Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: Southern Vampire Series #1
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Ace
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 1/5
Read for: 2011 Urban Fantasy Challenge

Blurb (from dust jacket)

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too datable. Then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life…
But Bill has a disability of his own: he’s a vampire with a bad reputation. But he is an interesting addition to the town, and Sookie can’t help but listen to what everyone else thinks about Bill…especially since she’s starting to fall for the buff bloodsucker. But when a string of murders hits town–along with a gang of truly nasty vampires looking for Bill–Sookie wonders if having an undead boyfriend is such a bright idea.
And when one of her coworkers is killed, Sookie realizes that Bill and his friends may have some special plans for a woman who can read minds…

My Thoughts

It took me several tries to finally read this book. Not because I kept getting interrupted, but because it couldn’t hold my attention. Too much attention is paid to Sookie’s day-to-day life, and it takes a long time (more than 100 pages) to start getting to anything important. I kept wanting to put the book down in favor of other, better reads, but forced my way through it.

A lot happens during the course of the first novel. As with any first novel in the series, the focus is on introducing the characters; however, we not only meet Sookie’s family (her brother and grandmother), but we meet Bill, Eric, and a whole slew of Southern good ol’ boys that I couldn’t keep straight. I even had a hard time keeping straight Sookie’s co-workers; everyone bled into each other, and without names and details (such as referring to the sheriff as “Sheriff”), I’d never have remembered who was who. On top of meeting what seems like everyone in Bon Temps, we have three murders, and Sookie’s brother is one of the main suspects.

Sookie herself is a confusing character. She is constantly back-and-forth, moving between a naive girl and a knowing woman. She spends a lot of time describing what she’s wearing, and her fashion sense is appalling. I felt like she was living in the 80s, but sometimes Sookie would wear something so knock-your-socks-off that I wondered if she was really as naive as she seemed. Sookie’s feelings towards vampires, too, were back and forth. Initially, she is happy about meeting Bill, a somewhat civilized vampire. When she meets Bill’s “friends”, however, she is disgusted. No matter how open-minded she wants others to be, especially regarding her relationship with Bill, she is considerably close-minded when it comes to other vampires.

By the time the book go to the “who-dun-it”, I’d lost a lot of interest. Even Bubba’s true identity felt like more of a grasp at straws to keep the reader interested; Bubba could have been just another random vampire, but instead he is someone who was famous and came back wrong, so he’s not all that bright.

I wish this book had something redeeming, but it didn’t. It was filled with stereotypical Southern talk, and half the time I had to re-read sentences to try to figure out what Sookie (or another character) was trying to say. Between that and the bipolar narrator, I had a hard time staying with the story.

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