How Far Would You Go To Protect Your Best Friend?

Richelle Mead. Vampire Academy. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

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Vampire Academy is the first book in Richelle Mead’s same-titled series. Published in 2007, this is a relatively new addition to the recent popular wave of “vampire literature”.

The book is set at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for young vampires (called Moroi) and dhampirs (half human, half vampire guardians-in-training for the Moroi). Together, the Moroi and the dhampirs, receive their respective academic and vampiric educations here.

The story is told in first person by Rose, a high school senior and dhampir. She has an unusual bond where she can see inside the mind of her Moroi friend, Lissa, who is part of the royal family, and requires special protection. The book opens up with the two of them forcibly returning to St. Vladimir’s after two years on the run in the human world.

Much of the plot deals with both Lissa and Rose dealing with problems not only of a normal teenager, but also with the requirements imposed upon them by their world. Amidst dealing with guys, sex, popularity shifts, dances, parties, and academics, they also must cope with their roles in the vampire society. While Lissa struggles with specialization in her magic, as well as a mysterious trauma plaguing her dorm, Rose begins to take training to be a guardian (specifically Lissa’s) much more seriously.

This balancing act paired with great mystery and the constant threat of the Strigoi (vampires turned evil) make for a very atypical high school experience. Both Rose and Lissa face a significant set of challenges on their respective paths, and deal with them in different ways.

When an unforeseen difficulty crops up involving family secrets, politics, and betrayal, Lissa’s livelihood is threatened, and both she and Rose are forced to act and make decisions that propel them to levels of greater maturity, while also learning a thing or two about themselves.

Recommendations for Teachers

While this book may not be an academic recommendation, it could absolutely be recommended as a book to be read for pleasure. The intended audience would be upper middle school to high school age girls; however it is important to note that the main characters in the story are portrayed as seniors in high school, and therefore add a more mature tone to the plot. As a teacher recommending the book to a student, it would be important to preface the themes that are present throughout, to gauge the appropriateness of the text in regards to the individual student.

Much of the book confronts problems often found in a high school setting, making it easy for students to relate to. Mead discusses the idea of fitting in and conforming to the different cliques in school. She shows perspectives of the popular groups, the average students that fly under the social radar, and the outcasts. The struggle of creating and maintain friendships and relationships is also a big aspect of the story; whether that be with dating or close friends. Sex is also broadly discussed. The drama of sexual rumors being spread, the loss of virginity, and the idea of lust versus love are all present. Also, the plot is rich with the theme of coming of age. The characters mature as the story progresses, and the struggles of high school become more unimportant as more pressing dramas occur.

While this book may not be appropriate for the classroom, it does have many qualities that promote higher thinking. For example, the elaborate society that Mead creates could lead into discussions over societies in general. Also, the novel has great examples of unique literary techniques such as: foreshadowing, symbolism, plot twists, flash forwards, and the use of an unreliable narrator.

Vampire Academy made the Top Ten New York Times Best Seller Children’s Book Series Division, made the list of Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, made the ALA’s teen top ten, and was recommended by booklist and VOYA.

About Richelle Mead
Richelle Mead is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series. She also has two other urban fantasy series geared toward adults, the Georgina Kincaid series and the Dark Swan series. A Michigan native, Mead now lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband. In addition to having a liberal arts degree from the University of Michigan and an MA in Comparative Religions from Western Michigan University, she also has a Masters in Teaching from the University of Washington. Currently she is writing full-time. Mead has been an avid reader all her life, taking a special interest in mythology and folklore.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

In this video, Author Richelle Mead describes her inspiration for the novel and explains the book's premise.

A report on the recent popularity surge of vampires in pop culture

This is a fictional, fan-made trailer for the novel.

Interview with Richelle Mead - In this interview, the author discusses her writing process, the challenges of writing a Young Adult novel, and gives advice to aspiring writers.
A Personal Radio Interview with Richelle Mead -In this interview with an Australian radio show, Mead discusses the Vampire Academy series as well as her personal life.

Additional Resources:

Written by: Maureen Barnaby, Nicole Baniukaitis, Alicia Smith, Kristen Rakowicz, and Nick Assaf.