The House of Night series has been on my TBR list for a long time! The series was actually banned in 2009 for "sexual content and nudity." Interestingly, the series hadn't even been completed at that point so it is quite ridiculous for all future novels in the series to be banned when they have no idea whether there is any objectionable content! By contrast, this book won the 2007 Romantic Times (RT) Reviewers' Choice Award for Young Adult.
The story takes place in an alternate universe where vampyres (that is how it is spelled in the book) share the world with humans although they live separately (at least they do in this novel).
In certain people, a physiological reaction takes place that triggers a part of their DNA that will eventually result in the person becoming a vampyre. It is thought that this takes place during adolescence, due to the increase in hormones during puberty. Such an individual will be destined to become "marked." A certain type of vampyre called a Tracker will place a crescent moon mark on the forehead of a person who has been chosen to become a vampyre. The mark is like a tattoo, but it is an outline only. Once a person receives that mark, they say good-bye to their old life and move to the House of Night which is a private boarding school in Tulsa's Midtown where they will live for the next four years learning all about the history of vampyres and what they can expect in the future. A marked person, or fledgling, has a very limited amount of time to come to the House of Night. They feel as though they are dying, which is true because their body is changing. Not everyone will survive the Change to become a full-fledged vampyre. The mark on the forehead becomes filled in once the Change is complete. Someone who has had special gifts bestowed upon them by Nyx, the Vampyre Goddess that they worship, is destined to become a High Priestess. Those chosen ones will also develop additional embellishments upon their body to set them apart from regular vamps. In Greek mythology, Nyx is the Goddess of the Night.
Zoey Redbird is a 16 year-old teenager from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma who feels as though she doesn’t belong. Her dad left when she was just two years old, and her mom remarried when she was 13 years old. Zoey’s new step-father, John, is a bit of a religious fanatic. He feels that Zoey is a problem child and, since they married, Zoey feels that her mother isn’t really on her side anymore. Zoey feels that if her mom and John only knew what her siblings were up to that they wouldn't think she was the black sheep. She refuses to hide who she is and, for that reason, she gets into trouble. When Zoey becomes marked, she turns to her Grandmother Redbird who is the only one she feels will understand. Her grandmother is a Cherokee, and she has taught Zoey some of the old ways. While trying to find her grandmother in the lavender fields around her home, Zoey falls and hits her head and has a spiritual experience where she meets Nyx who tells her that she is something special because of her mix of Cherokee ancestry and vampyre destiny. She kisses the mark upon Zoey’s forehead and, when Zoey awakens, she finds out that her grandmother has brought her to the House of Night. Her mentor is a High Priestess named Neferet. Zoey stands out as different than other fledglings because her mark has filled in ever since her spiritual meeting with Nyx. She instinctively knows that she is not to reveal to anyone what has occurred.
Right off the hop, Zoey gets off on the wrong foot with Aphrodite, who is the "Queen Bee" of the fledglings. She runs a special clique called the Dark Daughters, and she thinks she is destined to become a High Priestess. Aphrodite tries to bully Zoey around, but Zoey stands up to her which earns her the respect of her small circle of peers. Aphrodite is jealous of all the attention that Zoey is receiving because of her mark and what she believes is preferential treatment from Neferet.
I really like the alternate world that the Casts have created. Just as wizards must go to Hogwarts to receive training, the vamps must go to the House of Night. I like that Zoey is a strong-willed girl who doesn't let anyone push her around. Even when she is afraid, she demonstrates a lot of courage. The clash between Aphrodite and Zoey is typical high-school behaviour, along with the bullying and cliques. I felt as though I was right back in high school! However, because of the sexual situations in the book, I would recommend this for the upper end of the Young Adult range. Zoey's lack of parental support really saddened me, and I felt sorry for her. It was nice to see Zoey's strong bond with her grandmother, which is absent for so many kids nowadays, and I hope that we will see more of Grandma Redbird!
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more of the series! I am hoping that the maturity level of the characters will develop as they get older.