The very first vampire book I read was Daughters of Darkness by L.J. Smith, the second book in her Night World series. It was enough to get me hooked, and I soon read my way through the rest of her works and beyond.
Daughters of Darkness was already about five years old then, The Vampire Diaries just over ten. In a few years a little book by the name of Twilight would be released, changing the face of vampires – not to mention young adult fiction – forever. Like blood from a torn artery, vampire books flooded the market, with most following the template Twilight set.
A few older books got a second chance and were reprinted, often with new covers that tried to echo the new vibe that was so popular, but they were overlooked – tiny things next to these massive tomes, standalones standing alone in a world of series.
Which is a shame, as I can think of three pre-Twilight standalone books worth your time.
The Silver Kiss by Anette Curtis Klause (1990)
Zoe is wary when, in the dead of night, the beautiful yet frightening Simon comes to her house. Simon seems to understand the pain of loneliness and death and Zoe’s brooding thoughts of her dying mother.
Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before. Does Simon dare ask Zoe to help free him from this lifeless chase and its insufferable loneliness?
The Silver Kiss is a story about death and the acceptance of it. Death is normal and a part of life. But it’s also hard and painful and not something easily accepted. And that’s especially hard when you’re a teenager and losing the centre of your world. A friend who can never ever leave you in the same way seems like a dream… only his dream is to leave you and this world as well.
As we titled the Bloodsucking Feminists’ episode on this book, “we legit cried”. You have been warned.
Look For Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn (1995)
When sixteen-year-old Cynda goes to stay with her father and his second wife, Susan, at their remote bed-and-breakfast inn in Maine, everything starts off well despite legends about ghosts and a murder at the inn. But Cynda feels like a visitor in Dad’s new life, an outsider. Then intense, handsome stranger Vincent Morthanos arrives at the inn and seems to return Cynda’s interest. At first she is blind to the subtle, insistent signs that Vincent is not what he seems-that he is, in fact, a vampire. Can Cynda free herself-and her family-from Vincent’s power before it’s too late?
This is a story about predators. Monsters that manipulate their victims, playing a long and twisted game that the prey is unaware of. There’s nothing romantic about a grown man’s attentions towards a teenage girl and the way he manipulates her family to get what he wants all the more easily.
Be warned, this is an uncomfortable read, especially in a sea of stories about much immortal older men and young human girls.
The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein (2002)
At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, a sixteen-year-old girl records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. The object of her obsession is her room-mate, Lucy Blake, and Lucy’s friendship with their new and disturbing classmate.
Ernessa is a mysterious presence with pale skin and hypnotic eyes. Around her swirl dark secrets and a series of ominous disasters. As fear spreads through her exclusive boarding school, fantasy and reality mingle into a waking nightmare of gothic menace, fuelled by the lusts and fears of adolescence.
And at the centre of it all is the question: Is Ernessa really a vampire? Or is the narrator trapped in her own fevered imagination?
This is the book about obsession. Just like its heavy influence, Carmilla, this is a story of friendship, love, and obsession. Imagine Carmilla set in an isolated boarding school instead of a castle, and Laura is witness to Bertha Rheinfeldt’s impending doom as she and Carmilla are entwined in their obsessions with each other. The book never quite gives up its secrets, leaving you to piece together what you think is what happened. Just as we do when looking back on the friendships that don’t survive high school but we can’t quite tell why.
Content warning for suicide, self-harm, and a teacher being inappropriate with a student.
There are a lot more YA vampire stories published before the release of Twilight, but these are the three that my mind keeps coming back to and I wish more people knew of them. Do you have any books like that? I’m looking to read more quiet/older/hidden treasure vampire YA and would love some more suggestions!