Van Helsing Academy (YA Supernatural Rehab Book 1) by Stacey O'Neale
It's so nice to take a break from the world and enjoy a good book. Of course, the world has been pushing back - HARD- so it took me longer than usual to get to finish reading this book, and then my attempts to write the review were delayed by over a week. 😖 2020 man... I've known actual bears who were nicer.
This book was fun to read. I was a little confused at first as to what the Van Helsing Academy was, but I'm pretty sure it's like a juvenile detention facility for vampires, shifters, witches, and the occasional human teenager who works as a Protector of the Covenant (or Reaper). I'm not positive of the exact ages of those serving there, but it seems to be teenagers or teen-equivalent. A pleasant educational experience instead of more traditional punishment. That might seem lenient until you find out that most of the students there are innocent. (It's a place one is "sentenced to" rather than a place you "apply for the opportunity to attend." Though, 20% in, the main character states that the place is not a prison, so that point has been driven home.)
I would recommend this book who enjoy Young Adult speculative fiction/ urban fantasy with a bit of mystery and a touch of paranormal romance. I enjoy reading these types of books, especially as I am a speculative fiction author. The Oglala Lakota tribe is mentioned in the story in a fairly positive light, and I appreciate that.
The main character has her ankles shackled and hands cuffed behind her back, a practice outlawed in some real-world areas, which showed me how harshly they treat even juvenile offenders prior to a hearing.
One of my favorite parts in the book reminds me of a scene in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. (The roommate jokingly asks if the MC has killed anyone today. The MC says she hasn't but that there's still time. In the 10 Things movie, the dad asks if Kat made anyone cry today, and Kat responds that she hasn't but it's only 4:30.)
At 74% in, I honestly thought someone else would turn out to be the villain, based mostly on who mentions the use of wall chains the most, but I was wrong. I kept turning the pages because there are two mysteries at play- the one that's obvious from the start and one that comes out later. (I'm excited for book two because of that second mystery.)
I love how the book included a discussion of the different types of attraction. The book has a really great cover that certainly matches the story. The title obviously works well. Some nudity and intimacy is woven into the book, but it's on par with other YA novels. I didn't find any editing mishaps.
Not judging others without getting to know them feels like the theme of this book. I imagine Kiera was the most fun character for the author. The order of everything in the story makes sense, and each scene had a good cause and effect to roll to the next. I could relate to being punished when I hadn't broken a rule. The setting sounds like such a beautiful place, which is such a contrast to real-life juvenile rehabilitation detention centers, it really cemented how different the academy is meant to be.
The character Kiera reminded me of my spouse, based on the enthusiasm for helping a relationship bloom; but also reminded me of my Existence character Jez thanks to a mutual love of pink decor. The descriptions of Sacha remind me of my descriptions of my Existence character Heath. (Our books don't have much in common beyond supernatural characters. Yet somehow, it reminds me of my fictional people! This is part of why I loved the book so much.)
It holds a mirror up to society in that there are real-life people who have been punished for crimes they didn't commit, for wrongs that aren't really their fault. I bet this flame will be fanned in the second book, and I'm looking forward to that.
I've been on Stacey's Squad for several years, and love that her newsletter comes to me on Goodreads. That is how I received a free copy to read and review honestly.
Book Two is coming August 25! It's on my Amazon Wishlist.