Blood and Chocolate
Grade : B+

Blood and Chocolate was one of the first werewolf books I read, and it's still one of my favorites, second only to Kelley Armstrong's Bitten. I stumbled across it on a list of recommended young adult books. It was a 1998 American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for teens, which basically means that this book is good and it's good from word one - good enough to get a non-reader to read. It's got everything: action, adventure, love, betrayal, blood, chocolate. It'll grab you and not let go until the last page.

Vivian is a sixteen-year-old werewolf whose father, the pack's alpha, was killed in a fire a year ago by vigilante arsonists. After his death, the pack fell apart, and they've had to regroup in a Maryland suburb under the care of Vivian's Uncle Rudy. This environment doesn't suit them very well, and Vivian worries that the close proximity to humans will lead to more deaths and, therefore, discovery.

Vivian is beautiful, and she's also the pack princess and the only young bitch available. A group of young werewolves called the Five are always posturing and trying to get her attention, but she is wary of them since their actions brought on her father's death. Instead she tries and succeeds in getting the attention of a "meat boy" named Aiden. Aiden is everything the Five are not - he's artistic, he's polite, he's considerate, he's sexually shy. Vivian feels confident around him and protective, but at the same time uncertain. Would he accept her if he knew what she really was? And why is his chocolate-like sweetness not entirely satisfying? Next to Gabriel, the contender for pack alpha, Aiden looks and acts like a boy. But Vivian is tired of being werewolf princess, or is she?

As a metaphor for adolescence, Vivian's werewolf condition works very well. She is in a constant state of change, and she enjoys both being a wolf and being a girl. Being a werewolf naturally isolates her from humans, and since she has isolated herself from the pack, she feels very much alone and unsure. She is forced to define her own identity, and she makes many missteps along the way.

Klause's werewolf world is nicely defined with plenty of detail. Lots of romance werewolves could be mistaken for human, but not Klause's. Vivian's pack has its own mythology, its own creation story, and its own vernacular. Instead of "Dear God," Vivian thinks and prays to "Dear Moon." She also senses the world not so much by sight, but by feel and smell. The world around her is tactile and full of odors - including those given off by emotion.

It's surprising that I liked Vivian so much. Usually I'm not much for sexually aggressive, dominant, athletic, earthy heroines. And Vivian is definitely all of those. She is indomitable by anything but her own fears. It is those insecurities that humanize her, however. And she is quite self-aware. It's hard to dislike people who see their own faults and dislike them too. She has the potential for greatness, and watching her come into it was a joy.

Although this book is marketed toward young adults, it's not one I would give to a young teen. The story contains violence, language, and sexuality and would be more suited to an older teen or adult reader. The only thing that I was a little put off by was Vivian's mother's methods of coping with her grief. She did not seem particularly maternal, and, for Vivian's sake, she should have pulled it together better.

Blood and Chocolate isn't a romance, but its romantic subplot was very satisfying. The character who finally wins Vivian is quite appealing and very well suited for her. This is a very good coming-of-age story for all age readers. It's getting close to Halloween now. Why not check out this werewolf story to get yourself in a spooky mood for the holiday?

Reviewed by Rachel Potter
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : October 8, 2003

Publication Date: 1999

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