantic and urban fantasy fiction, Deffenbacher points out that the willing response of the heroine’s body typically functions to disguise the act of rape, aiming to invalidate the woman’s verbal and physical resistance. As soon as she acknowledges her “true” needs and emotions, the heroine is to offer her “retroactive consent”— an act that serves to differentiate the abusive hero from the “real” rapist (2014, 926–927). In the light of these arguments, it is not unanticipated that the non-consensual encounter between Dominic and Jemma focuses on their growing affection, keeping its brutality firmly in the background. Dominic does not consider himself a rapist (“I may be a monster, angel, but I’m not that kind of monster”; Infernal 64); nor is he narrated as such—a representation strengthened by Jemma’s lack of concern about the abuse.27 Her conflicted delight over Dominic’s confession of love serves to romanticise the rape scenario and contributes to what Oliver recognises as the cultural valorisation of lack of consent and sexual assault (2016, 6–7, 14, 18). Despite the apparent similarities, the story of Rose and Strigoi-Dimitri ultimately conveys an entirely different message. In their analysis of YA paranormal romance, Kendal and Kendal criticise this storyline for denying the heroine the agency of consent (2015, 30). Contrary to these claims, however, Rose’s relationship with Strigoi-Dimitri in Blood Promise is neither romanticised nor unproblematised.28 While Rose temporarily

27 Similarly, as Oliver (2016) states, many perpetrators of party rape do not consider themselves rapists. 28 In Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide, Mead elaborates on the difficulties of rewriting a good character as evil: “I needed to make Dimitri terrifying and consumed by his monstrous side—while still giving readers a reason to be hopeful for him. If you make a character too evil and too unlikeable, readers will lose faith and stop caring. … It was a very tricky balance to manage” (loc. 3550).

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confuses their (re-)union for a happy if somewhat twisted fairy tale, the reader is hardly invited to do the same. From the very first moment, it is clear that the heroine’s judgement is clouded by a powerful drug administered into her system through the Strigoi’s bites—and that her physical pleasure must not be confused with consent. An unexpected intermission in the vampire’s visits allows Rose to shake off the narcotic haze and to see Dimitri’s suffocating pseudo-affection exactly for what it is—an abuse and a threat (BP 369). She recognises the damage that their relationship has caused her and is determined to set herself free: “His words were poison, seeping into my skin. If I focused on them, my fear would win, and I’d give up” (BP 413). Breaking out of a vicious cycle of violence, Rose resists relishing in yet another phase of affection, using instead a moment of a passionate kiss to attack and escape Dimitri (BP 375–376, 394). A terrified, hurt and seemingly defenceless prey, during the flight the heroine reassumes her position as a huntress. She ambushes her pursuer and finally stakes him in the heart—bringing their toxic relationship to a dramatic (if eventually temporary) end. In the story of Stark and Becca in Hunted, the myths of she wanted it/liked it are directly confronted by Zoey and Darius. Challenging the idea of “real” men as sexually aggressive, Darius positions the abusive Stark as an immature fool when he lectures him on the proper masculine behaviour, addressing him as “boy”: “Perhaps no one has explained to you that vampyre males do not abuse females, be they human, vampyre, or fledgling. … We … do not abuse females. Ever” (Hunted 195). When Stark drinks Becca’s blood, she begins to experience pleasure. Hanser finds this trope highly problematic, as the endorphin rush following a vampiric bite can serve to “override a vampyre’s partner unwillingness to engage in a sexual encounter, whatever their original state of mind” (2018, 10). However, the narrating Zoey deems the whole discourse of the victim’s alleged erotic gratification entirely void as a justification of rape. Renouncing the very premise of rape mythology, she firmly states that “it didn’t matter that the girl was now moaning with sexual pleasure” (Hunted 194). What does matter, however, is Becca’s “wide, terrified eyes, and the rigidity of her body [that] made it obvious she would fight him if she could”, her frightened pleading and Stark’s contemptible refusal to stop until he is “done” (Hunted 194). Thus, the scenes between Becca and Stark, and Rose and Dimitri, are construed through the lens

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of Zoë D. Peterson and Charlene Muehlenhard’s conceptual distinction between “wanting and consenting” which, while often concomitant, ought not to be equated (2007). As Peterson and Muehlenhard observe, to want something is to desire it, to wish for it, to feel inclined toward it, or to regard it or aspects of it as positively valenced; in contrast, to consent is to be willing or to agree to do something. Wanting may influence individuals’ decisions about whether to consent, but wanting and consenting need not correspond. (2007, 73)

Peterson and Muehlenhard are careful to articulate the risks associated with acknowledging that the raped person might have desired to have sex. However, they assert that a clear distinction between desiring and consenting can actually serve to defuse the guilt-absolving, victimblaming narrative of she liked it /wanted it (2007, 84). Therefore, the essential factor in the definition of rape is, in fact, “the absence of consent, not the absence of desire” (Peterson and Muehlenhard 2007, 85). Thus, even Becca’s retroactive consent and the subsequent attempt to present the abuse as mutually wanted do not absolve Stark. Rather, her denial can be interpreted as revealing of a deep sense of shame instilled in a female victim, and of a culturally rooted demand for the assaulted woman to hide the male’s abuse against her. A battered girl struggling to conceal her injuries, bite marks and welts is a well-rehearsed trope in popular vampire fiction addressed to young women and girls. Mirroring the real-life models of intimate partner violence, the victimised heroines often reject or refuse to ask for help, are depicted as undeserving of such, or seek consolation in their abusers’ arms (see e.g. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 190,195–196; Kokkola 2011). In Twilight, young Emily convinces her family and friends that the scars disfiguring her face come from a bear attack rather than her fiancé’s outburst of rage. Other werewolves warn Bella not to stare at Emily’s marks as it would hurt Sam’s feelings (while the feelings of the injured girl remain undiscussed) (New Moon 290, 299; cf. Torkelson 2011, 214–215).29 The desire to shield an abusive male from the agony of remorse further inspires the leading heroine Bella to conceal and underplay her injuries as she inspects her battered body in the morning after 29 Bella herself admits that she “shuddered at the thought of how Sam must have felt every time he looked at Emily’s face” (NM 299; emphasis mine).

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her wedding night with Edward (Breaking Dawn 80–88) “[D]ecorated with blotches of blue and purple”, Bella launches into an explanation as to why her newly wed husband is not to be blamed (87). She does not seem to experience any bodily or emotional pain; her primary concern is how to hide her bruises in order to avoid upsetting the guilt-ridden Edward—a disconcerting response that has been critically considered by scholars, critics and fans.30 The heroines of other vampire paranormal romances and urban fantasies also channel their efforts into beautifying and covering bodily parts that bear the marks of violation. In Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries , for example, uncomfortable clothing (e.g. long sleeves in the summer) or wounds in easily coverable places (a vampire bite in the groin rather than the neck) are presented as preferable to the truth about abuse coming into light. Consumed with shame and often blamed for their suffering, the female characters sometimes go as far as to refuse essential medical treatment for fear of exposure, conveying “the message … of a female victim’s disgrace and her responsibility to cover up male violence against her” (Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 195). Research on violence has elucidated the traumatic consequences of “the processes of silence” on women who have experienced abuse— including low self-esteem, self-blaming and feelings of disempowerment and shame (Zavella 2003, 247; quoted after Field 2010, 61). As Sorcha Gunne and Zoë Brigley Thompson contend, “[t]o be in a position to ‘tell the truth’ is to occupy a position of agency and subjectivity” (2010, 10). Thus, in House of Night, the central heroine and her girlfriends vehemently oppose the abused Becca’s attempt to sugarcoat Stark’s assault as “messing around” (Hunted 204). Zoey blatantly narrates the whole incident as an attempted rape and her friends Shaunee and Erin explicitly call Stark a rapist (Hunted 204, 241, 263), refusing to verbally trivialise his actions. Similarly, when in The Vampire Diaries Caroline hides the bite marks on her neck under a scarf, the audience is well aware that Damon magically prevents her from revealing them. Consequently, this act of concealment is narrated as further abuse rather than condoned or presented as a viable response. Caroline’s angry dismissal of Elena’s concerns and her attempts to convince her that everything is fine prove

30 See e.g. Ames (2010), Rana (2013), Kokkola (2011, 42), Ashcraft (2013, 166–167), Kendal and Kendal (2015, 29), Donnelly 2011, 190–191, and Pugh (2011, ch. 7).

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futile—Elena has seen her friend’s injuries and is determined to take action (“Family Ties” E1S04). For Rose Hathaway, the sight of bruises and wounds on her neck is the first step in her breaking out of the cycle of abuse. When her friend Adrian visits her in her prison through a magic-induced dream, the heroine is worried that he might have noticed her injuries and indignantly rejects his help. Yet the shock displayed on his face compels her to look at her relationship with Strigoi-Dimitri in a new light (BP 341–343). Her feeble attempts to convince herself (yet again) of Dimitri’s affections crumble under the sight of her mangled neck reflected in the mirror: “I tried to reassure myself over and over, but those bruises kept staring back at me” (BP 343). Once she has realised and acknowledged the occurrence of the abuse, Rose is ready to take action. Demonstrating the typical behaviour of an abusive intimate partner, Dimitri continues to try to isolate the girl and to make her believe that he is the only one to whom she can turn: “‘Even if you get out, where will you go?’ he called. ‘We’re in the middle of nowhere’” (BP 413). At this point, however, Rose refuses to be manipulated and chooses to escape to the city, where she seeks safety and help.

5.3 A Monster Abused Me: Narrating Rape and Rape-Revenge While both Rose and Becca display symptoms of physical and psychological distress when experiencing violence, neither of them appear to suffer any long-lasting consequences; nor do they feel the need to seek justice and/or pursue vengeance. In other storylines, however, abuse and rape are construed as life-altering experiences with dramatic repercussions. In this section, I analyse the stories of three raped heroines—Rosalie Hale of Twilight, Emily/Neferet of the House of Night novella “Neferet’s Curse” and Carly Sage of Bloodlines —interrogating their various responses to rape, and the messages they convey about the processes of healing, the restoration of justice and the morality of revenge. Both Emily and Rosalie are granted the voice to tell their own story, and Carly’s is recounted by her sister Sydney. In contrast, their abusers are denied narrative power and are incapable of muting the girls’ voices. As Robin E. Field observes, this technique privileges the survivor’s point of view and foregrounds her suffering, stripping the act of rape of any erotic connotations (2010, 56). This narrative strategy is particularly

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powerful in Emily’s story (“Neferet’s Curse”), which is chronicled by the heroine through the entries in her journal in nineteenth-century Chicago. Initially touched by the attentions of her newly widowed father Barrett Wheiler, adolescent Emily soon becomes frightened by his incomprehensible behaviour. His increasing possessiveness (“like a bloated old dog with a bone”; 71), offers of alcohol that she is not allowed to refuse, her growing isolation bordering on imprisonment, his bruising touch and him watching her in her sleep (46, 77–79) create a mounting sense of foreboding that forces her metamorphosis. From a quiet and compliant daughter, Emily develops into an agential young woman, determined to escape her father’s “unhealthy obsession” (80). Having secured a betrothal with a son of an influential family, the heroine finally feels safe from Barrett’s tyranny. However, she is punished for her independence when—in a monstrous attempt to reassert his masculine control—her father rapes her the night of her engagement. While the dramatic stories of Rosalie and Carly unfold outside of the central plot, Emily is offered a separate 149-page novella to recount the course of her violation at length and in detail. Close to the end of the story, the young heroine will be Marked as a vampire fledgling; it is, however, her human father that evokes the vampiric figure. Early in the novella, his predatory nature manifests through his feral consumption habits—his ravenous devouring of “bloody red meat”, gulping down excessive amounts of wine “as red and dark as the liquid that ran from his meat”, or spilling it over the table where it “ran like blood into the fine linen tablecloth” (8, 32, 88).31 The vampiric imagery of menace in the dark returns with the rapist’s shadow looming over Emily’s bed and then his merciless assault that involves biting and brutal penetration. While Gunne and Brigley Thompson invoke the feminist scholars’ concerns about the cultural representations of rape that serve to eroticise the violence, turning it into a voyeuristic spectacle (2010, 2–3; cf. Projansky 2001; Heller-Nicholas 2011), the incestuous rape scene in “Neferet’s Curse” is unambiguously depicted as monstrous, ensuring the readers’ emotional engagement in the act of Emily’s revenge. With his reeking, spitting body, “his great, sweating weight” crushing the heroine, 31 Furthermore, in a conversation with his adolescent daughter, Emily’s father expresses his taste for rare lamb meat. In Swedish, lammkött (lamb meat) is a derogatory slang term for young girls seen as sexual objects, one that continues to raise controversies and protests (see e.g. social campaign “Jag är inget Lammkött!”; Vingren 2012).

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his growls and his “great snorting breaths” when he falls asleep immediately after the deed—the rapist’s grotesque, nauseating figure evokes only horror and revulsion (131–132). Looking through the violated girl’s eyes, the reader is urged to empathise with her trauma and pain: “I’d thought I would die, bleeding and broken beneath him, and smothered by pain and loss and despair” (131). After the feral attack Emily’s body is covered with wounds and bruises. Significantly, the rapist leaves her face untouched—an act of self-control prerequisite to covering up the abuse (130). Emily, however, makes no attempt to conceal her violation or deny its occurrence, and actively seeks help. Screaming her throat raw during the rape, the heroine physically and symbolically loses her voice (131); yet she soon regains the power of speech as she entrusts her tragic story to both her journal and her vampire mentors. Brutalised in a gang rape initiated by her sadistic fiancé and left to die in the street, Emily’s fictional peer Rosalie of Twilight never explicitly speaks about rape, choosing not to reveal what occurred after her hat had been ripped from her hair (Eclipse 143). Emily, however, directly names the crime—an experience that she finds empowering: “‘My father has beaten and raped me.’ As I spoke the words, clearly and plainly, I felt the last of the sickness leave my body” (NC 134).32 Similarly, although at first adamant about keeping the rape secret from everyone but her sister Sydney, and too frightened to seek justice, with time Carly of Bloodlines speaks without hesitation and declares that she has been date-raped by Keith Darnell, a seemingly upstanding “golden boy” much loved by her father (BL loc. 5516). When her future vampire brother-in-law tentatively explains to their friend Marcus that Carly and Keith have had “a, uh, falling out”, Carly looks Marcus “squarely in the eye” and directly states what Keith has done to her (SS 195). As the perpetrator initially persuades Carly that she has “led him on”, and that her beauty and desirability “left him no choice” (BL loc. 5520), it takes years for the violated girl to overcome her fear and shame, and a paralysing sense of responsibility for the abuse suffered (see e.g. RC 121; SS 195). Young Emily, however, has no doubts whatsoever about where to place the guilt. Her father attempts to shift the blame upon 32 Before the rape, Emily tries to confide in her friend Camille; Camille, however, responds with shock and disbelief. Emily feels that her confession was “a dire mistake” (NC 38–40, 85) and changes her story from one of the threat of sexual abuse to her father’s aggressiveness and alcoholism.

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her, first claiming that she suffers from “women’s hysteria”, and then accusing her of provoking him and being a whore (NC 46, 78, 130– 131). Her fiancé, to whom she runs for safety and comfort, renounces her, with the clear implication that he cannot marry a violated—and thus disgraced—woman (134). Emily, however, denies both men the power to shame or blame her. She confronts—beyond doubt or hesitation—the myths of nothing happened 33 and she deserved it (“it was her own fault”), firmly placing the culpability not only on the perpetrator but also on the societal conventions that disempower young women: The horrible events that befell me … did not happen because of hysteria or paranoia. The horrible events that befell me happened because, as a young human girl, I had no control over my own life. Envious women condemned me. A weak man rejected me. A monster abused me. All because I lacked the power to affect my own fate. (NC 137; cf. 17)

This assertion is further reinforced by Emily’s vampire mentor Cordelia, who stresses that the heroine bears no responsibility for her father’s wrongdoings. When Emily indicates that people are still likely to blame the victim, Cordelia reassures her that the laws of the matriarchal vampire society will protect her from any further abuse (137). Even the vampires, however, admit that there is little they can do to bring a human rapist to justice, and Emily vows to exact revenge herself. In Watching Rape, Sarah Projansky identifies two distinct types of cinematic rape-revenge narratives, categorised by the character who exacts the vengeance. Projansky recognises films that valorise and legitimise violent masculinity through the figure of a male avenger as “relegating women to minor ‘props’ in the narrative”. Those which feature a female avengeress, however, are categorised as feminist narratives, foregrounding female agency and strength (2001, 60). In the gruesome stories of Emily, Rosalie and Carly, the trope of rape-revenge performed by the abused girl or, in the case of Carly, by another female avengeress, has a powerful presence. Turned into vampires the very night of the crime, Emily and Rosalie see vengeance as a way of restoring justice, overcoming their 33 This category, as theorised by Burt (1998, 131), is based on the assumption that the occurrence of a violent incident is either a lie or a figment of a woman’s imagination.

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trauma and finding closure on their human existence. Both girls carefully stage their acts of revenge, executing them mercilessly with the objects emblematic of their pain and betrayal. Rosalie murders her fiancé dressed in the bridal gown that she had hoped to wear at their wedding. As Sarah Heaton observes, as a vampire Rosalie “is able to take all the [disempowering] cultural significations of the wedding dress and invert them into a weapon” (2013, 87).34 Emily, in turn, strangles her father with her late mother’s string of pearls, which he has forced upon his daughter in a deranged endeavour to turn her into his “wife”. In a deliberate (if ultimately ill-fated) attempt to undo the story of her trauma, Emily restrings the necklace that her father ripped from her neck during the attack and places the pearls on a thin wire. Then she traces back the path of her flight, enters his bedroom and looms over his sleeping figure just as he did on the night of the assault. Relishing in her power over the violator, the girl utters the exact same words that he spoke to her prior to the rape— “Awake, are you? Good. You need to be. We have things to settle between us”—before she forces the string around his neck (NC 143–144). In Bloodlines, Carly does not actively seek revenge on Keith; neither does she intend, however, to grant him absolution. Confined and tortured by the secret society of the Alchemists, Keith is plagued with a sense of powerlessness and despair, and only then does he become capable of empathising with Carly’s suffering. He begs of her to report him, partly to atone for his crime, and partly because he regards human prison as a safe haven from the Alchemists. The girl, however, refuses to forgive the rapist or to play any part in his redemption, deliberately condemning him to “live in constant fear, just like I [Carly] used to” (SS 195). After the rape, she enrols in a college and engages in anti-rape activism. From a “sweet and gentle” girl (BL loc. 5523), the heroine turns into a fierce young woman whose “life’s purpose” is to protect others from the trauma of abuse and the post-rape self-doubt (SS 193–195). Among the analysed series, Carly’s is the sole non-violent and more structural response to rape, one that aims to empower rape survivors and render perpetrators powerless. In “Is Seeing Believing? Rapist Culture on the Screen”, Jane Caputi argues that such a response is “far more consonant with the goal of ending rape” than an individualistic resolution of violent rape-revenge, often presented as the only viable option: 34 For an insightful discussion of the connotations of wedding dresses and their subversive and conservative representations in Twilight, see Heaton (2013, 87–89).

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“Ending rape requires disbelief in the first tenet of the rapist faith— that violence is the answer to all questions, the solution to all problems” (2019, 219). However, while Carly does not pursue violent vengeance, her sister Sydney is determined to make Keith pay for Carly’s fear and pain. As the rapist “explained” his crime with his inability to resist Carly’s beauty—“Keith had kept telling her … that it was impossible for him to take his eyes off of her” (BL loc. 5520)—Sydney hires a vampire hitman, Abe Mazur, who has one of Keith’s eyes cut out in a staged Strigoi attack. Although Sydney defines her agreement with Abe as “my deal with the devil”, and her own revenge as “barbaric” (BL loc. 5525), she displays no signs of regret (see e.g. BL loc. 5649). Instead, she bitterly suggests that perhaps “[w]ith only one eye left … he wouldn’t find it so ‘impossible’ to keep it off uninterested young women in the future” (BL loc. 5528, 5529). Here, rape is narrated as inexpiable; as Sydney tells Keith remorselessly, “you will never suffer enough for it” (BL loc. 4498; cf. GL 7).35 Like Sydney, neither Emily nor Rosalie experience doubts or troubled conscience over their acts of retaliation. Their tormentors are narrated as monstrous, and the crimes committed against the heroines as deserving severe punishment. The otherwise compassionate and law-abiding moral authorities of their respective stories—Rosalie’s vampire sire Carlisle and the priestesses in Emily’s new vampire school—are willing to “look the other way” when the girls exact their vengeance (MS 82; NC 142–144).36 Their tacit (if reluctant and partly post-factum) consent strengthens the representations of rape as unforgivable and legitimises the heroines’ actions. The reading of rape-revenge as just is further reinforced by the response of Twilight fans, many of whom, as noted by Torkelson, applauded Rosalie’s retaliation (2011, 218–219). The rape-revenge provides Rosalie with closure and opens the path to healing. Ultimately, the heroine finds fulfilment in family life as a wife and 35 Sydney’s vampire boyfriend seconds that opinion emphasising that regardless of Keith’s remorse, Carly “would be well within her rights if she let him suffer for the rest of his life” (SS 223). 36 Emily’s vampire mentor Cordelia advises her to let go of her desire for vengeance.

However, upon Emily’s request, she provides—if reluctantly—the tools to remake her mother’s string of pearls into a strangling noose. Having explained the murder as selfdefence, Emily is transferred to a school in another city, and the local police are bribed into silence (NC 142, 144). In Midnight Sun, in turn, Carlisle calls Rosalie’s vengeance justice, validating her murder of the men who “had wronged you monstrously” (2008b, 82).

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an aunt. Emily’s story, however, unfolds in a different direction. While she propels a narrative of abuse that is a reversal of her own, she is incapable of undoing or counterbalancing her trauma. The young vampress sees Bart Wheiler’s death as the beginning of her new life and her liberation from patriarchal oppression—as he draws his last breath, she announces her new vampiric name Neferet in an act of symbolic rebirth.37 Neferet’s existence, however, is overshadowed by Emily’s trauma, and she continues to be haunted by her “broken girl” self throughout the whole series. A century after the rape, the powerful and revered priestess Neferet still shudders at the sight of male hands resembling those of her father’s and weeps tears of blood when she catches a glimpse of Emily’s reflection in an enchanted mirror (Hidden 69, 296). Young Emily’s promise to herself—“I will never allow anyone to gain control over me again. No matter the cost … No one will ever harm me without suffering equal or more in return” (NC 137)—pushes Neferet onto a path without return or redemption. She becomes a ruthless murderess and a chief villainess of the series, and as such—is eventually defeated and obliterated into a mysterious dark nothingness.

5.4 Black. Angry. Merciless: Girls’ Violence and (Self-)Defence In an afterword to “Neferet’s Curse”, P. C. Cast directly addresses her readers with a personal commentary on the novella’s content. The author identifies the eponymous heroine’s choice of lonely revenge as misguided and, eventually, disempowering, and emphasises the importance of seeking the help of “experienced professionals and trusted adults” (149). While Neferet’s rape-revenge ultimately serves as a cautionary tale and is far from celebratory, the theme of girls and women who decisively respond to violence recurs throughout House of Night. In Other World, as the new High Priestess of North America the leading heroine Zoey immediately relieves another priestess of her duties in order for her to handle tensions caused by a group of incels. Incels (involuntary celibates)— defined by Wanda Teays as “a fringe group of men who congregate online to vent frustration that women deny them sex” and who are associated

37 Emily associates the name Neferet with female power and freedom from patriarchal oppression (NC 118, 143).

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with acts of gendered violence (2019, 2)—are described as “hat[ing] all women, especially vamps because we’re matriarchal” (Found 703–706). Containing their harmful activities is narrated as equally important as participating in a world-saving mission and a necessary response to the structural problem related to violence against women. Already as a human, Zoey resolutely opposes a number of coercive acts; for instance, she effectively resists her step-father’s efforts to subdue and control her (see e.g. Marked 59), and does not step back from confronting abusive boys at school. When a fellow student tells her to “suck his cock”, the heroine slaps him hard across the face. While she acknowledges that crying, giggling or pouting would be regarded as “more feminine” reactions, she deliberately excludes them from her performance of girlhood, refusing to be victimised by a “turd boy”. She also emphasises the injustice of the punishment that she is forced to endure (detention), whereas her opponent’s offence remains unnoticed (Marked 124)—a situation that highlights both the widespread social acceptance for abuse against girls and the urgent need to resist it.38 In “Sleeping with a Vampire”, Łuksza points to the cultural persistence of the damsel-in-distress trope, deployed to propel the plot and enhance the charms of the rescuing hero (2015, 434–435). DuRocher further discusses the desire of the contemporary male vampire to defend and protect his human ladylove, reading it as the vampire’s participation in the “old-world” patriarchal version of masculinity (2016, 52–53). Invoking the examples of The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and Twilight, she points to the vampire’s mobilisation of “the historical notion of protective patriarchy” and to the escalating costs that the heroines are compelled to bear in exchange for the promise of safety (2016, 52–54).39 These scripts, Łuksza argues, are increasingly revised as more and more heroines in new vampire fiction rebel against the status of “the damsel” (2015, 435)—in Vampire Academy dhampir Rose nearly hits her friend Mason for calling her that. The central heroines of both Mead’s and the Casts’ series are neither physically disempowered nor in constant need of saving; they often engage in combat alongside their male partners and 38 This scene has been negatively evaluated by Hanser, who construes the heroine’s language as reiterating the misogynistic connotations of the term “bitch” (2018, 8), leaving other implications of the incident unexamined. 39 Cf. Crossen (2010, 120), Smith and Moruzi (2020), and Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2017).

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friends, and come to their rescue just as often as they are rescued by them. Rose is a trained warrioress, recognised as an equal by the most seasoned guardians despite her young age (see e.g. LS loc. 807); but even vampress Lissa, a gentle princess and healer, can throw a knockout punch when compelled by the circumstances—an act much admired by her belligerent friend (“That was poetry in motion, Liss”; BP 474). In turn, human Sydney becomes resolved to never feel helpless again after she has been assaulted in the street. Sydney detests the role of “a storybook damsel in distress” (GL 186), and begins to study both defensive and offensive magic. First and foremost, however, she joins a human selfdefence course, an experience which makes her feel empowered (see e.g. GL 217). Although she never reaches the combat competence of her dhampir friends, the heroine effectively puts to use the newly learnt selfdefence tactics on several occasions (see e.g. GL 385; IS 103). When in The Fiery Heart she finds herself surrounded by malicious vampires who intend to fang rape her, she follows an inner “strong voice” which tells her: “You are not vulnerable. You are not out of options ”, and attempts to run, scream and kick (285). In one of the last scenes in the Bloodlines series, Sydney and her dhampir friend Rose fight side by side to set free an abducted vampire princess, making “a striking combo, one dark and one golden, both utterly fearless … beautiful in their deadliness” (RC 317). Although fiercely protective of his girlfriend, the vampire Adrian trusts Sydney’s judgement and resourcefulness, and rarely attempts to prevent her from venturing on yet another dangerous mission. Whether she engages in high-risk espionage, infiltrates a fanatical vampire hunting organisation or fights evil witches, Adrian never questions her right to make independent choices. Instead, he believes that his girlfriend is “brave and clever and competent” (RC 266; cf. e.g. IS 235; SS 316), and fights at her side wherever he can, but never forces his “protection” upon her. In House of Night, male vampire warriors are honour-bound to safeguard priestesses and fledglings; and even the vampire goddess Nyx needs an immortal champion to shield her realm from darkness. Yet, when in Betrayed Zoey’s human love Heath is captured by bloodthirsty monsters, it is Zoey who comes to his rescue. The heroine both draws on and mocks the fairy-tale imagery of a hero on a white horse: as she is galloping through the harsh winter landscape to liberate Heath, she conjures a vision of “the cavalry or at the very least Storm from X-Men” (Chosen 169). Bleeding, helpless and in bondage, in this scene Heath truly is “the knight in distress” (see Łuksza 2015, 435); yet, in compliance with the

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warrior script, he still attempts to shield Zoey. The heroine, however, asks him only to “[j]ust stay behind” (Betrayed 280), and finds his protective instincts endearing—she grins and reassuringly pats his hands, gives him “a mental eye roll” and characterises “his heroics” as “cute and all” but likely to get him eaten (Hunted 119; Betrayed 280).40 Although occasionally Heath protests against their reversed roles (“Zo, I’m not a damn pussy!”; Tempted 2), he has full confidence in his girlfriend’s capacity to protect him to the point when he recklessly exposes himself to danger, counting on Zoey becoming “a superhero again if things got bad” (Hunted 132). The pages of the same series, however, are also host to stories of a less celebratory undertone, with girls’ responses to abuse narrated as controversial or wrong, particularly if involving violence. Twice throughout House of Night, Zoey is harassed in a park by two male strangers. On the first occasion, she is with Heath when the men approach—they call her a “bitch” and “a fucking bloodsucker”, and threaten to rape her while making her boyfriend watch (Chosen 196). The second time, Zoey is alone and the strangers attempt to scare her into giving them money. In both instances, the heroine’s reaction is that of a blazing fury. Thinking about their past and would-be victims and enraged with their suggestion that girls who want to avoid harassment should not be in parks alone (one that reflects a rape myth of she deserved it ), Zoey calls upon her magic, blasting her first attackers into a street and smashing the other ones unconscious against a rock (Chosen 166–198; Revealed 276–277). A comparable incident takes place in the first volume of Mead’s Vampire Academy, when a group of vampire boys, led by Wade Voda, bring a young female feeder to a party and publicly drink her blood. With a strongly established connection between vampiric feeding and sexual arousal, and the boys taking turns biting the nearly unconscious girl while passing sexually offensive remarks, the scene is strongly evocative of a gang party rape executed on a drugged victim. Among all the onlookers, Lissa is the only one to question the boys’ actions. Asked for help, Rose 40 In another scene in Hunted, Zoey effectively shields Heath with her own body against a monstrous Raven Mocker, nearly dying in the process. In turn, Heath’s attempt to protect his girlfriend results in him slipping and falling down (Hunted 112–113). Along with her human boyfriend, Zoey defends also the valiant warrior Darius, threatened by a bloodthirsty red fledgling. Weak from her wounds, she still warns the attacker that she is prepared to “zap the crap outta you with fire” and “burn your butt up” should he dare to hurt her friend (Hunted 181–182).

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attempts to shame Wade into stopping. When he drags the victim into his room instead, the heroine goes back to the party, “feeling a little bad about what happened” (208). Despite being a trained fighter against whom Wade would not stand a chance, she feels powerless in that situation (“it’s not like I can go chase him down or anything”; 208). Rose’s initial reluctance and indifferent remarks, paired with her former presentation of feeders as “junkies” and “humans from the fringes of society” (VA 43–44), eerily echo the cultural narratives that explain the occurrence of violence in terms of the victim’s “bad” character or inappropriate conduct (Burt 1998, 132–133; Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017, 187–188). Lissa, however, refuses to let the abuse continue; she goes after Wade and hypnotises him into demolishing his room with a baseball bat. Throughout the scene, the narrating Rose focuses on Lissa and her emotions. It is not for the victim that she fears, but for her vampire friend, whose “Black. Angry. Merciless” (209) feelings have made her a frightening stranger. Rose is also afraid for Wade and hopes that he will not be harmed. She cannot recognise her “sweet and steady Lissa” (209) in the cold, infuriated avengeress who impassively orders the vampire boy to turn the baseball bat on his own head. A similar reaction is displayed by Zoey’s boyfriend Heath in the scene in the park. The boy is more shaken by his girlfriend’s violent reaction than by the imminent threat posed by the aggressive strangers. Heath’s first response to Zoey’s outburst of anger is to recoil from her in fear, and to caution her against using her Goddess-given powers “in the wrong way”, regardless of the situation. “You shouldn’t be mean, Zo. No matter what”, he states (Chosen 198), framing her violent defence as an act of malice rather than a necessity. Similarly, in the second scene in the park, Zoey’s reaction to the threat of violence is narrated as unjustified and excessive. The emphasis is placed on the defencelessness of the two men, their inability to truly harm the powerful fledgling and their clear intention to retreat once they have discovered her true nature. The narrative further foregrounds Zoey’s uncontrollable rage and then her deep remorse, rather than the fact that the two men have been abusing girls (see e.g. Redeemed 64–65). In all three cases, the heroines are depicted as having exceeded the boundaries of necessary (self-)defence. Kristina Deffenbacher discusses the difficulties of accommodating the capacity for aggression into popular representations of femininity. Drawing on the work of Hilary Neroni (2012), she notes that popular culture tends to represent “a woman’s violence as a

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supplement, as something fundamentally not her” (2016, 35; italics original). As it soon transpires, neither Lissa nor Zoey are truly themselves in their vehement reactions, which have been triggered by the magical forces that impaired their judgement.41 To save Lissa from trouble, Rose takes the blame for destroying Wade’s room and is punished with suspension. As Zoey falsely believes that she has killed her attackers, she reports to the police and contemplates suicide. At the same time, the men do not seem to bear any further consequences for harassing girls in the park. Similarly, Wade walks away unpunished for abusing the human girl (VA 211). Neither the teachers nor the students question the presence of an underage feeder at a students’ party or the onlookers’ failure to alarm the authorities and help. Paradoxically, while both Zoey and Lissa are chastised for responding to the abuse with “excessive” force, female characters who do not defend themselves against violence are also criticised and attributed with negative characteristics (see e.g. Chosen 2008, 35, 37; VA 2007, 206–210). The House of Night heroines describe Becca as foolish, infantile, shallow and deserving contempt as soon as she presents her encounter with Stark as volitional. In their study of young women’s perception of consensual and non-consensual sex, Peterson and Muehlenhard observe that, paradoxically, in some cases, “rejecting the label rape might be a constructive and empowering choice” (2007, 84). They find that while for some rape survivors acknowledging the incident as rape may fulfil a therapeutic function, for others it can increase the trauma, alienation and the feeling of vulnerability (2007, 84).42 In House of Night, however, Becca is denied that choice. Although Zoey is aware that the young fledgling has been bewitched into defending her abuser, she still responds with contempt to Becca’s attempts to defend Stark: “But didn’t Darius and I recently save your butt from getting raped and bit by oooh! the hottest guy at the House of Night ? Then you were snotting and whimpering” (Hunted 263). The heroine and her friends dismiss Becca as an empty-headed “bimbo”, and compare her derisively to a terrier “panting” after an indifferent, violent man (Hunted 209, 241). This characterisation, as Hanser 41 A similar scene takes place in Shadow Kiss, when Lissa is tortured by another student, Jesse. She responds with a brutal mental attack only to be stopped by Rose who fears Lissa’s “black and slimy” magic (335–341). 42 As well as exert an often undesired pressure to undertake legal actions (Peterson and Muehlenhard 2007, 84).

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observes, “make[s] it more difficult for the reader to identify [Becca] as a victim” (2018, 12). The negative representation of women who do not confront their oppressors emerges also, albeit to a lesser degree, in the portrayal of the young feeder-victim in Vampire Academy. Throughout the disturbing scene, she remains anonymous and is simply referred to as the feeder/human girl (207). The only details revealed about her are her youth, prettiness, oblivious compliance, addiction to vampire feeding, and the “soft whimpering noises” that she emits (208–209). The narration is entirely focused on Rose, Lissa and their emotions, and at the end of the scene the reader finds the abused girl cowering in the corner— her marginalised tale granted no resolution. She is the victim here, and nothing else, a token woman presented one-dimensionally and reduced to little more than the background of her own story.43 This time, however, she serves to underscore not the strength of a hero, but the powers of a heroine.

5.5

Conclusion

Tales of violence and sexual abuse against girls and women often lie at the heart of vampire fiction. Typically populated with predatory supernatural heroes hungering for a human heroine, featuring non-consensual blood-drinking and vampiric mind control, and including the Gothic tropes of confinement and invasion, vampire stories overflow with female characters at risk of violence. Despite shedding their former skin of repulsive revenants, many vampire men remain abusive and ultimately monstrous patriarchs, hidden under the cloak of romantic heroes (see e.g. DuRocher 2016; McMillan 2009; Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017). Alarmingly, the violent acts they perform are frequently absolved, glamourised or masqueraded as all-consuming passion, and depicted as rightful punishment, lesser evil, mishap, beneficial or inconsequential incident, teenage foolery or love (Torkelson 2011; Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ 2017; Rana 2013). These narratives—implicitly or explicitly—often condone violence against women. Joanna Bourke argues that rape and sexual violence are not “an ahistorical phenomenon” arising from the biological makeup 43 Cf. the argument between Zoey and Stark, when the heroine forces him to acknowledge Becca’s name instead of calling her “that girl” (Hunted 230). Cf. also Stasiewicz-Bienkowska ´ (2017, 194).

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of men, but rather are “deeply rooted in specific political, economic and cultural environments” (2007, 7). Research has evidenced popular culture’s impact on the consumers’ perceptions of violence and acceptance of rape myths and abuse.44 Thus, the problematic nature of such narratives lies in their participation in the culture of female exploitation and gender inequality (see e.g. Ackley 1990, xi). In recent years, however, an increasing number of paranormal and vampire stories have come to represent a shift in the portrayal of gendered violence. There, abuse is often devoid of romanticised associations. The fairy tale of Beauty and the (vampiric) Beast is stripped of its glittery coating to reveal the exploitative realities hidden behind the scenes. Refusing to downplay abuse against women and unmasking its individual and social costs, these narratives offer resistance against the myths of nothing happened, she wanted it/liked it /deserved it and it was for her own good. Like in Blood Promise, intimate partner violence is depicted through the metaphors of the “golden cage”, drugs coursing through the heroine’s veins and an ominous labyrinth on her path of escape—the images of isolation, emotional addiction and the difficulties of leaving a toxic relationship. Violence, sexual or otherwise, is presented as a despicable crime that requires severe punishment or painful redemption. Violent men are narrated as “disgusting”, chauvinistic and “plain wrong” (Chosen 35, 168); as “[c]reatures of hell” (FH 285), misogynists and beasts who use coercion to articulate their power and punish female independence; and whose downfall is often brought about by the very women they harmed. Importantly, many stories challenge the notion of the rapist as an evil stranger or a corrupt Other, lurking in a dark alley, long embodied in the figure of the vampire. Men who rape are often known to their victims and represent diverse “species”—vampire, dhampir, human and immortal; and no women are truly exempt from the dangers of rape culture. In her study of rape-revenge films centred on male-on-female abuse, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas refers to the understandings of rape—or the threat thereof—as a transformative moment for the heroine. Referencing such scholars as Sarah Projansky, Rikke Schubart and Jacinda Read, Heller-Nicholas points to the recurrent script of the abused woman’s transition from being mellow and submissive into a powerful agent. In 44 See e.g. Hust et al. (2015), on the influence of exposure to the popular crime drama franchises on YA audience’s acceptance of rape myths and negotiation of sexual consent.

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vampire series, this change is sometimes marked not only through mental but also bodily transformation—typically from human to vampire. It is this very moment that signals the heroine’s emancipation from patriarchal restraints—one that allows her to (re-)assert control over her life and body, and enables her to perform violence in order to protect herself and her loved ones, or to exact revenge.45 Some of the abused characters are defined by their rage and pain— violated as human girls, they continue to suffer from severe psychological distress through the centuries of their vampiric womanhood. Others are capable of overcoming their trauma. In her analysis of the representations of rape in Elizabeth Ruth’s novels, Susan Billingham praises the author’s refusal to formulate the figure of the heroine exclusively through her victimhood, and “insist[ing] on life after trauma”. Such narratives, Billingham claims, foreground the heroines’ resilience and agency rather than the vulnerability of the victim (2010, 106–107). Within this context, it is important to bring to the fore the potency and strength of such heroines as Rose of Vampire Academy or Caroline of The Vampire Diaries, neither of whom succumb to their suffering, or doubt their will and ability to heal from the experience of abuse. First and foremost, however, it is the story of Carly of Bloodlines which offers both a hopeful and more realistic portrayal of violence against girls. The abused heroine suffers from guilt, fear and shame; an experience shared by many real-life survivors of rape. Yet she manages to recover from her trauma and strives for structural change through engaging in anti-rape activism. However, even within the texts that clearly intend to advocate the empowered and empowering idea of girlhood, the representations of gendered abuse are not unproblematic. The vampiric transformation of the human heroine that in some narratives marks her first step on the path to liberation can also lead her astray, re-positioning rape survivor as a madwoman, villainess or sexual predatoress. Sometimes, powerful female characters are narrated as unhinged and/or overtly violent in protecting themselves or others, their destructive supernatural talents triggered by uncontrollable emotional outbursts, conventionally associated with womanhood. Such representations problematise the boundaries of legitimate self-defence and introduce a troubling notion of “excessive” female power. Furthermore, many girls who effectively respond to 45 See Auerbach (1995, 140, 147–148) for vampirism as symbolic liberation from patriarchal oppression.

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abuse or manage to avenge themselves are supernatural beings—vampires or half-vampires. In her analysis of paranormal romance, Deffenbacher emphasises the significance of the presence of human characters capable of defending themselves, which prevents the narrative from placing “the capacity to fight and to survive beyond human women’s reach” (2016, 42). As Torkelson observes with regard to Twilight ’s Rosalie (2011, 218), in vampire fiction for young readership girls often demonstrate agency only after they have transformed into supernaturals, whereas as humans they are disempowered. The fact that becoming a vampire is seldom the heroines’ autonomous choice additionally complicates this message (see e.g. Deffenbacher 2014; Torkelson 2011). Within Mead’s series, however, this imagery of a helpless human girl is effectively imploded through the character of Sydney who first learns how to fight and defend herself without magic. The violent incidents are almost never reported.46 This tendency adheres to the conventions of the horror/Gothic genre that demands for the violence to be resolved by individuals rather than by the authorities (Schubart 2018, 137). In the texts addressed to young women, however, such resolutions may work to reinforce the stigma associated with rape and abuse (cf. Jowett 2010, 222), and to present seeking justice through legal means as futile, while simultaneously reflecting the real-life difficulties of obtaining a conviction in the case of rape. When in The Fiery Heart, a group of vampire men engage in “dabbling”, that is drugging non-feeder women in order to drink their blood, the vampire law fails to bring them to justice. Even when they are caught red-handed (and nearly red-fanged) attacking Sydney, they use their royal families’ wealth and connections to avoid the consequences, and are charged with “disorderly conduct” rather than rape attempt. Their only penalty is a night

46 In the televised version of The Vampire Diaries, Elena intends to alert the sheriff about Caroline’s abuse but is stopped by Stefan, who promises to “deal” with it. No one except for the characters involved in the incident will ever learn about the violation of the feeder girl, Becca or Stark’s other victims. Neither Neferet and her vampire mentor Cordelia, nor Rosalie and her sire Carlisle consider reporting the rapists. As Rana observes, in the literary Vampire Diaries Elena chooses not to press charges against Tyler as he has already been punished with suspension (2013, 232–233, 239–240). An exception can be found in Meyer’s Midnight Sun, an Internet-published Twilight draft-novel, which finds Bella’s near-rapists incapacitated and anonymously delivered to human authorities (2008b, 218). Midnight Sun was published as a book in 2020 by Little, Brown and Company.

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in jail, fines and later on—humiliation and social ostracism, when their crimes are brought to light at a party (FH 287; SS 88–92). Similarly, Dimitri’s punishment for abusing Rose is limited to a short time in a prison cell, and to feelings of grief and mortification once he is turned back into his dhampir self. His trauma appears to be more severe than that suffered by his violated girlfriend and he partly relies on her help to recover from it.47 Stark of House of Night, in turn, is given no time to show remorse at all; right after witnessing his attempted rape on Becca and delivering her to safety, Zoey comes back to talk to the rapist. Not only does she offer him consolation, but ends up kissing him and then allows him to share her bed as he volunteers to guard her in her sleep—an act of trust and forgiveness that is both undeserved and incomprehensible. This highly problematic resolution has been noted by Hanser, who criticises the heroine’s behaviour as trivialising and condoning abuse (2018, 11–12). In the cases of both Stark and Kalona, another supernatural serial rapist of House of Night, the stories are formulated around the abuser and his transformation, leaving the survivors of their crimes marginalised, nameless or even vilified. Moreover, extenuating circumstances exist, as many of the violent men are driven by either a broken heart or dark magic. Deffenbacher claims that the presence of magical force could be read as a positive shift from the traditional rape romances, as it deflects the responsibility for abusing the heroine from the hero onto the supernatural element (2014, 925). This could be illustrated through the stories of Stark and Dimitri, who would have never abused a woman had they not been bewitched by evil. Their kindness, integrity and—in the case of Dimitri—a haunting remorse, along with their involuntary subjection to dark enchantment, signal absolution from the committed violence. However, as Deffenbacher further observes, this re-positioning of blame from the hero onto external factors “at once reinforces and re-conceals fundamental rape myths”, in this case the one of he could not help it, and serves to sell masqueraded rape romance to the audience that would no longer accept it undisguised (2014, 925, cf. 926). Sometimes, the extreme violence committed against women becomes recategorised as promiscuity: Zoey interrupts her moment of passion with Stark as she recalls his “slut nature” and the fact that he has been 47 A similar principle underlies the narrative of Emily and Sam in Twilight; as Kendal and Kendal observe, it is Sam’s and not Emily’s trauma that we are expected to sympathise with (2015, 29).

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“with a crapload of the girls on campus” (Hunted 273, 274); Aphrodite points to Kalona being “a man ho” as disqualifying him as a romantic partner (Untamed 215); and Adrian calls one of the “dabblers”, Wesley, “a womanizer” instead of a rapist (SS 92). Eventually, many of the abusive (anti-)heroes become rehabilitated and assume the position of the ultimate male romantic figure of their respective stories: Damon achieves his happy-ever-after with Elena (the series’ leading heroine and Caroline’s best friend), Dimitri ends up engaged to Rose, and both Stark and Kalona become revealed as the respective soul mates of two most powerful female characters in the series—the leading heroine Zoey and the vampire goddess Nyx (cf. Hanser 2018, 11–12). These plot developments further exonerate their transgressions, and while they are far from romanticising or condoning coercion, they do present it as forgivable, serving to erase from our memory the acts of extreme abuse committed by the heroes. In all the analysed series, the fear, threat or experience of violence— particularly sexual abuse—are narrated as inseparable from growing up a girl in the contemporary society. The representations of the violent acts, and the responses they evoke both from the characters and the communities to which they belong, are diverse and brimming with unresolved ambiguities—not only within the genre but often on the pages of the very same book. The girl heroine of YA vampire fiction balances on a fine line between empowerment and subjugation, agency and constraint. She is ever-shifting between being a strong and conscious woman, capable of recognising and fighting rape culture and post-rape trauma, and a vulnerable victim who relies on harmful, yet well-established myths about violence and rape.

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journalists/sukhdev-sandhu/3850588/Twilight-review-first-love-and-freshblood.html. Scardoni, Bianca. 2015. Inception. The Marked book one. Kindle edition. ———. 2017. Iniquitous. The Marked book three. Kindle edition. ———. 2018. Infernal. The Marked book fourth. Kindle edition. Schubart, Rikke. 2012. Why Bad Is Better Than Good: The Adaptive Value of the Good-Bad Vampire in The Vampire Diaries. Symposium on the Moral Psychology of Fiction, September 20. Trondheim. Courtesy of the Author. Schubart, Rikke. 2018. Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions and Contemporary Horror. New York, London, Oxford, New Delhi, and Sydney: Bloomsbury. Shepherd, Laura J. 2013. Gender, Violence and Popular Culture: Telling Stories. London and New York: Routledge. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2020. Gender and Sexuality in Young Adult Fiction. In The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic, ed. Clive Bloom, 609–622. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Spencer, Ashley. 2020. How ‘365 Days’ Became One of Netflix’s WorstReviewed Big Hits. New York Times, July 2. Accessed September 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/movies/365-days-netflix.html. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. 2017. The Lower Dog in the Room. Patriarchal Terrorism and the Question of Consent in Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries. In Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture: Letting the Wrong One In, ed. David Baker, Stephanie Green, and Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ 183–200. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Agnieszka. 2019. Lustful Ladies, She-demons and Good Little Girls: Female Agency and Desire in the Universes of Sookie Stackhouse. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 33 (2): 230–241. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2019.1569393. Teays, Wanda. 2019. Introduction. In Analyzing Violence Against Women, ed. Wanda Teays, 1–7. Cham: Springer. Torkelson, Anne. 2011. Violence, Agency, and the Women of Twilight. In Theorizing Twilight: Essays on What’s at Stake in a Post-Vampire World, ed. Maggie Parke and Natalie Wilson, 209–223. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Tyree, J.M. 2009. Warm Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In. Film Quarterly 63 (2): 31–37. Vingren, My. 2012. Inga tjejer är ett stycke kött. Dagensarena, July 1. Accessed July 28, 2020. https://www.dagensarena.se/opinion/my-vingrenstockholms-tjejjour-inga-tjejer-ar-ett-stycke-kott/. Violence Against Women. 2017. World Health Organization, November 29. Accessed September 1, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/ detail/violence-against-women.

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Waters, Melanie. 2012. Fangbanging: Sexing the Vampire in Alan Ball’s True Blood. In Television, Sex and Society: Analyzing Contemporary Representations, ed. Basil Glynn, James Aston, and Beth Johnson, 33–45. New York: A&C Black. Wilson Overstreet, Deborah. 2006. Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction. Lanham, MD, Toronto, and Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Kindle edition.

CHAPTER 6

Biting into Books: Supernatural Schoolgirls and Academic Performance

“A society in miniature”, school constitutes a powerful context in which young people mature, prepare for their futures, negotiate their relations with peers and figures of authority, rebel against and are socialised into culturally approved roles and behaviours (Franck 2013, 209; Shary 2014, 29–30).1 With its educational policies, teaching cultures, various curricula and vibrant social life, school is not merely a physical site but operates as a symbolic terrain of constructing teenage identities and various discourses on adolescence (Harris 2004, 95, 98–99). As Nancy W. Brickhouse points out, “learning is not merely a matter of acquiring knowledge, it is a matter of deciding what kind of person you are and want to be and engaging in those activities that make one a part of the relevant communities” (2001, 286). A pivotal space in teenagers’ lives, school has long been a common setting for adolescent fiction. Many a story begins with a young character anxiously pushing open the creaking door of the new school—a literal and metaphorical threshold that marks the onset of their adventures. Historically a realist genre, as Smith and Moruzi remind us, school stories 1 An early version of this chapter was initially presented as a keynote speech at the conference “Vampiric Transformations”, held at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, in November 2018. I am deeply grateful to the organisers for their generous invitation and to the participants and members of the audience for their astute comments and inspiring questions which helped me develop this chapter.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5_6

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have gained new popularity among adolescent readers through inviting supernatural elements and creatures into their classrooms (2018, 6–7). In YA Gothic and vampire tales, dilapidating castles, isolated mansions and mysterious moors are often supplanted by vampiric educational institutions, whose iron gates, labyrinthine corridors, desolate school grounds and shadowy rooms produce a delusive sense of safety intertwined with a sense of foreboding. “Seductively ancient, enchanting, and unreal, yet prison-like, isolated, and claustrophobic” (Truffin 2014, 165), school provides a dramatic setting for the magical, the fearsome and the uncanny. As Sherry Truffin asserts, “[t]he pervasiveness of the Schoolhouse Gothic suggests, at the very least, that our educational institutions are sites of significant psychological, cultural, and political anxiety” (2014, 165). A large number of contemporary vampire stories for young readers unfold within the walls of a high school or college—with a vampire enrolling in a human institution (e.g. Twilight, Vampire Diaries , Bloodlines ), a human enrolling in a vampire one (e.g. Vampire High, Ethics of the Undead), warrior students pursuing bloodsucking monsters (e.g. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, A Shade of Vampire) or vamp teens attending a supernatural academy (e.g. House of Night, Vampire Academy, Evernight ). Education, both as formal schooling and independent quests for knowledge, constitutes a common trope within the genre. Already in 1989, Brian J. Frost observed that vampires had largely discarded their unambiguously evil selves to assume a persona of “highly intellectual beings … with the pursuance of knowledge (rather than nubile maidens) as their main recreation” (1989, 24; cf. Crossen 2015). With protagonists eager to spend eternity at school and devote their sleepless nights to studying, the genre abounds in erudite bloodsuckers whose academic expertise is unrivalled among their contemporaries.2 Despite the proliferation of the figure of the learned vampire, little research exists thus far on the representations of education in vampire

2 One of the most prominent examples of this trend can be found in Only Lovers Left

Alive (Jim Jarmush 2013). As Sorcha Ní Fhlainn notes, the vampire protagonists of this movie passionately seek knowledge and artistic creativity—“which feels like an entirely logical and deeply romantic manner to while away eternity”—and remain uninterested in “typical” vampire activities such as preying on unsuspecting victims or engaging in taboo-breaking sex (2019, 236).

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fiction.3 This mirrors wider trends in the studies of popular youth culture where the trope of young people’s experience with school-structured learning is often overlooked by scholars.4 Academic works across the disciplines have investigated cultural portrayals of school in terms of race, gender, class, ethnicity and imaginings of the nation (May 2013; Clark 2015; Alley-Young 2008; Fisher et al. 2008), and explored the ways these representations interplay with political discourses on schooling (Witte and Goodson 2010; Dahlgren 2017). Researchers have interrogated cultural imageries of a specific subject (Dahlgren 2015; Sklar and Sklar 2012), educational level (Reynolds 2014; Edgerton et al. 2005) or special school event (Best 2000; Anderson 2012), and looked into the portrayals of school romance, violence and bullying (Fisher et al. 2008). An extensive body of literature has been produced on the representations of teachers (see e.g. Dahlgren 2015, 2017; Joseph and Burnaford 2001; Dalton 2010; Weber and Mitchell 1995; Newman 2001; Shoffner 2016; Young 2005), while fewer works consider the portrayals of students (see e.g. Shary 2014, ch. 2; Sacks and McCloskey 1994; Perlstein and Faw 2015). Only a limited number of studies, however, focus on narratives of academic achievement and classroom-centred learning. Admittedly, these tropes are rarely located at the heart of young adult fiction, and typically emerge at the peripheries of the plot. The classroom setting serves primarily to accentuate social relations, romance, power plays and character transformations rather than the curricula and academic performance (Fisher et al. 2008, 172–173; Franck 2013; Daspit 2003, 128). However, as researchers increasingly acknowledge the impact of popular culture on adolescents’ perception of school-structured learning (see e.g. Reynolds 2014; Fisher et al. 2008; Archer et al. 2012, 2013; Driscoll 2002, 150), a critical look at the cultural portrayals of academic performance becomes crucial for a more comprehensive understanding of young people’s educational experience.

3 Even texts which position the institution of school in the centre of their analysis often ignore the question of curriculum and classroom learning (see e.g. Smith and Moruzi 2018). 4 An interesting exception is Megan Birch’s (2009) critique of the representation of education in the Harry Potter series, including the analysis of Hogwarts’ curriculum and the protagonists’ attitudes towards book learning. Another example is the work of Gordon Alley-Young (2008), which touches upon racialised curricula in popular school movies.

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This chapter explores the representations of academic life and formal schooling in YA vampire fiction, with a primary focus on four best-selling literary series marketed to adolescent girls—House of Night (2007–2014) and its spin-off House of Night: Other World (2017–2020) by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast, and Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and its sequel Bloodlines (2011–2015) by Richelle Mead. In the supernatural universes of these series, school-structured education literally becomes a matter of life and death. Young vampire heroines and heroes face dramatic choices between enrolling in their boarding school or a gruesome demise brought on by a paranormal sickness (House of Night ), the threat of monster–vampires (Vampire Academy) or political assassins (Bloodlines ). In adherence to the familiar formula of Schoolhouse Gothic, the series open with the protagonists arriving at the gates of their new schools “‘cursed’ by nature and nurture” (Truffin 2014, 165)—alienated from their families and marked with extraordinary powers that differentiate them from other students. Their educational institutions are narrated as a terrain of battles against evil, a scene of courtship and establishing friendships and a space for constructing adolescent identities and bodies, reflecting the general tendency of youth narratives to consign academic life to the background. Still, both the Casts’ and the Mead’s series succeed in raising a number of compelling questions about girlhood and education. Through situating the figure of the supernatural schoolgirl in the unconventional educational systems of the matriarchal vampire society, uncanny vampire academies or human high schools attended by vampires and witches, they offer captivating, ambivalent and at times disturbing visions of the classroom as a symbolic terrain of shaping girl identities and discourses on girlhood. Looking critically at the portrayals of school-structured learning, students’ academic performance and the gendered expectations of high school peer culture, this chapter examines the ways in which vampire fiction for adolescent women reflects, negotiates or resists cultural notions surrounding the intertwining categories of girlhood, “smartness” and formal education. The first part of the chapter focuses on the curriculum of the House of Night and the ways it addresses feminist concerns about the design of contemporary classroom practices and programmes. Exploring the intersections between gendered and academic identities, the following parts examine the depictions of female students’ intellectual skills, ambitions and attitudes towards schoolwork, with a particular emphasis on their relations with STEM (science, technology, engineering,

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mathematics) subjects. Placing these findings within the context of current Western discourses on gender and education, and juxtaposing them with young masculine academic identities, this chapter aims to shed light on the role of academic investment in popular concepts of successful girlhood, as well as to discuss how the vampire series respond to social anxieties about young femininity and schooling.

6.1 Heaps of Awesome Classes: The Unique Education of the House of Night When in the opening volume of the House of Night series sixteen-yearold human Zoey Redbird becomes Marked as a vampire fledgling, she has no other choice but to transfer from an ordinary public high school to a private boarding school for future vampires. Destined to transmute and become a species of which she is ignorant and fearful (Marked 6, 32), the heroine reluctantly enrols in the nearest House of Night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving behind her human school life and embarking on a journey of unexpected social and academic challenges. Zoey’s response to this transition is, understandably, that of anxiety and confusion; yet she quickly recovers from the initial shock and rapidly adjusts to her new environment. The heroine takes in her stride the reversed day and night routines, the school’s unfamiliar etiquette and the rituals worshipping Night Goddess Nyx, a vampire divinity whom she swiftly comes to recognise as her own. Zoey appreciates the absence of “weird ineffective [human] high school punishment systems” (Destined 229), and the House of Night’s policy of granting students much autonomy, favourably comparing it to her previous educational experience.5 Most importantly, she takes an immediate liking to her new curriculum and classes. In her study on popular culture and higher education, Pauline J. Reynolds (2014) observes that cultural portrayals of students in the classroom tend to revolve around boredom, passivity and rebellion. Within the vampire genre, the themes of schooling and formal class instruction have been analysed primarily in relation to Joss Whedon’s celebrated

5 For instance, the Media Center is left open round the clock and—in contrast to Zoey’s former human school—there are no passwords or Internet filtering programmes. As the heroine explains, in the House of Night “students were expected to show some sense and act right” without being supervised or restricted by the school authorities (Betrayed 29).

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TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB/UPN 1997–2003). Scholarship on Buffy has recognised the series as an astute commentary on the adolescent experience of school as a hellish terrain of anxiety, exclusion and fight for survival, where institutional learning is depicted as oppressively hierarchical, restrictive, depersonalised, pointless and “vampiric”, and where truly valuable knowledge needs to be acquired outside of classroom (Daspit 2003, 127–128; Fisher et al. 2008, 168; Jarvis 2001, 2005; Fudge 2009, 207–209; Little 2003). Authored by former high school teacher P. C. Cast and her young adult daughter Kristin, the House of Night and the Other World series offer similar criticism of the “human” system of education. In Forgotten, vampire fledgling Kacie describes American high school as “usually not much more than the institutionalization of a mind-numbing, racist, misogynistic shitshow”; and none of the present vampire protagonists contradict her opinion (142). Instead, they proceed to compare their own human high school experience with that of a House of Night, to the definite advantage of the supernatural educational system (see e.g. Forgotten 142). The vampire schooling, as emphasised in The Fledgling Handbook (a companion volume to the series), promises young fledglings “education that is thorough, dynamic and challenging”. Said to be rooted in the European Renaissance movement, this system aims to ensure the harmonious development of students’ bodies, spirits and minds (2010, 16). As noticed by the narrating Zoey in the very first volume, most fledglings in the Tulsa House of Night appear to be interested in their classes; the only disengaged student is portrayed in highly negative terms and earns disapproval from both his teachers and classmates (Marked 137–139). As for herself, the young heroine finds her vampire courses intriguing and illuminating, “the first sixty seconds of the first day” sufficient to captivate her attention (Hunted 246). Displaying extensive knowledge and remarkable didactic skills, the centuries-old teachers deliver fascinating lectures, offer personal accounts of historical events, inspire interesting debates and encourage hands-on experience.6

6 For instance, Professor Penthasilea remembers “tons of amazing details” about life in the early 1900s (Hunted 246). Also, rather than only reading about bloodlust, fledglings are allowed to experiment with blood-drinking from one another (Marked 130, 217, 240).

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While independent, self-directed research often proves crucial to the protagonists’ survival, the school-structured courses are neither pointless nor unrelatable, but hold a significant practical value. Students are encouraged to discuss the topics relevant to their everyday lives—love, loss, identity transformations or unfamiliar cravings that are awakened throughout the process of vampire maturation (see e.g. Destined 155). The teachers firmly enforce the rule of mutual respect during discussions, grant everyone an equal voice and immediately correct offensive behaviour (see e.g. Destined 26). The school responds flexibly to the fledglings’ needs, arranging individual tutorials and tailor-made courses for those with special requirements and extraordinary powers (Fledgling Handbook 17; Marked 241). As one of the teachers declares, “I’m here to hone and guide you on a journey that is as rare and unique as are each of you” (Destined 201). When in the fifth volume, Hunted, the classes turn dreary all of a sudden and students are required to perform tasks characteristic of the human rather than the vampire system of education (such as filling in “totally boring” grammar worksheets), the change is swiftly explained by an evil enchantment that is soon to be broken (Hunted 245). It is hardly unanticipated, then, that the narrating heroine enjoys her new academic life at the House of Night and favours it over the tedious and tiresome schoolwork she had to endure as a human: “Was it possible that this vamp school would actually be more than a boring place I went to every day because I had to…?” (Marked 137).7 This sentiment is apparently shared by other vampire students, as The Fledgling Handbook informs us; for instance, while all fledglings have unrestricted access to movies and video-games in their dorms, they are said to have little 7 The House of Night curriculum and learning culture have been noticed and appreciated by the series’ fans, who have favourably compared Zoey’s vampire school to their own experiences with school-structured learning. The readers’ approval could be exemplified through the posts on both English- and Polish-language House of Night-related fora. For instance, Ravenna in lubimyczyta´c.pl emphasises that “[t]he fledglings have heaps of awesome classes at school, much better than ours” (2011, March 27. Accessed April 22, 2020. http://lubimyczytac.pl/ksiazka/10572/naznaczona/opinia/1680269# opinia1680269). kayrose (sic) further expresses a wish to attend the courses at the House of Night, as “they sound way more interesting than my current school requirements” (2009, October 23. Accessed April 23, 2018. http://houseofnight.niceboard.org/t1607if-you-could-go-to-the-hon-what-teacher-would-you-want); a desire shared by Go´sc´ , who declares: “I wish I could have the same classes as Zoey” (2009. “Naznaczona: Pierwsze Wrazenia”, ˙ December 31. Accessed April 22, 2020. http://www.domnocy.fora.pl/naznac zona,8/pierwsze-wrazenia,4-15.html).

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interest in such entertainment, enthusiastically engaging instead in the school’s curricular and extra-curricular activities (17). The House of Night programme is primarily formulated around the humanities and artistic fields: languages, history, literature, theatre, music and art, along with vampire sociology and various sports (Marked 71, 116). As emphasised by Roy Fisher, Ann Harris and Christine Jarvis, popular culture frequently constructs “the creative and imaginative” classes as able to inspire and change the lives of even the most disengaged students. Such constructions can be read as an expression of social anxieties about “the failure of the technical-rational curriculum to engage our hearts and souls and develop fully rounded human beings” (2008, 175– 176). In the third volume of the Other World series, Forgotten, schoolstructured learning, and creative subjects in particular, are discussed as holding a therapeutic value. The red vampires and fledglings—a special “race” of supernaturals newly turned from flesh-eating zombies into a “regular” (and thus, humanised) vampire species—are ordered to return to school, where no less than five classes are being tailored to their special needs. Having regained their conscience, the new vampires despair over the evil deeds which they committed in the past; classes in art, writing and vampire rituals are to help them exorcise their sense of guilt and heal depression and suicidal tendencies (118–119). Remarkably, the programme of the House of Night offers a distinctly feminist perspective. Set in a vampire world that is narrated as strongly matriarchal, vampire schools clearly aim to reappropriate and subvert historical and mythological narratives which denigrate or monstrosise women. The very first lesson that Zoey attends begins with a debate on the society of female “ancient vampyre warriors” Amazons. The emphasis of the lecture is placed on the Amazons’ matriarchal constitution and undeserved “mythical image” as being hostile to men (Marked 123– 125). In the following volume, Betrayed, Zoey relates an essay assignment on the figure of Gorgon. As the heroine learns in class, Gorgon was a powerful vampire High Priestess, recast as a man-hurting monster in a human-produced myth. The students’ homework is to discover the reasons behind Gorgon’s “fictionalization” (25–26)—a task clearly designed to reveal the misogynist undertones of popular narratives that vilify powerful female figures. Similarly, when Zoey’s friend Damien compares a mean girl to a viper, he is reminded that they have learnt in class that snakes were traditionally considered a symbol of female power. As such, they have been monstrosised by “men [who] wanted to take

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that power away … and make it something disgusting and scary instead” (Betrayed 38). In the House of Night, even sports classes can serve as a space of education in feminism and gender equality; for instance, Zoey’s first fencing training begins with the instructor describing it as a discipline in which “women and men can compete on entirely equal terms” (Marked 143). Furthermore, as an institution established within the frames of a culture that prides itself on its equality-based approach towards sexuality, the programme of the House of Night includes thorough sex education. Although unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases are ruled out by vampiric biological constitution, young fledglings are instructed on other aspects of sex, like the value of consent or the risks and pleasures of drinking another person’s blood. The feminist-oriented curriculum and matriarchal structure of the school are reflected also in the decoration of school buildings, with the walls of the female dorms adorned with portraits of “ancient women … exotic and powerful” (Marked 74). Above all, however, these are both illustrated and reinforced by the vampiric cult of a female divinity, the Goddess of Night Nyx, that unites students and teachers in worship rituals8 —the whole school milieu designed to project a seemingly unambiguous message of women’s power. There is, however, a rather conspicuous deficiency in the House of Night’s otherwise carefully composed curriculum; those interested in mathematics, science or technology have little to do at the school. While various introductory and advanced STEM courses are listed in The Fledgling Handbook, including Anatomy, Quantum Physics, Computer Sciences or Botany (16), STEM-related classes are noticeably absent from the fledglings’ schedules, unavailable even as electives (see e.g. Marked 116) and hardly ever surfacing in the storyline.9 The education system of

8 The cult of the Goddess and obligatory participation in her worship are certainly a topic ripe for future research. While the series recurrently criticises fundamental Christian movements as oppressive and discriminative against women, little explanation is offered regarding the experiences of previously religious students who, upon entering the House of Night, choose or are forced to abandon their former faith. 9 Two exceptions include brief references to economics (Marked 117) and to a business class in the schedule of one of the protagonists (Destined 236). However, while other classes are often described in detail, these two are mentioned in passing and never come up again.

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the matriarchal vampiric society clearly celebrates the subjects traditionally aligned with femininity (see e.g. Archer et al. 2012, 976; 2013, 182), placing little value on the fields socially coded as male.

6.2 Slamming the Math Book Shut: Supernatural Girls and STEM Education In “Programs for Undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering”, Mary Frank Fox, Gerhard Sonnert and Irina Nikiforova identify science as “a revealing case for the study of gender in society” (2011, 591). As scientific fields tend to be associated with authority, prestige and the power to define the future directions of social development, the gendering of scientific careers and skills operates to reinforce hierarchical structures in the society (Fox et al. 2011, 591). Despite the rising numbers of women pursuing jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the identification of STEM as a masculine territory remains strong, and women continue to be underrepresented in STEM career programmes (Francis 2000a; Archer et al. 2012; Jowett 2007; Boaler and Sengupta-Irving 2006). The highly controversial—and indeed, obsolete—notion of inherent differences between men and women which are to result in men’s “natural” superiority at scientific subjects persistently reappears in public discourses, as exemplified by the infamous speech delivered by the president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers.10 Despite the growing trend towards encouraging girls to enter STEM fields, these ideas often become internalised in early adolescence, resulting in diminished confidence among female students and the steering of girls away from investing in science education (Kuriloff et al. 2017, 140; Harris 2004, 99). As Louise Archer et al. (2012, 2013) observe, girls are typically less expected than boys to demonstrate intellectual ability and interest in science by both peers and significant adults. Science-aspirant identity is largely perceived as “unfeminine”, and consequently likely to present social risks for female students (Archer and DeWitt 2016, ch. 6; Steinke et al. 2007, 37; Archer et al. 2012, 978). These factors engender and 10 In 2005, at the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce, Lawrence Summers publicly suggested that “innate differences” rather than structural discrimination may be responsible for fewer women than men being in STEMrelated careers (Bombardieri 2005; Inness 2007, 3).

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reinforce the discrepancies between boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards science, producing gender inequalities and feeding into one of the key impediments to women’s success in STEM—differences in exposure to stimulating activities and training (Archer et al. 2012; Archer and DeWitt 2016, ch. 6; Jowett 2007, 33; Boaler and Sengupta-Irving 2006). As one of the major factors that impact young people’s perceptions of science and academics (Steinke et al. 2007), popular culture often participates in creating structural limitations for girls to excel in fields socially delineated as masculine.11 As Rachel Dean-Ruzicka asserts in her study on girl geniuses in young adult dystopian fiction, encouraging role models— sought both in life and symbolic spaces—are essential for young women’s successful participation in STEM-related fields (2016 [2014], 51). In this context, the persistent scarcity of positive, multidimensional female scientist characters in popular culture, and in particular in texts marketed to young consumers, limits the exposure of adolescent girls to symbolic STEM professional role models. This may, in turn, exert an adverse effect on their perceptions of their future career opportunities (Steinke et al. 2012; Long et al. 2010; Haynes 2017; Dean-Ruzicka 2016 [2014], 51). In recent years, a discernible shift has occurred in the cultural portrayals of women scientists who increasingly refuse to accept stereotypical gender scripts. Popular culture, however, still abounds in representations that are likely to discourage girls’ interest in STEM, including the depictions of female scientists as lacking social skills and unable to form successful relationships and families (Long et al. 2010; Steinke et al. 2012; Steinke 2005; Flicker 2003; Jowett 2007; Haynes 2017, ch. 17). The imagery of STEM as an “unfeminine” territory has a strong presence in the House of Night and House of Night: Other World novels, with many girl characters demonstrating limited interest and competence in STEM-related areas. Indeed, one of the first things that readers discover about the central heroine Zoey Redbird is that she is “crappy at math” (Marked 2). In the opening pages of the first volume, Zoey expresses anxiety about the impending “geometry test from hell” and with a grim sense of humour hopes to die before having to take it (Marked 2, 5). Marked as a vampire fledgling, the heroine considers escaping the dreaded 11 The 1992 Teen Talk Barbie, programmed to say “Math class is tough”, is often cited as a blatant example. The heated debate that followed forced Mattel to remove the disputed phrase from the doll’s repertoire and strive to reduce the harmful stereotyping in subsequent Barbie models (Company News 1992; Hill 2013).

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exam as an unexpected benefit of the otherwise traumatic transition into the vampire world (Marked 7; cf. Tempted 296). Zoey’s difficulties with scientific subjects are further revealed when she struggles to recollect several basic facts about adolescent development discussed in her biology class, and is excessively pleased with herself for half-succeeding in this endeavour (Marked 26–27). Although at the beginning of the story Zoey aspires to become a veterinarian (Marked 8, 118; Betrayed, 116–117), she is clearly relieved that her new supernatural school does not require credits in science (Marked 116–117). Other girl characters in the series are similarly presented as “math-impaired” and incompetent at technology (Marked 2; cf. Untamed 238). Neither Zoey nor her best friend Stevie Rae are aware of the existence of disposable cell phones and do not understand that regular phone calls can be tracked. Zoey herself readily admits that she knows “nothing about electronics” (Untamed 238), and finds it easier to cast an enchanted circle than to synchronise her iPhone with a new computer (Destined 29). As a result, girls are often led through the arcana of technology by their male friends and partners, who in contrast are blessed with nearly magical technological expertise (see e.g. Betrayed 93; Tempted 246; Burned 212).12 Reinforcing the imagery of STEM-related fields as uninteresting for women, none of the adult vampresses in the series hold a position connected to science. STEM teachers never appear in the books and even those who work in infirmaries are healers with Goddess-sent powers rather than medically trained professionals, leaving girls with no female role models engaged in scientific careers. Unlike the students of the House of Night, the vampires and dhampirs of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy are required to enrol in a number of STEM courses, including biology, calculus and “Animal Behavior and Physiology” (VA 26, 46, 99). The latter is, in fact, the favourite subject of the leading dhampir heroine Rose Hathaway—one that inspires her to carry out independent studies and additional reading (VA 166; FB 59, 120). Nevertheless, in the cinematic version of the story, Rose assigns

12 Similar gendered representations of attitudes towards technology have been noticed

by Dean-Ruzicka in her analysis of Hunger Games, a YA dystopian literary series authored by Suzanne Collins. Dean-Ruzicka observes that the central heroine Katniss avoids technological solutions, relying on her feelings and instincts (typically coded as feminine traits), while her friend Gale demonstrates a “natural” penchant for technology (2016 [2014], 55).

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science and math to the category of “boring stuff” (Waters 2014). In her literary persona, she is enrolled into Precalculus, which she defines as “Stupid Math”, referring to its participants’ low level of competence (VA 26, 46). She also spends her math study time psychically spying on her vampire best friend, princess Lissa Dragomir, only to use the math textbook as an outlet for her frustration over Lissa’s secrets: “I sat on the floor staring at my math book. Then … I slammed it shut and threw it against the wall” (VA 108–114). Rose is not the only girl in Mead’s fictional universe who appears disinterested in mathematics; however, a number of other young female characters of various backgrounds and species are narrated as invested in STEM. The adolescent vampress Lissa attends Advanced Calculus (VA 46); a human student, Kristin, is sufficiently competent to serve as a math tutor (IS 128); Wendy Stone, a marginal human character, studies engineering (IS 147); and vampire Sonya Karp has an education in biology (SS 128). The narrative of girls’ STEM skills and aspirations becomes most engaging—and fascinatingly ambiguous—in the story of Sydney Sage in Mead’s Bloodlines . Designated from an early age to join the ranks of the Alchemists, a clandestine society devoted to concealing vampires’ existence from humans, Sydney has received a superb education in all subjects required to perform this work, particularly chemistry (see e.g. BL loc. 1251). When in the course of a secret mission, the previously home-schooled eighteen-year-old heroine enrols in an elite boarding high school under the guise of a student, her knowledge clearly surpasses any curriculum requirements. With her lavishly equipped private chemistry set and superior scientific competence, Sydney proves to be equally capable of disintegrating vampire corpses, dissolving locks, treating her fellow students’ acne and winning a mini-golf tournament with no previous experience: My first few attempts were pretty bad, but I soon understood the weight of the club and how the angles on each course could be maneuvered. From there, it was pretty simple to calculate distance and force to make accurate shots. (BL loc. 2381–2383; see also loc. 1258, 1262, 2977–3009, 3011, 3015, 3169, 3174)13

13 She also figures out how to dance through realising that following rhythm is “just kind of mathematical” (GL 227).

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In light of the scarcity of young female characters truly fascinated with STEM subjects (Dean-Ruzicka 2016 [2014], 55), Sydney is an extraordinary figure. As Dean-Ruzicka observes, in popular culture female scientists’ skills are often portrayed as inborn, inherited or bestowed by supernatural forces—a construction that presents their STEM-related competence as independent of individual efforts and learning (2016 [2014], 56, 64). Taking as an example Philip Reeve’s novel Fever Crumb and Phil and Kaja Foglio’s web comic Girl Genius, Dean-Ruzicka notes that their heroines “exhibit an almost entire lack of agency in their early engineering experiences”, their genius inventions created in an unconscious, somnambulant state (2016 [2014], 68, 71). A similar construction of knowledge as something that is given rather than actively acquired emerges in the House of Night series. For instance, when a young vampress with a magical connection to earth is tending to the injuries of her fallen enemy, … she really didn’t know how she knew the moss was good for his wounds—it was just one of the snatches of information she’d get from time to time—out of nowhere. One second she wouldn’t have a clue about something. The next she’d be sure of how to, well, plug up a wound for instance. She wanted to believe it was Nyx whispering to her … but the truth was, Stevie Rae didn’t know for sure. (Tempted 53, 58)

Rather than in the hours spent at the library, Stevie Rae’s botanical and medical expertise is rooted in divine grace and her affiliation for the element of earth. In Mead’s Bloodlines , however, Sydney achieves her knowledge thanks to her passion for science and diligent study. Raised to consider herself a scientist, the heroine is fascinated with “human ingenuity” in technology and engineering (“Who needed magic when we could create these kinds of wonders?”; GL 121). She also demonstrates an impressive competence in computer science and motorisation, and employs logic, mathematics and chemical formulas to manage crises and the everyday alike. This scientific approach to the surrounding reality is the primary source of her self-confidence and her sense of safety. Therefore, it is hardly unanticipated when her rational mind reacts with shock and panic to witnessing an act of vampire magic: “Stark, cold fear ran through me, fear of the unknown. The unnatural. The laws of my world had just been broken. This was … something foreign and … forbidden, something no mortal was meant to delve into” (BL loc. 2467).

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Sydney fears and despises magic. Therefore, she feels betrayed when her history teacher and practising witch tricks her into learning spells and producing an enchanted amulet (BL loc. 5261–5295). As the story progresses, however, magic becomes a source of joy and empowerment for the young heroine as she gradually embraces her supernatural witchidentity. Along this inner journey, Sydney’s relation with science becomes increasingly ambiguous. Although at times she substitutes scientific solutions with spells and enchanted objects, her “conventional” education still proves crucial at times of dire need. In fact, her competence in STEM enhances and complements Sydney’s magical abilities as her analytical mind and comprehensive knowledge enable her to prepare impeccable charms and perfect concoctions. For instance, searching for a magical formula that would deactivate the spell of her Alchemist tattoo, the heroine taps into her expertise in chemistry and geology. She explains the process to her vampire boyfriend Adrian, bringing up “[b]oleite’s cubic crystals and isometric system” and its “specific gravity and perfect cleavage” as “an excellent medium to suspend the four elements in a way that could be held in the skin and negate any added … magic”; a statement to which stunned Adrian mentally replies: “The only part of that I understood was ‘perfect cleavage,’ but I had a feeling we weren’t thinking of the same thing” (FH 71–72). Sydney is fascinated with science; yet STEM education is also revealed to have been an instrument of oppression in her life. Early in the story the reader discovers that the young heroine has been prevented from pursuing her passionate interests in art, architecture and ancient history, as they were deemed of little value to the Alchemists’ mission (BL loc. 317–331, 498, 4057–4071; GL 54–55, 303). Instead, she has been urged to study science under the harsh guidance of her cold-hearted father, their lessons epitomising their strained relationship and her difficult childhood. As the heroine reminisces, “[w]hen other kids were practicing alphabet, my father was grilling me with acid and base flash cards” (BL, loc. 2025)—a memory that leads her to the conclusion that her early years were “more focused on chemical equations than on fun” (BL loc. 2380–2381; cf. BL loc.1245–1253). Only after freeing herself from her father’s tyranny and overcoming the paralysing fear of the non-scientific instilled in her by the Alchemists does Sydney become capable of discovering her innermost self. Counterbalancing her intellectual identity with magic, Sydney manages to release her long-suppressed feminine side. Consequently, she deflects

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from her socially lacking scientist persona—one that finds “numbers and formulas … comforting, far more concrete and orderly than the mysteries of social interaction” (GL 73), and achieves happiness in witchcraft, friendship, romance and art studies. The supernatural becomes ultimately valorised over science when Sydney rebels against the Alchemists and resorts to magic to escape and defeat them. When in Silver Shadows the heroine eventually becomes confined in their high-tech prison called “re-education centre”, she is subjected to a meticulously developed programme of torture in which scientific methods and chemical substances are employed to brainwash and torment disobedient members. Grace Sheridan, Sydney’s bane and antithesis who is in charge of the programme, finds delight in the suffering of others, clearly impersonating the “mad scientist” stereotype and hardly inviting wishful identification.14 Furthermore, STEM expertise of other female characters in Vampire Academy and Bloodlines , like Sonya, Lissa or Kristin, often comes across as secondary to such skills and talents as the ability to wield magical spirit, athleticism or social competences and, as such, is often only mentioned in passing. Lacking positive role models, feeling inadequate at scientific subjects or forced into studying them at the expense of their true interests, none of the central heroines in the series resolve to pursue a STEM-related career. Sydney chooses to renounce the Alchemists and follows her heart’s desire to study ancient art and work at a museum. Rose fulfils her lifelong ambition to become a guardian, and Lissa successfully competes for the vampire royal throne. Early in the House of Night series, Zoey Redbird abandons her aspirations for a career in veterinary medicine and readily accepts her new professional path as a vampire High Priestess—one that involves spiritual rather than academic quests and where science education would be of no use.

6.3 Miss (Im)Perfect Schoolgirl: Girls and Academic (Dis)Engagement Although Zoey is described as “the most gifted fledgling in history” (Untamed 252), it soon becomes evident that it is the grace of the

14 Wishful identification involves the audience’s desire to become similar to a fictional character (Steinke et al. 2012, 166).

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Goddess rather than the heroine’s intellectual efforts that ensures her success at school. Despite her initial fascination with the House of Night curriculum, the young vampress is far from being a diligent student. While on several occasions she emphasises the importance of grades and attending classes regularly (Marked 8, 148, Betrayed 68, Tempted 223), she invests little time in studying, and soon finds herself struggling with more than just mathematics. The heroine refers to her schoolwork as “awful”, confusing, “so far over my head that it could roost” or “insanely too hard” (Hunted 245–246), fails to recognise allusions to famous literary works (Untamed 165) and often feels astonished with the information readily available in her textbooks: “I blinked in surprise … I mean, was this … stuff even covered in The Fledgling Handbook? Guess I’d have to read the darn thing more carefully” (Hunted 143; cf. Tempted 26). Although Zoey emphasises that she is careful not to fall behind in her classes and to hand in her homework on time (Betrayed 69), on more than one occasion she refers to missed readings and undone assignments, and finds it difficult to complete even the essays which clearly stir her interest.15 While the heroine is asked to transfer into the upper level of Vampyre Sociology already in the first volume, this change is due to her accelerated development as a vampire fledgling—particularly her prematurely emerging appetite for blood—rather than her academic performance (Marked 241).16 Thus, what may be considered an academic success becomes divorced from her individual agency. Zoey often invokes her academic deficiencies when characterising herself, marking them as an important part of her identity: “I’m a kid. Seventeen. Barely. I’m crappy at geometry. My Spanish sucks” (Awakened 18–19; cf. Destined 10). Eventually, even Zoey’s best friend expresses frustration over her academic incompetence: “Z, not to be mean or anything, but don’t you ever do any homework?” (Tempted, 213). Following the pattern set by the leading heroine, a number of other girl vampire fledglings are portrayed as disengaged from school-structured

15 For instance, in spite of being interested in the character of Gorgon, the heroine finds herself too agitated to write the essay, and procrastinates on the work for which she has “all weekend” (Betrayed 26; cf. Tempted 214). 16 Similarly, the heroine is transferred to an upper level of literature, Spanish and drama class due to the changes in her schedule rather than her academic success (Untamed 190; Hunted 245).

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learning and underperforming academically.17 With the exception of Zoey and Equestrian Studies, a horse-riding course that requires physical dexterity and emotional engagement rather than academic effort, none of the girl protagonists excel in any subjects. On frequent occasions and with little concern, they skip school, and when they attend, they are often distracted by gossip and flirting (see e.g. Untamed 199, 208, 224; Revealed 210; Marked 94, 105, 117). Even their choice of elective subjects is not always grounded in interest, as illustrated by Zoey’s friends Shaunee and Erin, who enrol in a poetry class in order to spend time with a handsome teacher (Betrayed 498, 501).18 In the Q&A section in House of Night: Other World, the series’ author Kristin Cast confesses to her “deep loathing for school” (Lost loc. 6150, 6164), declaring that was she able to go back in time, she would advise her younger self to drop out of college (Found loc. 5788). Aware that her statement might raise controversies, she still deems the pursuit of a college degree not worth the effort and money, and describes herself as “saved” from “a soul-sucking higher learning institution” by her career as a writer (loc. 6150, 6164). Although in House of Night women who neglect their education are on one occasion called “silly” (Chosen 75), none of the main female characters enrol in college after graduation. Girl fledglings spend time contemplating their professional futures and are prepared to invest a certain effort into realising their goals (see e.g. Burned 156). Their careers, however, are founded on the powers and talents given by the Goddess, and require kindness, strength and religious devotion rather than intellectual growth or a college degree (see e.g. Awakened 18– 19). Consequently, many girl protagonists readily admit that they despise studying and perceive school as “stupid” or “an excellent fashion parade”

17 One of the few female protagonists to exhibit some academic application is Zoey’s

friend Stevie Rae. Stevie Rae appears to have interest in vampire history, politics and literature (Tempted, 212, 214; Burned 23, 24, 68; Awakened 174), although she still confuses Scotland with Ireland (“Aren’t they kinda the same thing?”; Burned 92). Particularly in the later volumes, Stevie Rae seems unabashed about her academic engagement, encourages her female friends to read more and declares that she likes school (Destined 7; Tempted 169). She also occasionally serves, along with her friend Jack, as an interpreter of advanced words which her female friends do not understand. 18 Other examples involve a student named Becca, who is portrayed as distracted during a lecture “by her need to stare” at a good-looking drama teacher (Untamed 190). Zoey herself spends a class admiring a handsome male student rather than learning (Marked 129).

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rather than as a space of acquiring knowledge (Burned 89; Destined 10, 134).19 This narrative recurs throughout both the original and the sequel series; when in Forgotten the body of the young fledgling Kacie rejects vampiric transformation, her High Priestess comforts the dying girl with the vision of the afterlife in which there is no school (155). Revived in the later volume as a fully developed vampire, Kacie is pleased that her unexpected demise and vampirisation delivered her from most of her educational commitments (“Oh, I … don’t like school. Thankfully that was cut short by my dying”; Found loc. 3329). These sentiments are to a certain extent shared by dhampir Rose in Vampire Academy. Already as a five-year old, Rose proves to be a recalcitrant student, who disregards teachers and has little interest in academic work. Her negative attitude towards classroom learning is vividly illustrated by her violent reaction to an unwelcome spelling assignment: Forcing five-year-olds to spell Vasilisa Dragomir and Rose Hathaway was beyond cruel, and … [I’d] responded appropriately. I’d chucked my book at our teacher and called her a fascist bastard. I hadn’t known what those words meant, but I’d known how to hit a moving target. (VA 7–8)

As a teenager, Rose continues to frequently get in trouble with school authorities and teachers, many of whom she holds in withering contempt.20 She drops out of school twice, cuts classes to drink alcohol in the woods (VA 130) and picks fights or “spaces out” during lectures

19 Paradoxically, nearly all the girl protagonists featured in the original House of Night series become teachers straight after high school in House of Night: Other World. Even those who have underperformed academically and openly expressed their aversion to book learning eventually decide to join the faculty at various Houses of Night. In this light, a teaching career comes across as disconnected from formal education or specialist knowledge as it is narrated as being based on inborn or magically gifted talents and a person’s readiness to work with young people. 20 While a detailed analysis of the portrayals of teachers in YA vampire texts falls beyond the scope of this chapter, it is worth mentioning that in the first volumes of Vampire Academy, teachers are often depicted as harsh, negligent and unfair, with their didactic skills and personal conduct leaving much to be desired. A few examples include Mr. Nagy, an alcoholic who enjoys embarrassing his students by reading their private notes in front of their classmates (VA 126–128; 202); the rude and obnoxious Stan Alto, who sprays spit while yelling at the students (VA 30–34); or the mentally unstable Ms. Karp, who chooses to turn into an undead murderess (VA 236).

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(VA 71, 176). Much like her vampire peers in the House of Night, the heroine feels an intense dislike towards books and studying, and generally attempts to avoid libraries (VA 197; LS loc. 2223). In fact, her best friend Lissa jokingly claims that the idea of Rose reading is just as astounding as the discovery of the fifth magical element, spirit, a revelation that is to revolutionise the vampire world: “I don’t know what’s crazier: what you’re actually telling me [about spirit] or the fact that you actually read something to find all this out” (VA 218–219). Rose’s lacklustre academic performance is noted by both her teachers and friends, as illustrated by her conversation with young dhampir Mason: Mason: Rose:

“You probably need some primary sources …” “Primary what?” He scoffed, a smile breaking over his face. “Do you do anything [in class] but pass notes? We just talked about them the other day …” “Huh. Okay. What are you, like, a boy genius now?” … “I pay attention, that’s all” (VA 136).

Throughout the story, Rose’s aversion to school-structured learning is, however, balanced by the academic engagement of her best friend, vampire Lissa, another central (if somewhat less vibrant) girl character of the series. Lissa truly enjoys studying, “[a]cing every test” (SK 318) and spending much time in the library, for which Rose calls her affectionately “Miss All-Study-and-No-Play” or “nerd” (SS 57; SK 203). Even during their nearly two-year-long escape from St. Vladimir’s Academy, the vampire princess passes her time sneaking into college classes and summer courses in drama, history and political science (FJVD 404, 407, 415)—the subjects that will prepare her for her future role in the vampire society. Stunningly beautiful and popular with her peers, princess Dragomir is, however, as far as can be from a stereotypical nerd-figure. She pursues her educational plans with courage and determination while maintaining a successful social and romantic life and managing her mental illness. In exchange for a chance to attend a prestigious university, she even chooses to surrender to the wishes of the vampire queen Tatiana and assumes unwelcome duties at her court (SK 202–204). Having succeeded Tatiana on the vampire throne in the final volume of the series, Last Sacrifice, Lissa

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strives to divide her time between obligations of state and her studies, refusing to abandon her intellectual pursuits and emphasising the value of a comprehensive education in her new leadership role (SS 57). Remarkably, while resistant to book learning Rose is as fiercely committed to preparing for her career of choice as her royal best friend. As she herself declares, she “burns” to become an accomplished guardian (VA 138), and willingly gives up her personal time and other interests in order to train and hone her skills. She leaves the school twice; on both occasions, however, she has a crucial (if unauthorised) guardian mission to fulfil. Even when on a break from school, however, the heroine continues to develop her interests in human colleges, for example joining classes on weapons and warfare in ancient Greece and China (FJVD 411, 415). Eventually, despite her inconsistent school record, Rose graduates at the top of her dhampir class, leaving her teachers, friends and family dazzled with her performance in the final tests (SB 30–31). While her vampire peers at the House of Night are both destined and magically equipped by the Goddess to obtain their prestigious positions in the vampire society, Rose relentlessly pursues her professional goals and is prepared for considerable personal sacrifices to meet and exceed her school’s requirements for dhampir students. The dynamics between young femininity and academic excellence are most thoroughly discussed in the Vampire Academy’s sequel Bloodlines. A large part of the plot is located at the academically competitive Amberwood Preparatory School, which unaware humans attend alongside vampires, dhampirs, vampire hunters and witches (BL loc. 1230). The importance of education is repeatedly emphasised in the series, and most protagonists (come to) appreciate their educational opportunities. The reckless and blasé alcoholic vampire Adrian finds joy and purpose in studying art and at the end of Bloodlines he fully intends to complete his bachelor’s degree (RC, Epilogue). Despite having severe difficulties with learning and adjusting to classroom routines, the wild and unruly dhampir Angeline chooses to stay at school throughout the summer in order to enhance her chances to graduate. Angeline comes to believe that a thorough education will make her a better guardian, and the vampire queen herself agrees to pay for her school in appreciation of her services (RC 193). Burning for more knowledge and with her college aspirations effectively sabotaged by her father, Sydney Sage (nomen omen) enthusiastically embraces the chance to go back to high school and be “around those who knew more and had something to teach me” (BL loc. 499).

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Sydney considers it “both startling and luxurious” that instead of studying secretly and/or in her leisure time, she can officially attend classes (BL loc. 1230). The heroine’s very identity is defined through her passion for learning (see e.g. FH 14), and it is this passion that finally convinces her to join a witch coven. As her magic teacher reassures her, “[y]ou’re swearing yourself to the magic … To the pursuit of its knowledge and using it for good in the world. It’s a scholar’s vow, really. Seems like something you should be on board with” (FH 25). The construction of the heroine as deeply invested in academic studies undermines and reverses the oft-repeated formula of a well-versed, knowledge-hungry male vampire and his less educated or intellectually inferior girlfriend. This unequal script has been pointed out in relation to the best-selling Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, with the focus on the lack of academic aspirations displayed by the central female protagonist Bella Swan (see e.g. Crossen 2015; Buttsworth 2010). An avid reader, Bella appears to be doing well at school and initially intends to go to college; yet she is never shown to consider any specific programme. Moreover, the heroine abandons her academic dreams with little regret in order to become the undead bride of her vampire boyfriend Edward and the mother to their child.21 Following a similar scenario, Sofia Claremont, in Bella Forrest’s A Shade of the Vampire series, chooses to leave the human world behind and return to a secret vampire island. Sofia rejoins the vampire prince Derek whom she loves and becomes a vampire queen, dropping out of high school and quitting her plan to apply to Harvard and pursue a degree in law (SoB, loc. 879, 900, 993). Thus, rather than realising their academic and professional aspirations, the heroines of both Meyer’s and Forrest’s series choose to assume traditional female familial roles, prioritising romance and marriage over education. Other human heroines in vampire fiction also experience (constant or occasional) troubles with school-structured learning. Sookie Stackhouse of the horror-paranormal romance series The Southern Vampire Mysteries (Harris 2001–2013) is incapable of furthering her education, distracted by her telepathic (dis)ability to hear other people’s thoughts (DUD 28, 58–59). The televised version of The Vampire Diaries (2009–2017), in turn, opens with the female lead Elena Gilbert being scolded in her history class 21 In turn, Edward is narrated as a highly educated man, proficient, among other things, in science, literature, languages and music, and deeply devoted to the pursuit of knowledge.

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for failing to provide a correct answer (“Pilot” S1E1). In contrast, the knowledge of vampire Stefan Salvatore, Elena’s boyfriend-to-be, clearly surpasses that of their history teacher’s (“Pilot” S1E1).22 In Mead’s Bloodlines , however, it is Sydney’s vampire boyfriend Adrian who constantly struggles at school and repeatedly drops out of college, and who would not have been able to complete his first year without the assistance of Sydney and their friends. At the same time, Sydney feels prepared to “handle Amberwood’s academics in [her] sleep”, effortlessly passing school tests in five foreign languages and demonstrating an astonishing competence in the most advanced courses, to the extent that her classmates erroneously believe that her knowledge has been enhanced with magic (BL loc. 1054, 1589). The character of Sydney is a welcome (if at times extreme) departure from popular images of academically inadequate girl protagonists. However, while Sydney does not exhibit a traditional gender-stereotyped academic identity, in the early volumes of the series she does display some of the traits of the “nerd” archetype. For instance, she considers Latin “fun”, which, in the eyes of her dhampir friend Eddie, marks her as more peculiar than if she were a vampire (BL loc. 1590). Brilliant at schoolwork and research, the heroine appears oblivious to the nuances of high school social life, particularly romance (see e.g. GL 31–32). Her social incompetence occasionally produces a comic effect; for instance, she is convinced that her classmate wishes to discuss the merits of various cinema genres with her while in reality he attempts to ask her out to the movies (BL loc. 3011–3035). The heroine compares her state of being “a tangle of nerves and fear” before her first date to the dread of going into an exam unprepared—a feeling which she has known only from the accounts of others (GL 77–78). Sydney’s first experiences with high school academic etiquette are equally confusing. Volunteering the correct answers in each and every class, she finds herself wondering whether her behaviour is “normal”, and worries that she might alienate and/or antagonise other students as a show-off and a “freak” (BL loc. 1229–1236; 1589). Consequently, the heroine considers “holding back” and “rationing herself” in revealing the extent of her knowledge (BL loc. 1232, 1259). When teasingly asked by a 22 Sometimes, vampire fiction features well-educated vampire women; see e.g. the central heroine of The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995), vampire Kathleen, who is a doctoral student. For an analysis of The Addiction see McDermott and Daspit (2013, 231–246).

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classmate whether she passes her leisure time splitting atoms, she deliberately refrains from calling herself “smart” for fear of sounding egotistical. “There’s nothing wrong with knowing things”, she retorts instead (BL loc. 1593, 1595). Sydney further identifies the realisation “that people don’t like to know how much you know” as the most important of her high school lessons, and confesses that she deliberately “dumbs herself down” in social interactions (GL 139–140).

6.4 Too Smart? Academic Excellence and Popular Femininity A girl character concealing her intellectual skills in order to gain social acceptance is a well-rehearsed trope in popular culture.23 Fisher et al. observe that “female nerds” are often portrayed as lacking social and romantic skills, which position them outside the teen flick concepts of successful girlhood (2008, 169). In Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism, Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby trace the cultural evolution of the “smart girl” figure in popular texts. From the “nerdy loser” who futilely longs to be popular, through the makeover stereotype of the 1990s with the girl’s identity shifting from the academic into the hyper-feminine, the character of the smart young woman is said to have reached the “post-nerd” stage of being both academically accomplished and socially successful (2017, 61). The latter portrayal, as Pomerantz and Raby assert, reflects the recent discursive shift in the representations of girlhood, “suggesting that girls can, and perhaps even should, be both conventionally beautiful and super smart” (2017, 61). Many sociological studies, however, uncover the continuing tension between popular feminine and academic identities. In her research on negotiating young femininity and school achievement, Emma Renold (2001) observed that participating schoolgirls “did not seem to desire or position themselves as knowledgeable, academically interested and motivated pupils, but instead feared and shied away from academic supersuccess”, apprehensive of their peers’ negative reaction (580; cf. Francis 2000b, 118). Analogous tensions have been revealed over a decade later

23 See e.g. May (2008) on Debbie from Puberty Blues, or Fisher et al. (2008, 110), on Cady from Mean Girls.

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in research focused on STEM-aspirant girls. As Louise Archer et al. foreground, young women participating in their study often felt compelled “to balance their science aspirations with performances of popular heterofemininity”, engaging in complex identity negotiations in order to avoid ostracism (Archer et al. 2012, 967; cf. Archer et al. 2013; Archer and DeWitt 2016).24 Drawing on the interviews conducted with students who self-identified as “smart”, Pomerantz and Raby further point to the persistence of the binary opposition between popular girlhood and academic investment experienced by high school students. For many female participants in their project, “finding a place in peer culture meant downplaying or hiding academic success” in order to avoid the label of “too smart”, and thus “antisocial and undatable” (2017, 58, 59). An alarming example corroborating these findings is offered in the study of Delores D. Liston and Regina E. Moore-Rahimi. One of their interviewees recalled that as a high school student she had experienced sexual labels (such as “whore” or “slut”) as preferable to the ones branding her as boringly studious (such as “nerd” or “geek”). This participant was highly accomplished academically; yet she took pains to conceal this fact from her friends (2012 [2005], 221–222). These and other studies expose the uneasy dynamics between academic excellence and popular girlhood, and the continuing opposition between “girly” and “clever” identity performances in Western discourses (Renold and Allan 2006, 459, 461–463; Renold 2001, Archer et al. 2012, 2013). The construction of popular girlhood as divorced from schoolstructured learning finds a vivid reflection in House of Night. While unapologetic about being “crap at school” (Hidden 89), young heroines in the series occasionally express embarrassment over actually knowing something. When her literature teacher asks a question about the history of the Titanic, Zoey does not put her hand up until she is positive that nobody else will. Having answered correctly, the heroine displays no sense of satisfaction. Instead, she fears that she might be (mis)taken for “a hopeless history nerd”, and is quick to explain that her knowledge stems from her youthful infatuation with the male lead of the movie Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio, rather than from studying (Marked 135–136).25 In 24 Cf. Brickhouse et al. (2000), on girls’ positive identifications with science. 25 Cf. Pomerantz and Raby’s study, in which some of the female adolescent interviewees

admitted that they had refused to actively participate in class (e.g. asking questions or volunteering answers) even though they had the competence to do so (2017, 65).

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similar context, Zoey’s friend Aphrodite rushes to assure her friends that she is “not Miss Perfect Schoolgirl” (Burned 82) and that she “tr[ies] not to read too much” (Hidden 170). Other girl protagonists are just as careful to avoid the label of “nerd” or “Perfect Student”, and do not reveal their knowledge unless compelled to do so. “Okay, I’ll admit— under duress—that I actually learned something last semester in Poetry class. So sue me”, Zoey’s friend Erin states defensively after having deciphered a part of a prophetic poem (Untamed 233). Girls deemed “perfect students”, such as fledgling Elizabeth, remain outside of the circle of main protagonists and are considered as potential friends primarily for academic help (“It never hurts to sit next to a smart kid”; Marked 128).26 Thus, throughout the series an academically invested girlhood often comes across as incongruent with the desired self of a glamorous, seductive, fashion-loving and popular hyper-femininity. This conflict is symbolically reflected in the opening volume when Zoey packs for her new life in a vampire school. The heroine chooses to empty her backpack of all “the school crap”—symbolically renouncing “the clever” and leaving her academic aspirations behind—and fills it with clothes and beauty products, surrounding herself with accessories (stereo)typically associated with femininity (Marked 23). As Sherrie A. Inness notes, representing women “as sex symbols, not rocket scientists” has a long history in popular culture. Despite the growing number of compelling smart female characters, the figure of the attractive “dumb blonde” continues to thrive. In contrast, “[desirable] men are supposed to be smart, and it makes them more alluring, not less” (2007, 2). Although in the House of Night series popular masculinity is predominantly grounded in warriorship and physical stamina rather than academic performance, male protagonists exhibit significantly broader intellectual interests than girls, and comfortably occupy what Emma Renold and Alexandra Allan have defined as a traditionally masculine subject position of “clever” (2006, 467). Zoey’s vampire boyfriend Erik Night is an avid reader, thoroughly educated in the field of drama 26 Although impressed with her performance in class and planning to benefit from her knowledge, Zoey mocks Elizabeth, calling her “Ms Perfect Student” (Marked 131). Elizabeth herself proves to be a figure of no consequence to the plot, an impression reinforced by her non-existing surname (Marked 131). She enters the storyline only to become the first victim of the rejection of Change (a fatal illness leading to a fledgling’s death) and to be later resurrected into a zombie-like state and killed by the main heroine (Betrayed 287).

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and considered an acting genius (Untamed 192; Hunted 84). Zoey’s human consort Heath Luck focuses on playing football and keeping his grades up in order to win a college scholarship—and when he unexpectedly dies, his alter-ego from the Other World successfully continues to pursue these dreams, following a clearly defined education and career path (Found loc. 5623). Zoey’s friend, fledgling Damien Maslin is an academic mastermind, “smart and a fast reader” and “seriously good at research” (Chosen 74). Damien spends a considerable amount of time studying and “remember[s] everything he read” (Betrayed 161). He finds in no time the necessary information in school handbooks (“He paged through it for, like, two seconds … and then handed me the open book”; Tempted 213) and excels, among other things, in English, literature, film studies, vampire history and politics (see e.g. Hunted 51, Tempted 26).27 In the House of Night series, even men who have chosen the career of warriors prove to be well-versed in literature, history, politics, psychology and vampiric traditions, and—while more often depicted with a weapon than a book—in their leisure time they frequently occupy themselves with reading.28 The stark contrast between girls’ and boys’ intellectual aspirations and activities is often accentuated in the series. While Zoey’s friend Aphrodite associates an old library with a smelly dungeon with “institutional décor … suitable for either a prison or a hospital psych ward”, the same place is considered “heaven” by the scholarly Damien (Burned 139). Similarly, Zoey’s contribution to her literary discussion with Stark is neither very

27 Damien’s knowledge and academic competence surpass not only those of his peers but sometimes those of his elders. For instance, in Burned he successfully disputes the decisions of the Vampyre High Council referring to the vampire law system (75) and displays an extraordinary ability to solve riddles and draw conclusions (Hunted 215; Burned 145). Remarkably, while his friends often benefit from Damien’s academic diligence, they just as frequently mock it, calling him “Mr. Studious”, “Miss Perfect Schoolgirl” or “Vocab Boy” (see e.g. Untamed 79, 92, 227; Burned 83; Marked 92), comparing him to a teacher and “shut[ing] out” his “lectures” (Betrayed 163). This appears to change in the sequel series, where Zoey declares her admiration for Damien’s studiousness and his insatiable passion for “learning and growing” (Found loc. 794). Damien’s academic excellence is combined with another marker of potential vulnerability in the school milieu—a homosexual orientation; an intersection of precarious identities that invites further research. 28 See e.g. Burned 88; Redeemed 184; Hunted 188–189; Tempted 158–159, 261. Also, Dimitri of Vampire Academy recalls being an accomplished student and maintains his passion for reading even after becoming an evil undead (VA 123; BP 308–309).

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bright nor “book-smartish”, as the heroine admits herself (Tempted 261). When Stark talks about The Chronicles of Narnia, Zoey is astonished that he refers to the novels rather than the screen, and is unaware that there is “way more than one Narnia book” until Stark explains this to her. Admittedly, she becomes irritated when her boyfriend states that his favourite author does not produce “chick books”, implying, somewhat dismissively, that other kinds of literature are uninteresting for women (Tempted 261). This scene presents a convenient occasion for the narrating heroine to denounce the gendered division of literature into “manly books… for guys and frilly, pointless, fluffy books… for girls” (Tempted 262) as misogynistic and stereotypical. This critique, however, becomes undermined by the representation of the central female characters as not particularly interested in reading at all. The disparate portrayal of men’s and women’s intellectual endeavours is further accentuated in the antithetical construction of the two Vampyre Poet Laureates—adult vampire Loren Blake and girl fledgling Kramisha. The depiction of their creative processes reflects the traditional opposition between the intellect and emotions, historically assigned to, respectively, manhood and womanhood. While both Kramisha and Loren write excellent poetry and are much admired by their readers, Loren carefully composes his writing, aware of different forms and formats, and demonstrating competence in the history of literature (see e.g. Chosen 50). In contrast, Kramisha writes in a semi-conscious state or receives her poems in a dream as they are typically Goddess-sent warnings. The heroine does not need to invest intellectual effort into her work, nor does she require any particular writing skills; she simply writes the text down without even understanding all the words she uses. As she confesses in Burned: “I had to look up the gird-your-loins part ‘cause it sounded nasty and sexual, but it ended up just being’ a way to say you need to get real ready for a fight” (96). In this light, it is hardly surprising that young female fledglings routinely turn to their male partners and friends when they are in need of scholarly assistance (see e.g. Betrayed 163). As Zoey declares in Hunted when she is about to ask for Damien’s help in unravelling a prophesy, “[t]hat’s gonna take someone with more brains than me” (71). While girls save the day with vampire magic, devotion to the Goddess, compassion and love, boys solve problems with their warrior skills and/or book knowledge. When soul-shattered Zoey wanders the realms between life and death, it is her soul mate vampire Stark who explains her ominous

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condition. Then, the “reading Warrior” Darius, who as a fledgling shared his time between “study[ing] the blade” and exploring old scrolls in the archives, provides information on the possible cure (Tempted 317; Burned 85, 88–89). In the last volume of the original series, the arch-villainess immortal Neferet becomes defeated thanks to Damien and Stark’s knowledge about the sorcerer Merlin, with whom their female friends are only vaguely familiar (Redeemed 271). As a result, female characters often find themselves performing the identities of students while boys assume the role of teachers, resolving girls’ educational shortcomings with “an indulgent smile” or rebuking them for their lack of academic diligence (Burned 86; Hunted 9, 253; Tempted 69, 73, 109). Having spontaneously accepted Stark’s eternal Warrior Oath, Zoey has another warrior, Darius, explaining to her postfactum the Oath’s implications.29 Somewhat exasperated, Darius instructs her to finally read her Fledgling Handbook. The heroine, however, finds it difficult to focus on education; after all, she is surrounded by demons and evil priestesses, and has more urgent problems at hand (Tempted 69, 73). The student–teacher positioning of girl and boy characters is further illustrated in Untamed, when the protagonists gather to decipher an encrypted poem-like prophecy. While Damien begins with examining the poem’s structure and rhyme scheme, and leads his female friends through the first stages of the interpretation process, the girls limit themselves to asking questions, nodding along and defining the poem as “[g]loom and doom to come put in confusing what-the-fuck language” (227– 233). Time and again, the girl characters fail to understand Damien’s vocabulary, easily resigning themselves to their incompetence (“seriously, I could have thought about that [word] forever and not figured out what it meant”; Hunted 253–254) and experiencing his language as just as foreign as the one used in Star Trek (Hunted 253). Resultantly, they are scolded for their “abysmal” vocabulary, mocked for needing a dictionary to “keep up” (Betrayed 2), looked upon with disgust and called “cretins” and “simpletons” for not understanding more advanced words (Hunted 9; 253). Even as a fully developed vampire and a teacher of the advanced spells and rituals course, Zoey continues to rely on Damien’s knowledge

29 While Stark remembers both the readings and in-class discussions on this particular subject, and offers his Oath knowingly, Zoey is largely unaware of the ramifications of their bond.

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and earns his (gentle) scolding for forgetting the most basic ingredients in an important enchantment (“Z, that’s Spellwork 101”; Found loc. 1106). In “‘Square-girls’, Femininity and the Negotiation of Academic Success”, Emma Renold notes that aspiring to academic achievement can prove socially problematic for both boys and girls as it may involve “being positioned outside conventional modes of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’” (2001, 586; cf. Pomerantz and Raby 2017, 84) In House of Night, however, most young men occupy the “clever” identity with little fear of social ostracism or diminished romantic appeal. As Pomerantz and Raby remind us, popular masculinity and a boy’s social standing at high school are typically associated with heterosexuality and physical prowess, particularly success in sports. Thus, athletic accomplishments— often “seen as antithetical to being too nerdy”—can “bridge the gap between being smart and being popular” (2017, 85, 78; cf. Fisher et al. 2008, 110). Integrating academic application into their hyper-masculine, athletic warrior personas, heterosexual male characters in the Casts’ series are much admired by their girlfriends for their knowledge and appetite for books. Both Zoey and her friend Aphrodite find it “cool” and erotically appealing when their respective boyfriends reveal themselves to be passionate readers (Hunted 84; Burned 88). As Zoey declares, “I loved it when cute guys showed they had brains” (Tempted 158). In fact, Stark uses his interest in literature as a romantic asset, giving Zoey “a checkme-out-I’ve-always-read-books hottie grin” (Tempted 169) after correctly recognising a literary reference. Thus, although the models of desirable masculinity in the series are predominantly grounded in being a “big, bad, macho Warrior” (Tempted 158) rather than a scholar, ultimately the two interconnect to reinforce the heterosexual male’s attractiveness. Such constructions correspond with Inness’s reflections upon the double standards for men and women in romantic relationships: According to the common cultural stereotype, women are not supposed to be too smart and, in particular, are not supposed to be as intelligent as their husbands or boyfriends … Our society does not have the same expectation that a man should worry that he might appear smarter than his date … (2007, 2)

Therefore, it is Sydney, and not her boyfriend Brayden, who in the second volume of Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, considers “dumbing herself

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down” in their early courtship.30 While on one of their first dates Brayden confidently presents his views on alternative energy sources, Sydney worries that offering her own contradictory perspective might be perceived as a breach of dating protocol. In Smart Girls, Pomerantz and Raby point to heterosexual romantic desirability as one of the primary reasons for girls to conceal their knowledge and academic success. As revealed by the interviewees in their study, smart girls “were seen as being too focused on school and also intimidating, which meant that they might upset the gender hierarchy of a dating relationship” (2017, 67; cf. also 63, 92). Therefore, in The Golden Lily Sydney briefly contemplates “batting her eyelashes” and tossing her hair instead of competently objecting to her boyfriend’s opinions, as per the instruction of her more romantically experienced girlfriends. The heroine’s hesitation, however, is short-lived, and she soon launches into a thorough explanation of her stand, dismissing the idea that girls should “make men feel important on dates” as silly and “male-centric” (GL 122). Utterly defeated by Sydney’s brilliant reasoning, Brayden is stunned into silence and then kisses her. “‘You,’ he said breathlessly. ‘Are amazing. Absolutely, positively, exquisitely amazing’” (GL 121–125). Sydney herself is rather astonished by her boyfriend’s enthusiastic reaction, as none of the dating advice that she has heard and read have identified academic debates as “a way to a man’s heart” (GL 311). Later in the series, the heroine’s smartness continues to be narrated as a romantic asset as her vampire husband Adrian finds her academic excellence enhancing rather than diminishing her romantic allure: “You can’t help knowing everything and being constantly brilliant—and I wouldn’t have it any other way” (RC 347). Throughout the series, Adrian repeatedly expresses his admiration for Sydney’s intelligence and knowledge, and openly admits that he has fallen for her first and foremost “because of her mind” (FH 34). Remarkably, in Bloodlines there is no particular difference between boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards book knowledge and school accomplishments. Whether mediocre or exceeding expectations, in history or mathematics, the students’ academic performance depends primarily on their individual talents, efforts and cultural capital rather than their

30 Interestingly, Sydney’s male friend Trey, a football star and an aspiring vampire hunter, also attempts to hide how “brainy” he really is, placing emphasis on his athletic prowess to mask his academic excellence (see e.g. GL 31).

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gender. Female and male alike, vampire, dhampir, witch and human characters are often depicted in the library, participating in study groups or working on assignments, struggling, failing and succeeding in their school endeavours, seeking conventional knowledge just as often as the magical one in order to save the day, satisfy their curiosity or simply to keep their grades up (see e.g. BL loc. 2936; GL 65, 3847, 3953; IS 18, 129, 248).

6.5

Conclusion

As a site of intense cultural, psychological and political fears and desires, school provides a powerful setting for the expression of social and adolescent angst about educational practices and growing up (Truffin 2014). According to Andrew L. Grunzke (2015) and Christine Jarvis (2001), these anxieties are reflected in a particularly clear and thoughtprovoking way in horror and vampire stories set in educational institutions (2002, 150). In the series analysed in this chapter, school constitutes an ambiguous terrain, simultaneously signifying menace and safety, oppression and liberation. For the young vampires of House of Night, school offers a chance to overcome a potentially fatal disease that marks the onset of a fledgling’s life and a possibility to understand their bodily and psychological transformations. St. Vladimir’s of Vampire Academy protects its students from evil undead vampires—the Strigoi—with dhampir guardians and enchanted barriers surrounding the campus. The Amberwood high school of Bloodlines, in turn, provides a shelter for a vampire princess hunted by assassins, and offers a way out of oppressive familial or professional environment for the dhampir and human characters. Yet it is often within the school walls that young protagonists must confront deception, danger and their worst enemies. Beloved teachers reveal themselves as murderesses and cold-hearted seducers, magical barriers can be broken, guardians turned or killed and evil witches can invade the school to abduct the sleeping students. As Rose Hathaway concludes, “Hey, no one said high school was easy” (FB 7). In the midst of this turmoil, academic life is rarely brought to the forefront of the story. In these fictional vampire worlds the spaces intended for learning, such as classrooms and libraries, are often employed as settings for non-academic activities—romance and seduction, negotiating friendships and social hierarchies or battling evil—with school portrayed as largely disarticulated from its educational purpose. As Pauline J. Reynolds points out, popular culture seldom prioritises knowledge over “the pursuit

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of pleasure”, and tends to “sabotage academic engagement” (2014, 103, 106). The Casts’ and Mead’s series, however, often exceed this formula, adopting more complex perspectives on girls and learning, and reflecting diverse discourses on female academic abilities and investment in education. Their heroines engage in careful negotiations of their academic identities as they intersect with gendered peer cultures, popular perceptions of male and female areas of academic competence and socially valued models of young femininities. With its alternative vision of supernatural schooling that effectively responds to students’ interests and dilemmas, the House of Night series offers a critique of contemporary institutional learning that is presented as inflexible, unimaginative, overly hierarchical and ignorant of young people’s needs (cf. Fudge 2009, 208–210). Most importantly, the vampire curriculum reflects feminist concerns about the male-centred programmes of study that, eschewing herstory, ignore the experiences and agendas of female students at school. Bringing into focus womencentred and empowering perspectives on history, sociology and literature, the matriarchal vampire educational system unmasks a long-standing presence of misogynist patriarchal narratives within the classroom practice, and attempts to disrupt or reappropriate them for the feminist agenda. Yet even the stories with clear feminist undertones can unwittingly conform to diverse stereotypes in relation to girls and academic achievement. In the pages of House of Night, academic knowledge and active investment in school-structured learning are to a large degree excluded from the repertoires of young femininity, reflecting the popular discursive disassociation between desirable girlhood and academic excellence.31 In the matriarchal world of the series, the positions of authority, influence and prestige are primarily reserved for women. Yet, their career routes as priestesses and prophetesses of the vampire goddess compel little book knowledge or formal education. Female power and popularity do not stem from intellectual work but depend on beauty, good character, belonging to the right social networks and possessing divinely imparted powers. Book learning appears inconsequential, or sometimes even harmful, to young women’s success.

31 See e.g. Archer (2012, 980). Cf. Francis (2000b, ch. 5, 121–122, 128), for a shift in the construction of young femininities that are inclusive of academic excellence and ambitious careers.

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The potential (mis)education effect of representing academic excellence as colliding with popular girlhood has been discussed in research. As Jocelyn Steinke et al. (2007) observe, fictional characters can often serve as occupational role models for young audiences. Negative imagery can interfere with female students’ performance at school and limit the range of professional ambitions that girls recognise as desirable and appropriate (Steinke et al. 2007; Long et al. 2010; Boaler and Sengupta-Irving 2006). The depictions of academic excellence as the domain of boys who use their knowledge to impress less educated girls further feeds into the cultural stereotype of women’s intellectual inferiority as a prerequisite for successful romance. These representations are particularly problematic where gendering the ability to master STEM subjects is concerned, as they perpetuate the long-standing discourse of women as inadequate in traditionally male-coded fields and reinforce the popular imagery of science as “unfeminine”. Such narratives may be damaging to young women’s perceptions of their intellectual skills and strengthen the stereotypical binary of feminine and masculine areas of competence (Steinke et al. 2012). Confirming the historical construction of “the mind” as a masculine ground, girls’ talents in the House of Night series rarely go beyond the stereotypically feminine terrains of nature, the irrational and the divine. Other young female characters, however, are more successful in challenging this gendered division and represent more diverse perspectives on girls and academics. Disrupting the notion of desirable girlhood as incompatible with academic excellence, Lissa and Sydney of the supernatural universe created by Richelle Mead are both popular among their peers and academically successful. Moreover, the series unsettle the notion of STEM as “unfeminine” or, more precisely, as gendered territory. The central heroine of Vampire Academy, Rose, uses her math textbook as a projectile rather than to study and the adolescent Angeline in Bloodlines is forced to enrol in remedial math classes. Lissa, however, attends an advanced course in calculus and Sydney is a scientific genius. Admittedly, Sydney’s relation with science is not free of tensions; as she delves ever deeper into the world of elemental witchcraft and vampire spells, her identity increasingly encompasses the traditionally feminine terrains of nature and magic alongside her previous rational, scientific self. Most importantly, however, her competence in STEM has nothing to do with the supernatural but has been achieved through active learning, curiosity and determination.

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Remarkably, even those heroines who have little interest in books and classroom instruction (come to) acknowledge the significance of school in structuring young people’s lives. When forced to leave the House of Night by an evil headmistress, young vampire fledglings fight to come back, somewhat reluctantly admitting that going to school is what should be “normal” for every teenager (Destined 7, 10, 14–15, 32, 104). Distancing themselves from the popular image of school-structured learning as inconsequential or useless (one that is otherwise widespread in the cultural texts for young people; see e.g. Birch 2009, 116–117; Daspit 2003, 127–128; Jarvis 2005), the Casts’ and Mead’s novels often present school instruction as valuable, relevant and sometimes life-saving. In contrast to the infinite, repetitive and “pointless” vampire education in such texts as Twilight (Crossen 2015, 71–73), schooling has clear timeboundaries and paves the way to vampire, dhampir and human adulthood, which in most cases entails a professional career. Furthermore, classroom learning constitutes merely one part of the young protagonists’ education, and to a greater or lesser extent knowledge must be pursued also outside of the classroom walls. At times, the characters who demonstrate a nonchalant stance towards school prove to greatly appreciate the value of self-directed studies and show persistence in seeking alternative sources of information. Their mistrust towards classroom instruction and desire for greater learning autonomy are often construed as an act of maturation, progress and/or resistance against questionable adult authority.

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Jarvis, Christine. 2005. Real Stakeholder Education? Lifelong Learning in the Buffyverse. Studies in the Education of Adults 37 (1): 31–47. HTML file. Joseph, Pamela Bolotin, and Gail E. Burnaford (eds.). 2001. Images of Schoolteachers in America, 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ, London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Jowett, Lorna. 2007. Lab Coats and Lipstick: Smart Women Reshape Science on Television. In Geek Chic: Smart Women in Popular Culture, ed. Sherrie A. Inness, 31–48. New York and Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Kuriloff, Peter, Andrus Shannon, and Charlotte Jacobs. 2017. Teaching Girls: How Teachers and Parents Can Reach Their Brains and Hearts. Lanham, Boulder, New York, and London: Rowman & Littlefield. Liston, Delores D., and Regina E. Moore-Rahimi. 2012 [2005]. Disputation of a Bad Reputation: Adverse Sexual Labels and the Lives of 12 Southern Women. In Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-Between, ed. Pamela J. Bettis and Natalie G. Adams, 211–229. New York and London: Routledge. Little, Tracy. 2003. “High School Is Hell.” Metaphor Made Literal in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Buffy and Philosophy: Fear and Loathing in Sunnydale, ed. James B. South, 282–293. Chicago: Open Court. Long, Marilee, Jocelyn Steine, Brooks Applegate, Maria Knight Lapinski, Marne J. Johnson, and Sayani Ghosh. 2010. Portrayals of Male and Female Scientists in Television Programs Popular Among Middle School–Age Children. Science Communication 32 (3): 356–382. https://doi.org/10.1177/107554700935 7779. May, Josephine. 2008. Puberty Blues and the Representation of an Australian Comprehensive High School. History of Education Review 37 (2): 61–67. May, Josephine. 2013. Reel Schools: Schooling and the Nation in Australian Cinema. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang. McDermott, Morna, and Toby Daspit. 2013. Vampires on Campus: Reflections on (Un)Death, Transformation, and Blood Knowledges in The Addiction. In Imagining the Academy: Higher Education and Popular Culture, ed. Susan Edgerton, Gunilla Holm, Toby Daspit, and Paul Farber, 231–246. New York and London: Routledge. Mead, Richelle. 2007. Vampire Academy [VA]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008a. Frostbite [FB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2008b. Shadow Kiss [SK]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2009. Blood Promise [BP]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010. Spirit Bound [SB]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2010. Last Sacrifice [LS]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2011. Bloodlines [BL]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2012. The Golden Lily [GL]. Razorbill. Kindle edition. ———. 2013a. The Indigo Spell [IS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2013b. The Fiery Heart [FH]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition.

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———. 2014. Silver Shadows [SS]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2015. The Ruby Circle [RC]. Penguin Books. Kindle edition. ———. 2016. From the Journal of Vasilisa Dragomir. In Vampire Academy, 10th Anniversary Edition. Razorbill. Kindle edition. Meyer, Stephenie. 2005–2008. Twilight Series. Little, Brown and Company. Newman, Vicky. 2001. Cinema, Women Teachers, and the 1950s and 1960s. Educational Studies 32 (4): 416–438. Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha. 2019. Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Perlstein, Daniel, and Leah Faw. 2015. Students Without a Cause: Blackboard Jungle, High School Movies, and High School Life. In American Education in Popular Media: From the Blackboard to the Silver Screen, ed. Sevan G. Terzian and Patrick A. Ryan, 129–152. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Pomerantz, Shauna, and Rebecca Raby. 2017. Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Rees, Douglas. 2008–2010. Vampire High Series. New York: Delacorte. Renold, Emma, and Alexandra Allan. 2006. Bright and Beautiful: High-achieving Girls, Ambivalent Femininities and the Feminization of Success. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 27 (4): 457–473. Renold, Emma. 2001. “Square-girls”, Femininity and the Negotiation of Academic Success in the Primary School. British Educational Research Journal 27: 577–588. Reynolds, Pauline J. 2014. Representing “U”: Popular Culture, Media, and Higher Education. ASHE Higher Education Report, 40 (4). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Sacks, Arlene S., and Gary N. McCloskey. 1994. Miracle Working and the Image of the Exceptional Student. In Schooling in the Light of Popular Culture, ed. Paul Farber, Eugene F. Provenzo Jr., and Gunilla Holm, 191–208. Albany: State University of New York Press. Schechter, Loren. 2013. Ethics of the Undead. Merrimack Media. Shary, Timothy. 2014 [2002]. Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in American Cinema since 1980, Rev. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press. Shoffner, Melanie (ed.). 2016. Exploring Teachers in Fiction and Film: Saviors, Scapegoats and Schoolmarms. New York, London: Routledge. Sklar, Jessica K., and Elizabeth S. Sklar. 2012. Mathematics in Popular Culture: Essays on Appearances in Film, Fiction, Games, Television and Other Media. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2018. Vampires and Witches Go to School: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, Gender, and the Gothic. Children’s Literature in Education 49: 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583018-9343-0.

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Steinke, Jocelyn, Maria Knight Lapinski, Nikki Crocker, Aletta ZietsmanThomas, Yaschica Williams, Stephanie Higdon Evergree, and Sarvani Kuchibhotla. 2007. Assessing Media Influences on Middle School–Aged Children’s Perceptions of Women in Science Using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST). Science Communication 29 (1): 35–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/107554 7007306508. Steinke, Jocelyn, Brooks Applegate, Maria Lapinski, Lisa Ryan, and Marilee Long. 2012. Gender Differences in Adolescents’ Wishful Identification with Scientist Characters on Television. Science Communication 34 (2): 163–199. https://doi.org/10.1177/1075547011410250. Steinke, Jocelyn. 2005. Cultural Representations of Gender and Science: Portrayals of Female Scientists and Engineers in Popular Films. Science Communication 27 (1): 27–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/107554700527 8610. The Vampire Diaries. 2009–2017. Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec. The CW. TV series. The Vampire Diaries. 2009. Season 1, Episode 22. “Pilot.” Directed by Marcos Siega. Aired September 10, 2009, on The CW. Truffin, Sherry R. 2014. “Gigantic Paradox, Too… Monstrous for Solution”: Nightmarish Democracy and the Schoolhouse Gothic from “William Wilson” to The Secret History.” In A Companion to American Gothic, ed. Charles L. Crow, 164–176. Wiley Blackwell. Waters, Mark, director. 2014. Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters. Angry Films, Kintop Pictures, IM Global, Montford & Murphy, Preger Entertainment, and Reliance Entertainment. Weber, Sandra, and Claudia Mitchell. 1995. That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Teacher: Interrogating Images and Identities in Popular Culture. London and Washington, DC: Falmer Press. Witte, Shelbie, and Todd Goodson. 2010. “This Guy’s Dead”: Seeking the Origins of the Dystopian Narrative of the American High School in the Popular Culture. High School Journal 94 (1) (Fall): 3–14. Young, Allison J. Kelaher. 2005. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Lesbian Professors in Popular Culture. In Imagining the Academy: Higher Education and Popular Culture, ed. Susan Edgerton, Gunilla Holm, Toby Daspit, and Paul Farber, 197–216. New York and London: Routledge.

CHAPTER 7

Conclusion

In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, Deborah Mutch contends that “[t]o have control over narrative is to have control over meaning” (2013, 5). Serving manifold ideologies and conveying an indefinite number of perspectives, the power of persuasion entrenched in cultural narratives cannot be disregarded (Mutch 2013, 5). Popular culture can be a fruitful avenue for the identification and exploration of “the important questions that, although arising from the sphere of fiction, impact … on the terrain of lived experience” (Fisher et al. 2008, 182). A powerful instrument that can resist, question or reproduce hegemonic paradigms, it can unhinge oppressive and discriminatory narratives or advocate them as “normalized reality” (Anyiwo 2016, 94). Cultural representations, as Alison Waller proposes, are particularly important for young audiences and readers, and can wield more power in shaping and defining socially intelligible notions of adolescence than the “official voices” such as the law, science or academia (2009, 7). In Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, Michael Cart notes the massive increase in both the number and sales of the titles marketed to young adult readers in the new millennium, recognising YA fiction as “the tail that wags the dog of publishing” (2016, ix). Contemporary popular culture produces, in particular, an ever-increasing body of highly diverse texts for and about adolescent women, constantly forging,

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negotiating and reconfiguring various iterations of acceptable and desirable girlhood. Echoing to various degrees the pre-existing concepts and discourses on the figure of the girl, these narratives can also contribute to social and cultural change, reshaping the values and norms formulated around young femininities. Popular fiction for adolescent women can serve as an important source of cultural instruction and a repository of diverse role models, beliefs and information on the self and society, affecting social attitudes towards various expressions of girlhood and informing readers’ life strategies and choices. Exposure to restrictive gender models which reward young women for passivity and the repression of their dreams and desires may result in the (self-)limitation of girls’ interests and activities, and encourage them to invest in genderstereotyped behaviours (see e.g. Trotman Reid et al. 2008). In contrast, narratives that push against the boundaries of conventional femininities and promote diversity can offer young women a fresh and innovative space for reimagining themselves and their futures, expanding their horizons into alternative, experimental terrains and curving out the space for the articulation of new girl identities. Needless to say, it would be naïve to presume that the messages articulated through even the most successful fictional stories are passively internalised by girl readers in the ways intended by authors, or predicted by parents, educators or scholars. Girlhood, as Athena Bellas contends, “can be thought of as a field of contestations in which the limits of ‘acceptable’ feminine adolescence are constantly … challenged, redrawn, affirmed and destabilized by girls” (2017, 11). Negotiated in various historical, political and personal contexts, cultural texts rarely produce unequivocal meanings, stimulating divergent critical interpretations. Foregrounding the unknown in the processes of both producing and consuming literary texts—and the uncertainties of their outcome—Anita Lundberg employs the image of a tree invoked by an author character from Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy (1993): [Writing] feels like a banyan tree. … it sprouts, and grows, and spreads, and drops down branches that become trunks or intertwine with other branches. Sometimes branches die. Sometimes the main trunk dies, and the structure is held up by the supporting trunks. It has its own life … (Seth 1993, 483; Lundberg 2008, 9–10).

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In an article on female agency and empowerment in popular vampire fiction, Agata Łuksza points out that vampire tales permit readers “to take up positions unavailable in real life”. Consequently, their heroines, as Łuksza emphasises, should not be construed as role models but rather “as potential feminine subject positions, which might not in fact be preferable outside the fantasy realm” (2015, 439). Young women can engage in either or both “enjoyment- and resistance-reading” (Franck 2013, 212), and offer understandings of their own that can “mistake the ‘unmistakable’” (Rose 1992, 49) and subvert the author’s agenda. With reference to resistance-readings of Twilight, Allie in Reading Unbound reports that some girls engage with the story in order “to make fun of Bella … [and] tell her what she could do differently” (Wilhelm and Smith 2014, 135). Thus, the cultural messages about girlhood conveyed through vampire fiction may be accepted, emulated, ignored, reinterpreted, resisted or rewritten by the reading girl. A detailed analysis of these messages can, nonetheless, vitally contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary girls’ experiences and discourses on girlhood. Evoking passionate devotion and sparking off heated debates, selling in their millions and provoking harsh criticism and censorship attempts—vampire fiction offers a myriad of stories centred on girl heroines and engages on many levels with the conversations on adolescent femininity. With their plotlines formulated around bodily image and transformations, romance, friendship, sexuality and gendered violence, schoolwork and career, these stories delve into the territories central to Western female youth cultures, foregrounding, validating, penalising or excluding various performances of adolescent femininity. In this volume, I have sought to unlock some of these complex narratives, focusing on the twenty-first-century vampire serialised fiction and seeking to explore its understandings of the figure of the girl in relation to vampire tradition, broader trends in YA culture and larger social and cultural discourses on femininity. As noted by Lorna Jowett, non-realist fiction is often perceived as a form of escapism—one that comes with a promise of distance or even detachment from real-life issues (2010). Yet, unbound as they are by the rules of verisimilitude, fantastic narratives frequently engage in a powerful commentary on various social practices and cultural regimes through the means of “indirections, parallels, symbols, and allegory” (James 2009, 116). Consequently, horror, Gothic, urban fantasy or paranormal romance can provide an exceptional space for exploring the complex dynamics of gender, age and power in

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a way which, as Jowett concludes, is unavailable for stories “anchored in realism” (2010, 217; cf. James 2009, 115). Proposing alternative visions of reality and gender performance, fantastic narratives can participate in furthering cultural shifts, offering “a space within which to imagine the impossible, the yet-unreal” (Green, forthcoming). Combining the elements of the Gothic, horror, fantasy, paranormal romance, girls’ school story and more, vampire series for adolescent women are uniquely positioned to interrogate the possibilities and limitations of young femininity in the Western culture. Nina Auerbach once famously stated that vampires respond to the fears and desires of societies that produce them, endlessly reincarnating to adapt anew to the changing socio-cultural, political and economic contexts. Taking this argument one step further, Glennis Byron and Sharon Deans suggest that Auerbach’s words—“every age embraces the vampire it needs” (1995, 145)—could be understood as referring not only to historical moment but also to the concept of generation, with the vampiric creature holding the most powerful appeal for an adolescent readership (2014, 89). In fact, as Gina Wisker contends, vampire fiction for young adults, and particularly vampire romance, can be credited with the revival of the vampire in the new millennium (2016, 191). With the growing visibility of the figure of the girl in social, cultural and political discourses and media, today’s vampires have a particularly strong resonance with adolescent women, increasingly colonising stories for girl readership and audience. Reminiscing on her early encounters with vampire fiction, Nina Auerbach foregrounds the synergies between the figures of the vampire and the girl, recognising the tales of vampirism as an escape route from the restraints of conventional femininity: These shadowy monsters were a revelation to my best friend and me … we did feel we had found a talisman against a nice girl’s life. Vampires were supposed to menace women, but to me at least, they promised protection against a destiny of girdles, spike heels, and approval. (1995, 4)

Over a decade later, P.C. Cast sought an explanation for the unprecedented popularity of the genre in the ongoing transformations of social gender roles and hierarchies—“with women standing up and demanding respect” (Schou 2009). The twenty-first-century vampire fiction, however, invites multiple interpretations and offers the visions of the girl that are rife with frictions and ambivalences, resisting any

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attempt at a singular reading. The genre’s depiction of women has been construed as “a cultural index of desire and disgust, a thermometer of response to women’s power and sexuality, either seen as demonic or liberating” (Wisker 2016, 161). The representations of girls in an everincreasing body of vampire fiction range anywhere from the narratives of feminist resistance, featuring empowered and resourceful feminine subjects, to oppressive and patriarchal tales, foregrounding infantilised female characters in constant need of male guidance and protection. As Wisker observes, in contrast to their predecessors, much vampire fiction written by women authors in the twenty-first century has lost “its radical energies” and become harnessed to inculcate conformity and replicate conservative modes of being (2016, 187–188, 195; cf. RamosGarcía 2020). As I have noted throughout this volume, many of these texts fall back on the conventional romantic formulas which advocate for female submissiveness and male dominance and validate hegemonic ideas about gender and sexuality. This strategy has most often been exemplified through various critical analyses of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight , but is equally relevant for many other vampire books for girls. The vampire series that are the focus of this volume, however, stand out among other works of the genre for their subversive potential, daring to voice some of the concepts, concerns and desires that have been silenced in other texts. Offering nuanced and original explorations of adolescent femininity, and featuring complex characters and multi-layered stories, the internationally acclaimed House of Night (2007–2014) and House of Night: Other World (2017–2020) series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, and Vampire Academy (2007–2010) and Bloodlines (2011–2015) series by Richelle Mead are significant for the ways in which they mobilise the metaphor of the vampire and supernatural worlds in order to interrogate and confront a number of ideas about girlhood in the contemporary Western context. Adolescent women in the twenty-first century experience multiple pressures to adhere to the often conflicted rules and expectations of young femininity promoted through media, education, science, law and other social and political structures. In the current Western postfeminist debates, girls are often represented as empowered to make agential decisions about their bodies, sexualities, relationships and futures; yet these choices are, in fact, corralled and constricted by the evergreen patriarchal narratives and gendered double standards. Demonstrating awareness of these contradictory social expectations, the vampire texts analysed in this volume purport to produce empowering and celebratory visions of

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adolescent girlhood and evince the influence of feminist concerns and agendas. In various interviews and within her novels, P.C. Cast has repeatedly identified the intervention in oppressive gendered power regimes and the critique of misogyny as the primary objectives of her work as an author: “I want my readers, especially young women, to do better without carrying around the baggage of judgment and hypocrisy under which the patriarchy likes to smother us. Double standards should be called out, barriers should be smashed” (Found loc. 5730). In a similar vein, Janine Darragh denotes the feminist lens as central to the understanding of Richelle Mead’s books. As Darragh argues, Vampire Academy foregrounds the Third Wave feminism notions of diversity, inclusion and freedom of choice, “send[ing] the message that today’s young woman can be whomever she chooses to be” and making a compelling political statement about the possibilities of girls in the new millennium (2016, 251, 259, 261). Each of these series features adventurous, resilient and powerful girl protagonists whose stories unfold, through all or several volumes, in the uncanny milieu of the vampire or human-vampire high school. Complying with the dominant trends of the contemporary Gothic that marginalise the human to humanise and centre-stage the “monstrous” (Smith and Moruzi 2018, 12–13), these heroines, most of whom are vampires and half-vampires, are all granted the power of telling their own story. Unlike many other contemporary bloodsucking characters (in most cases boys and men), turned against their will and lamenting their vampiric condition, the protagonists of the Casts’ and Mead’s series are either born vampires or grow into their supernatural status at the time of puberty, and (come to) accept their state as natural and/or gratifying. Sometimes, once commenced or revealed, the vampiric transformation is narrated as grace and salvation as it delivers the protagonists from unfeeling parental authority and the patriarchal strictures of their human societies. Vampirism does not exempt them, however, from the typical coming-ofage challenges related to body, relationships, sexuality, safety or education. Zoey, Rose, Lissa, Sydney and their girlfriends all grapple with insecurities, desires and dilemmas considered typical for Western adolescent femininities, inviting readers’ empathy and enabling identification. Featuring heroines who practise elemental magic, enjoy blood for dinner, wield the power of healing or display preternatural combat skills, the Casts’ and Mead’s vampire series nonetheless speak in a compelling way to the

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concerns and interests of their girl readers, as evidenced through their continuing popularity and the fans’ discussions on various social media.1 While much of contemporary vampire fiction for girls is infused with conservative ideas, these novels feature narratives of young female bodies that offer an opportunity for rupturing and undermining the rigid strictures surrounding popular embodied girlhood. Unmasking the impossible gendered standards of beauty, and reconciling the concepts of female strength and independence with the investment in girl beauty cultures, their young heroines resist patriarchy and expand their autonomy through body modification and the subversive employment of style. Whereas the love stories of paranormal romance largely rely on preordained affection and inescapable magical love bonds, House of Night, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines to some extent speak back to these conventions, critically contemplating the idea of soul mates and the power of destiny, and troubling the formula of gendered power imbalance in romantic relationships. Furthermore, the Casts’ series formulate strategies that seek to disrupt hegemonic heteronormative paradigms and turn (if at times only temporarily) to the traditional queerness of the vampiric figure, featuring homosexual characters and introducing polyandry as a socially sanctioned vampiric tradition. Even these romantic plotlines which ostensibly rely on the clichéd schema of the love story between a male vampire and a human girl and which are resolved in teenage marriage and parenthood, are designed to increase the transformative potential of the heroine (cf. Smith and Moruzi 2018, 6). As repeatedly illustrated through the relationship of the human/witch Sydney and the vampire Adrian in Bloodlines, the traditional conventions can be cleverly rescripted to resist rather than reinforce taken-for-granted, restrictive gender roles and to provide an empowering reading experience to adolescent girls. All the texts under analysis foreground, albeit to varying degrees, the stories of girls’ sexual curiosity and awakening—a narrative interest shared by both the vampire and girl coming-of-age stories. These include a number of celebratory accounts of female pleasure, erotic agency and confident exploration of girls’ desires, as well as raising, mostly in Mead’s series, the question of responsible sex. Equality in sexual relationships and the matter of consent are often brought to the forefront. In contrast to many other vampire and paranormal romance tales which normalise, 1 In fact, P.C. and Kristin Cast have pointed to the relatability of their characters as one of the key objectives of their writing projects (Forgotten 255; Baker 2015).

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romanticise and legitimise male-on-female abuse and reiterate the narratives of rape mythology, both the Casts’ and Mead’s series attempt to unmask the individual and the structural mechanisms of violence against girls and women. Their storylines seek to implode the tales of rape culture, clearly differentiating between consent and desire, and featuring narratives of rape and female rape-revenge that depict sexual abuse as deserving severe punishment. Furthermore, the House of Night series, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines all raise important questions about young women and schooling. With their relevant and student-oriented educational programmes, curricula that admit feminist perspectives (House of Night ), a compelling portrayal of an empowered girl STEM genius, and an array of young characters who display varying levels of academic engagement (Bloodlines and Vampire Academy), these series certainly stand out among other vampire texts for young women. These original, radical streaks, however, are interlaced with conventional and/or regressive threads and resolutions that emphasise stereotypical and oppressive visions of adolescent girlhood. Reproducing hegemonic discourses and dominant power structures, such storylines leave some of the series’ transformative potential untapped and discarded. Envisioning and exploring alternative iterations of girlhood, the Casts’ and Mead’s supernatural heroines remain—in some aspects and to various degrees—limited by patriarchal discourses and ideals. In all the series, the heroines’ bodies rigidly conform to conventional standards of beauty, restricting the range of desirable body images to a narrowly defined model. Furthermore, in the pages of House of Night, “ugly” bodies are often excluded, abjectified or vilified, and the trope of fat shaming recurs throughout the novels. The heavy emphasis on the “right” style and appearance obtained through the practices of high-end consumerism reinforces the series’ message of bodily image as essential to girls’ social and romantic success, and aligns “girl power” with the classed culture of bodily perfection. A number of the radical narratives centred on sexuality and romance prove to be temporary when, as the story progresses, they become rewritten along more traditional lines. The disruptive trope of polyandry, one promising to shake the hegemonic ideals of romance and to return the vampire into the realm of queerness, comes into the story only to be eventually tossed aside as harmful and unrealistic. In adherence to the culturally sanctioned model of feminine fulfilment, each and every central girl heroine is granted the reassuringly familiar romantic happy

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ending, and the romanticised promise of eternal love remains largely intact. Highlighting the fragility of the contemporary postfeminist narratives of the sexually emancipated and empowered girlhood, in many cases girls’ sexual activities continue to be located within the frames of danger and emotional pain. Sexual reputation is frequently equated with morality and respectability, and in House of Night, the tales of extreme slut shaming and the demonisation of “excessive” female sexual energies sit right alongside the promises of affirmative depictions of female desire. Although the novels speak against rape mythology and repeatedly highlight the essentiality of consent, some rapists not only remain unpunished but become redeemed and elevated to the position of romantic heroes. At the same time, a number of rape survivors are portrayed as de-individualised victims, foolish girls or broken women that evolve into sexualised villainesses. Within the context of school and academic performance, the House of Night ’s promise of a progressive and inclusive classroom experience is to a large extent rendered hollow as it becomes stifled by the gendered narratives of academic identities and skills. Studiousness and academic excellence is presented as colliding with the vision of desirable girlhood, and girls are shown as ostentatiously disengaged from classroom learning. This negative message is further reinforced through the series’ stereotypical representations of women as incompetent in STEM subjects and, therefore, bound by social conventions that deny them entry into spaces traditionally reserved for men. These polarised representations are suggestive of the powerful tensions emerging from various competing ideologies of adolescent femininity that this volume has aimed to reveal. Throughout the book, I have sought to shed light on the many ways in which the fantastic narratives of girls and vampires pull to the surface, mediate and negotiate the complexities of contemporary girlhood. Historically figured as a dangerous disruption to the established social order, the quintessence of female sexual voraciousness and lack of restraint, or an innocent or collusive victim of the vampire’s bite (Wisker 2016, 159)—the new vampire girl, or the vampire’s girlfriend, is rarely configured as the Other onto whom to project the cultural fears of the nonconforming woman. Instead, she has come to articulate the joys and struggles of growing up a girl in the twenty-first century, and can tell us much about the dynamic transformations of contemporary girlhood, offering new insights into the figure of the vampire as a cultural metaphor for human experience.

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References Anyiwo, U. Melissa. 2016. Beautifully Broken: True Blood’s Tara Thornton as the Black Best Friend. In Gender in the Vampire Narrative, ed. Amanda Hobson, and U. Melissa Anyiwo, 93–108. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Auerbach, Nina. 1995. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Baker, Jeff. 2015. Kristin Cast, co-author of “House of night” series, moves to Portland, writes new book. The Oregonian/OregonLive, June 2. Accessed October 3, 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/books/2015/06/kristin_c ast_co-author_of_hous.html. Bellas, Athena. 2017. Fairy Tales on the Teen Screen: Rituals of Girlhood. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Byron, Glennis, and Sharon Deans. 2014. Teen Gothic. In The Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic, ed. Jerrold E. Hogle, 87–106. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Cart, Michael. 2016. Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism. Chicago: American Library Association. Cast, P.C., and Kristin Cast. 2019. Forgotten. Ashland, OR: Blackstone Publishing. Kindle edition. ——— 2020. Found. London: Head of Zeus. Kindle edition. Darragh, Janine J. 2016. Beyond Cruel: Female Heroines and Third-Wave Feminism in the Vampire Academy Series. In Girls’ Series Fiction and American Popular Culture, ed. LuElla D’Amico, 251–267. Lanham, Boulder, New York, London: Lexington Books. Franck, Mia. 2013. Skamlig flickläsning. Flickvampyrer på internatskola i House of Night-serien. In Flicktion. Perspektiv på flickan i fiktionen, eds. Eva Söderberg, Mia Österlund, and Bodil Formark, 208–221. Malmö: Universus Academic Press. Green Stephanie. Forthcoming. Vampire Apocalypse and the Evolutionary Sublime: The “End of Days” in John Logan’s Penny Dreadful. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, special issue “Vampiric Transformations: The Popular Politics of the (Post) Romantic Vampire.” Courtesy of the Author. James, Kathryn. 2009. Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature. New York and London: Routledge. Jowett, Lorna. 2010. Rape, Power, Realism and the Fantastic on Television. In Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Violence and Violation, eds. Sorcha Gunne, and Zoë Brigley Thompson, 217–231. New York and London: Routledge. Lundberg, Anita. 2008. Material Poetics of a Malay House. T he Australian Journal of Anthropology 19 (1): 1–16.

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Łuksza, Agata. 2015. Sleeping with a Vampire. Feminist Media Studies 15 (3): 429–443. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2014.945607. Mutch, Deborah. 2013. Introduction: “A Swarm of Chuffing Draculas”: The Vampire in English and American Literature. In The Modern Vampire and Human Identity, ed. Deborah Mutch, 55–75. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Ramos-García, María T. 2020. Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. In The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction, eds. Jayashree Kamblé, Eric Murphy Selinger, and Hsu-Ming Teo. London and New York: Routledge. Rose, Jonathan. 1992. Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences. Journal of the History of Ideas 53.1 (January–March): 47–70. Roy, Fisher, Harris Ann, and Christine Jarvis. 2008. Education in Popular Culture: Telling Tales on Teachers and Learners. London and New York: Routledge. Schou, Solvej. 2009. Women sink their teeth into urban fantasy novels. SFgate, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17. Accessed June 27, 2020. https://web.arc hive.org/web/20090720193327/http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article. cgi?f=%2Fn%2Fa%2F2009%2F07%2F17%2Fentertainment%2Fe031338D77. DTL#ixzz5MLShkuOe. Seth, Vikram. 1993. A Suitable Boy. London: Phoenix House. Smith, Michelle J., and Kristine Moruzi. 2018. Vampires and Witches Go to School: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, Gender, and the Gothic. Children’s Literature in Education 49: 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583018-9343-0. Trotman Reid, Pamela, Cooper, Shauna M., and Kira Hudson Banks. 2008. Girls to Women: Developmental Theory, Research, and Issues. In Psychology of Women: A Handbook of Issues and Theories, eds. Florence L. Denmark, and Michele A. Paludi, 237–270. Westport, Connecticut, London: Praeger. Second edition. Waller, Alison. 2009. Constructing Adolescence in Fantastic Realism. New York and London: Routledge. Wilhelm, Jeffrey D., and Michael W. Smith. 2014. Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—And Why We Should Let Them. New York: Scholastic. Wisker, Gina. 2016. Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction: Carnival, Hauntings and Vampire Kisses. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Index

A Abuse.. See Rape; Violence against women Academic achievement/engagement and gender, 15, 217, 224, 235, 238, 240, 247, 265 and popularity, 230, 234, 238, 239, 247 and romantic desirability, 234, 237–239, 245 see also Schooling/vampire schools; STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competence Ageing/aged bodies exclusion of, 36, 37 fear of, 34, 35, 37 immortality, 34, 36, 38 inclusion of, 38, 65 Anyiwo, U. Melissa, 5, 100, 126, 257 Archer, Louise, 217, 224, 225, 239, 247 Auerbach, Nina, 6, 26, 36, 64, 93, 204, 260

Averill, Lindsay, 40–42, 58, 59

B Beauty and female success, 24, 34, 38, 40, 42, 44, 52, 58, 247, 264 culture, 24, 32, 34, 40, 41, 44, 57, 170, 263 lack of, 32–33, 46–50 vampire as ideal of, 25, 32, 33, 40, 42, 45 Beauty and the Beast, 15, 173, 174, 176, 181, 182, 203 Bellas, Athena, 8, 24, 25, 55, 58, 64, 126, 144, 160, 170, 179, 258 Blood consumption, 220 and consent, 185, 223 and friendship, 98, 107, 131, 135, 154 and sexual arousal, 98, 107, 130, 131, 135, 199 blood whore/blood-whoring, 152, 154

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 A. Stasiewicz-Bienkowska, ´ Girls in Contemporary Vampire Fiction, Palgrave Gothic, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71744-5

269

270

INDEX

Bloodlines, Richelle Mead, 9, 12, 25, 38, 39, 44, 56, 65, 79, 89, 94–96, 99, 126, 136, 140, 152, 158, 172, 190, 192, 194, 198, 204, 216, 218, 227, 228, 230, 235, 237, 244–246, 248, 261, 263 Body, female, 128, 140 as space of conflict between men, 178–179 dis/satisfaction with, 24, 40, 41, 44–46 girl cultures, centrality of, 23–25, 42, 45 in action, 56, 63, 187, 198 scrutiny of, 24, 34, 43–45, 52, 53 Body, vampiric, 159 constitution of, 25–27, 44 eyes, 33, 48, 49 fangs, 26, 27, 32 mouth, 48, 49 see also Ageing/aged bodies; Beauty; Fat/ness, fat vampire; Thinness, thin vampire; Youthfulness skin, 14, 33, 36, 38, 48 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon, 2, 7, 76, 110, 125, 136, 138, 146, 216, 220 Byron, Glennis, 2, 3, 11, 125, 131, 260 C Cast, Kristin, 1, 3, 9, 12, 25, 26, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 112, 126, 172, 218, 232, 261, 263 Cast, Phyllis Christine, 1, 3, 9, 11, 12, 25, 26, 79, 80, 83–85, 91, 99, 112, 126, 130, 135, 161, 172, 196, 218, 220, 260–263 Consent, 15 and blood sharing, 27, 88, 131, 134, 185

and desire, 15, 177, 185, 187, 188, 264 explicit/verbal, 184, 185 refusal of, 184, 185 validity/age of, 135, 137 value of, 88, 170, 184, 185, 223, 263 Consumerism, 14, 25, 56, 264 and vampirism/vampire, 53, 56, 65, 66 in girl cultures, 24, 25, 54, 55, 66 Crossen, Carys, 35, 78, 79, 125, 128, 138, 144, 179, 180, 183, 197, 216, 236, 249

D Damsel in distress, 61, 178, 197, 198 Darragh, Janine J., 39, 56, 57, 126, 144, 159, 262 Deans, Sharon, 2, 3, 11, 125, 131, 260 Deffenbacher, Kristina, 87, 170, 181, 185, 186, 200, 205, 206 DeMello, Margo, 23, 24, 34, 40, 41, 45, 47, 56, 58 Desire adolescent, 106, 125, 138, 141 forbidden, 89, 97, 125, 132, 136 same-sex, 14, 77, 79, 97, 106–110 Dhaenens, Frederik, 77, 81, 82, 97, 98, 100, 103–106, 108, 111 Dis/ability/Illness, 38, 39, 234, 236, 240 Dracula, Bram Stoker, 48, 77, 124, 147 Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1, 76, 171 Driscoll, Catherine, 35, 54, 127, 128, 133, 217 Dyer, Richard, 76, 77, 97, 101, 109, 124, 131

INDEX

F Farrimond, Katherine, 127–129, 140, 144–146 Fat/ness and death, 44 fat shaming, 40–43, 264 fat vampire, 42–44 in girl culture, 40–42 Fisher, Roy, 24, 46, 133, 139, 140, 143, 158, 217, 220, 222, 238, 244, 257 Franck, Mia, 1, 3, 4, 32, 51, 52, 78, 98, 151, 215, 217, 259 Friendship, 49, 52, 63, 66, 87, 94, 99, 103, 109, 135, 139, 155, 156, 218, 230, 246

G George, Sam, 2, 6, 7, 76 Gothic body, 128 romance, 3, 4, 35, 86 see also Schoolhouse Gothic; Schooling/vampire schools; Virginity, in Gothic/horror fiction; Violence against women, in Gothic/paranormal romance sexuality, 124, 128 skin, 14, 28 teen/YA fiction, 2, 3, 10, 76, 173, 216

H Harris, Anita, 55, 215, 224 Harris, Ann, 46, 222 Heller-Nicholas, Alexandra, 97, 124, 191, 203 Heteronormativity, 80, 129 assumption of heterosexuality, 101

271

compulsory heterosexuality, 77, 101, 102 in YA vampire fiction, 78 resistance against., 101, 102, 105, 108. See also Polyandry; Queer/ness Twilight , 78 Hobson, Amanda, 5, 97, 147, 148 Homophobia/ic, 14, 77, 102, 103, 109, 110 Homosexual/ity, 14, 53, 160, 241 in House of Night , 99–102, 104, 105, 107, 109, 113, 160 lesbian vampress, 77, 97, 108, 109, 124 vampirism as expression of, 77, 97, 109 Homosexual relationships and vampire society, 101, 113 death in, 109–111 gay relationships, 100, 111, 160 lesbian relationships, 99, 100, 108–110 House of Night: Other World, P.C. and Kristin Cast, 9, 12, 25, 39, 53, 79, 89, 91, 99, 101, 102, 105, 106, 108, 111, 126, 172, 196, 218, 220, 222, 232 House of Night, P.C. and Kristin Cast, 1, 3, 9, 12, 25, 30, 36, 43, 79, 87, 89, 91, 93, 96, 99, 105, 109, 126, 129–132, 135, 137, 141, 144, 147, 150, 156, 159–161, 172, 183, 185, 201, 230, 240, 241, 261 Hughes, William, 2, 6, 7, 76–78, 111, 124, 131

J Jarvis, Christine, 47, 140, 220, 222, 246, 249

272

INDEX

Jowett, Lorna, 173, 178, 205, 224, 225, 259, 260

K Kane, Kathryn, 48, 76, 78, 95, 98 Knight in distress, 198 Knowledge, 142 desire for, 234, 235 pursuance of, 216, 234, 241 vampire as intellectual being, 216 Kokkola, Lydia, 2, 35, 38, 39, 76, 77, 79, 81, 87, 90, 91, 95, 99, 102, 106, 108, 110, 113, 123, 129, 138, 139, 141, 144, 145, 147, 174, 177, 188, 189

L Łuksza, Agata, 9, 81, 125, 129, 177, 179, 181, 197, 198, 259

M Magic and girl empowerment, 46, 63, 155, 156, 198, 199, 229 elemental, 105, 198, 228, 248, 262 gendered, 105, 147, 248 vampiric, 27, 29, 39, 50, 107, 177, 189, 190, 228 Magical bond, 79, 81, 84, 88, 96, 108 consent, irrelevance of, 15, 86, 87, 174 female agency, 87, 88 friendship, 87, 227, 230 see also Romantic relationships; Soul mate Makeover, female as subversion and resistance, 14, 26, 59, 61, 63 Cinderella, 58, 62–64

girl agency, 59–61, 63, 64 girl mobility, 60, 61, 63 Marked, The, Bianca Scardoni, 13, 93, 174, 175 McRobbie, Angela, 55 Mead, Richelle, 3, 9, 11–13, 25–27, 29–31, 33, 36–39, 44, 48, 56, 61, 63, 65, 66, 79, 87, 89, 92–95, 98, 99, 107, 112–114, 126, 132, 136, 139–143, 152, 157, 159, 160, 162, 172, 183, 184, 186, 197, 199, 205, 218, 226–228, 237, 247–249, 261–263 Moruzi, Kristine, 2, 3, 10, 36, 42, 76, 78, 86, 98, 136, 139, 155, 156, 173, 197, 215, 217, 262, 263 Muehlenhard, Charlene L., 186, 188, 201 Mutch, Deborah, 257

N Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha, 6, 7, 32, 45, 54, 77, 124, 131, 216 Night Huntress, Jeaniene Frost, 147

O Oliver, Kelly, 169, 170, 174, 181, 186 Originals, The, Julie Plec, 141

P Peterson, Zoë D., 186, 188, 201 Piatti-Farnell, Lorna, 2, 6, 9, 10, 24–28, 30, 32, 34–36, 48, 49, 53, 54, 56, 75, 86, 124, 131, 159 Polyandry, 79, 81, 85 and female empowerment, 79, 80, 82, 84

INDEX

and vampire matriarchal society, 80–82 House of Night , 14, 79–82, 84, 264 rejection of, 81–85, 113. See also Queer/ness Pomerantz, Shauna, 24, 25, 51, 59, 238, 239, 244, 245 Postfeminism, postfeminist, 37, 51, 55, 128, 151, 161, 178, 261, 265 Priest, Hannah, 59, 78, 79, 100, 103, 104, 107, 108, 125, 129, 135, 149, 180

Q Queer/ness identity, 97, 106, 108, 111 of the vampire, 14, 76–79, 98, 107, 263 resistance, 81, 82, 101, 111 Twilight , 78, 79

R Raby, Rebecca, 24, 238, 239, 244, 245 Rape, 7, 134, 170, 185, 202 as un/forgivable, 178, 181, 194, 195, 207 blood/fang rape, 171, 175, 177, 181, 185, 198 incestuous, 191 speaking of, 178, 189, 190, 192, 201, 205 Rape Mythology/Myths, 140, 170, 171, 185, 195, 200, 207 Burt, Martha, 140, 146, 175, 176, 185, 193, 200 reiteration of, 170, 175, 176, 178, 179, 189, 202

273

resistance against, 172, 187, 193, 203. See also Beauty and the Beast Rape-revenge, 172, 178, 193, 195 as destructive, 196, 204 as feminist narrative, 193 as restoration of justice, 190, 193, 195 female avengeress, 172, 193, 195, 200 Rape survivor, 194 anti-rape activism, 194, 204 as madwoman/villainess, 196, 204 overcoming trauma, 192, 194, 195, 204 see also Shame/shaming Rapist as romantic hero, 181, 207, 265 as vampiric figure/monster, 181, 191–193, 195, 203 Renold, Emma, 149–151, 155, 238–240, 244 Reynolds, Kimberley, 113, 123, 133, 144, 159 Ringrose, Jessica, 149–151, 155 Romantic relationships, 111 as mandatory resolution, 58, 76, 81, 92, 112, 264 heterosexual, 62, 76, 108, 113 marriage/marital-like bonds, 63, 94–96, 141, 236 power dynamics in, 78, 79, 114, 197, 198, 244, 245, 263 Romeo and Juliet, 90–92, 132 see also Beauty and the Beast, Homosexual relationships; Magical bond; Polyandry; Sexual relationships; Soul mate; Violence against women, romanticisation of vampire patriarchal paradigm, subversion of, 11, 63, 66, 93,

274

INDEX

94, 96, 114, 132, 137, 140, 143, 184, 199, 236, 237, 263 S Santos, Cristina, 126–129, 145, 146, 159, 160, 183 Schoolhouse Gothic, 216, 218 Schooling/vampire schools, 12, 15, 101, 105, 130, 142 as critique of human education, 220, 221, 247 curriculum, 218, 219, 221, 223, 247, 264 education, value of, 221, 222, 235, 249 House of Night, 43, 47, 80, 104, 109, 218–220, 222 see also Academic achievement/engagement; Knowledge; Schoolhouse Gothic; STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competence St. Vladimir’s Academy, 99, 142, 234, 246 Schubart, Rikke, 9, 126, 178, 180, 203, 205 Seelinger Trites, Roberta, 8, 129, 138 Sexuality, female celebration of, 97, 128, 130, 140, 142, 146, 147 demonisation of, 125, 147, 148, 265 excess of, 124, 146, 148, 150, 158 postfeminist context, 129, 146, 151, 161 see also Blood consumption, and sexual arousal; Desire, same-sex; Sexual relationships; Slut shaming sexual agency, 126, 134, 137, 140–142, 146, 160

sexual awakening, 14, 124, 128, 131–133, 158, 160 Sexual relationships adolescent sex, 123, 125, 126, 130, 138, 160 initiation, 128, 132, 139, 140, 142–146, 159 pleasure, 82, 98, 130, 148, 159, 161 power dynamics in, 79, 124, 132, 133, 138, 159, 183 safe sex/birth control, 141, 142, 159, 263 same-sex, 106, 112 teacher-student unions, 132, 133, 136–138, 159 trauma, 138, 139, 159, 160 vampiric seduction, 75, 82, 133– 135, 139, 147, 171, 177, 180 Shade of Vampire,A, Bella Forrest, 13, 35, 81, 93, 95, 141, 169, 174, 179, 181, 216, 236 Shame/shaming, 77, 89 female body, 24, 45 girl cultures, 3–5 of rape survivors, 150, 188, 189, 192, 200, 204, 265 vampire reading, 3, 4 Slut shaming, 127, 149 belonging, 151, 152, 156 blood whore/blood-whoring, 153–155, 157, 158, 162 class, 150, 152, 153 consequences of, 154, 162 defensive othering, 155, 156 gender, 157, 158, 162 respectability/reputation, 149, 151, 153, 155, 156, 162, 200, 265 Smith, Michelle J., 2, 3, 10, 36, 42, 76, 78, 86, 98, 136, 139, 155,

INDEX

156, 173, 197, 215, 217, 262, 263 Soul mate, 86, 89, 144 existence of/belief in., 86, 89, 90. See also Romantic relationships loss/death of, 90, 92, 110, 111. See also Homosexual relationships one true love paradigm, 78, 79, 86, 89, 90, 111 romanticised suicide, 90–92 see also Romantic relationships Southern Vampire Mysteries,The, Charlaine Harris, 9, 54, 77, 81, 93, 132, 142, 171, 180, 189, 236 Steinke, Jocelyn, 224, 225, 230, 248 STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competence and gender, 15, 224, 225, 248 and magic, 226, 229, 230 as incongruent with desirable femininity, 240 as instrument of repression, 229 girl genius scientist, 31, 40, 225, 228, 248, 264 Style and belonging, 24, 25, 51, 52 as oppression, 60–62 as resistance, 24, 51, 59–61, 64, 66, 194 controlling girl-gaze, 52, 65, 150 T Tanenbaum, Leora, 150, 154, 155 Tattoo/ing, 25 and belonging, 28, 29 and consent, 30, 31 and gender, 28, 31, 32 as rite of passage, 29, 50 dhampir/warrior tattoos, 29–32 feminist understandings of, 28, 30

275

in Gothic/horror fiction, 28, 30 supernatural, 29, 30, 50 vampire tattoo, 14, 27–30, 50 Thinness as patriarchal oppression, 41, 45 cult of, 40, 41, 44 dieting/eating disorder, 40, 42, 45, 46 thin-thinking, 14, 41, 42 thin vampire, 40, 42–44 Torkelson, Anne, 78, 170, 174, 176, 177, 188, 195, 202, 205 True Blood, Allan Ball, 32, 42, 54, 77, 81, 110, 128, 129, 132, 147, 171, 197 True Blood, Allan Ball, 76, 124 Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, 3, 7, 27, 32, 33, 35, 78, 93, 81, 86, 90, 93–95, 124, 125, 139, 141, 142, 144, 146, 147, 173, 176, 178, 180, 183, 190, 195, 197, 205, 216, 249, 259, 236, 261 U Ugliness/ugly bodies as sign of moral corruption, 47, 49, 65 exclusion of, 33, 37, 46, 47 see also Ageing/aged bodies; Fat/ness V Vampire Academy, Mark Waters, 113, 153 Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead, 3, 9, 11, 12, 25, 29, 37, 39, 44, 56, 65, 79, 92, 94, 98, 107, 126, 130, 136, 142, 152, 162, 172, 182, 183, 197, 199, 204, 218, 226, 230, 233, 241, 248

276

INDEX

Vampire Diaries, The, Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec, 8, 28, 32, 54, 81, 86, 88, 124, 126, 128, 146, 177, 179, 180, 189, 197, 204, 205, 216, 236 Vampire Diaries,The, L.J. Smith, 2, 7, 13, 26, 35, 54, 81, 126, 130, 177, 205 Vampire fiction, YA, 7, 125, 130, 131, 141, 160 condemnation of, 3, 4, 259 popularity of, 1–3, 5, 6, 11, 25, 259, 260, 263 reception of, 4, 33, 82, 88, 110, 112, 125, 195, 221, 259 Vampire Gift, The, E.M. Knight, 174 Vampire society/community, 12, 27, 47, 54, 80, 82, 96, 103, 113, 147, 157, 159, 161, 184, 193, 218, 234, 235 Vampirism and conservatism, 5, 78, 112, 126, 131, 160, 261 as adolescence, 2, 25, 29, 35, 131 as metaphor for human existence, 6, 26, 261, 265 as radical narrative, 5, 76, 112, 264 as salvation, 93, 103, 177, 204, 260, 262 transformation, 26, 32, 33, 35, 44, 49, 78, 93, 131, 177, 182, 193, 204, 262 Violence against women abduction, 93, 169, 171, 174, 182, 198 and dark magic, 174, 175, 177, 180, 201, 206 as structural problem, 184, 193, 197, 202 bruises and wounds, 170, 174, 181, 188–192

domestic/intimate partner abuse, 15, 171, 172, 181, 182, 187, 188, 190, 203 drugging, 169, 171, 174, 180, 187, 199, 203, 205 in Gothic/paranormal romance, 87, 170, 171, 173, 188, 202, 205 in popular/girl cultures, 169–171, 173, 176, 188 punishment for, 177, 201, 205 resistance against., 190, 197. See also Beauty and the Beast; Rape Mythology/Myths romanticisation of, 169, 170, 172, 173, 181, 186, 202 sexual, 162, 170, 183. See also Rape trivialisation of, 169, 172, 176, 177. See also Rape Mythology/Myths Violence, female, 194 girl empowerment, 178, 198, 204 monstress/vampiric predatoress, 5, 48–50, 127, 147, 196 see also Rape-revenge self-defence, 170, 178, 187, 197–200, 204 uncontrollable, 147, 200, 204 warrioress, 12, 30, 32, 172, 182, 187, 197 Virginity, 14 and female agency, 137–138, 140–146 feminist understandings of, 128, 145 in Gothic/horror fiction, 128 loss of, 128, 132, 138–140, 144, 145, 160 value of, 127, 128, 139, 140, 145, 146 virginal vampress, 129

INDEX

W What We Do in the Shadows , 37 Wisker, Gina, 5, 9, 27, 75–77, 79, 86, 97, 124, 125, 260, 261, 265 Witch/Witchcraft, 9, 31, 38, 39, 65, 110, 127, 136, 198, 218, 229, 230, 235, 236, 246, 248

Y Youthfulness, 37, 136 desire for, 25, 35, 38 vampiric, 34–36, 38

277