One of the best YA vampire novels I’ve ever read, COMPANIONS OF THE NIGHT (1995) by Vivian Vande Velde, came out when vampire romance was becoming popular in the adult market but hadn’t yet filtered into YA fiction in a big way. This novel has romantic elements but is definitely not a conventional romance.
Sixteen-year-old Kerry goes to a laundromat in the middle of the night to retrieve her little brother’s lost teddy bear and finds herself entangled in a fight between a group of apparently crazy fanatics and a teenage boy they claim is a vampire. Unsure whether Kerry may be a vampire, too, the hunters tie her up along with the boy, Ethan. She manages to free herself and save Ethan. The hunters haven’t given up, though. Now convinced that Kerry is either a vampire or in the process of turning, they kidnap her father and brother. When they kill Regina, a friend of Ethan’s, he and Kerry join forces to track down the hunters. The reader isn’t surprised to discover Ethan actually is a vampire. He never reveals his true age, but he drops hints that it’s measured in centuries.
Kerry is quite rationally terrified of Ethan but compelled to trust him during the time they spend together on their quest. He has his own agenda, with rescuing Kerry’s family only a side issue for him. She can never be sure how much he’s lying to and manipulating her. Her choices highlight the ethical problem of making an alliance with a creature she knows to be a killer. Vande Velde makes Ethan alluring but never lets us forget how dangerous he is. When Kerry confronts the remaining hunter, Professor Marsala, his arguments turn her perceptions of Ethan inside out. Vande Velde also makes us feel sorry for the Professor, who lost his son to what he thinks of as a vampire’s corruption but which was probably normal adolescent rebellion. Yet Marsala, like the vampires, has killed people. By the end of the story, Kerry has to make hard choices, and the bond between her and Ethan has become powerful and complicated. COMPANIONS OF THE NIGHT is only one example of Vande Velde’s characteristically innovative treatment of familiar tropes, another of my favorites being DRAGON’S BAIT.
Margaret L. Carter