Dead Until Dark

Harris, Charlaine (2001). New York: Ace Books. # ISBN-10: 0441008534/ # ISBN-13: 978-0441008537The violence in the novel

In the world of Dead Until Dark, vampires have come out of the closet. Now that the Japanese have marketed ‘True Blood’, a synthetic blood substitute, they don’t have to hunt people any more and have no reason to hide. Ironically, the blood of vampires has now become a marketable commodity as it confers amazing strength, stamina and healing power on its human consumer. Sookie Stackhouse is excited when her first real vampire comes into the bar where she works. She likes him right away, and not just because he’s vampire cute. Sookie can read minds—she’s barraged by mental messages from others, whether she wants them or not, but the vampire’s mental frequency is peacefully blank for Sookie. Sookie has lived with her grandma on their family property in the countryside outside Shreveport since losing both her parents. She has a fairly worthless brother. Soon after Bill the vampire comes to town there is a succession of murders. At first Bill is a suspect, due to some inconvenient puncture wounds; then Sookie’s brother is the focus, as he was involved with a few of the victims. Sadly, the grandma is the next victim, and Sookie has to work with Bill to investigate a Shreveport club full of shady vampires and their creepy human ‘fangbanger’ girlfriends, all the while sensing that the threat may lay closer to home. Meanwhile, Sookie’s boss, Sam, who may be more than he appears to be, keeps a close eye on Sookie.

Reader’s Annotation
Vampires are out of the closet in modern Louisiana, and into psychic Sookie Stackhouse’s life. When her grandmother is brutally murdered, Sookie joins talents with her new vampire date to solve the mystery.

Well, if there are shapeshifters and vampires, the peculiar communities of rural Louisiana are where I’d expect to find them. The southern atmosphere, from the juke joint parking lot to the steamy weather, is a contributing strength of the story, and some of the comic touches were deft—especially good was the moment the vampire is roped in to talk to the grandma’s Civil War group—so much for glamour and mystery (Although his actual talk was kind of affecting, as he had known some of the ancestors of audience members). The violence in the book was somewhat repellent. Sookie is beat almost to death about three times, then brought back from swooning near-death with the precious bodily fluids of her vampire, twisting sex and violence a little too tightly together for light entertainment. Similarly, the death of the grandmother doesn’t fit comfortably in the genre conventions of this type of novel—too real; too much grief; too much pain—maybe Harris should break out and do a serious novel.

About the author
Charlaine Harris is a warden of her church, she grew up in and lives in the South, and she writes steamy, violent vampire books. So it goes. Now there is a TV show of the Sookie Stackhouse stories called True Blood.


Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
If we could invite a vampire to give a speech…
Vampire comparisons: The Cullens; Bill Compton; Lestat; Dracula…
Mind reading—gift or curse

Reading Level/Interest Age

Challenge Issues
Sex and violence!
Gather teen responses; Candace Walton’s “Crossing Over” quotes Time Magazine on the Sookie Stackhouse books as teen
crossover favorites.

Why Included?
Student recommendations

Selection Tools
YA author Annette Curtis Klause recommended on YALSA 2008 teen read week page at

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