2012 Book 141: Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
Reason for Reading: This is my second post for Book Journey’s Banned Books Week 2012 blog tour. By reading banned books, I feel that I’m expressing my freedom of speech (or in this case, the author’s freedom of speech), but I’m also interested in learning more about WHY people ban books. I don’t approve of banning most of the books on ALA’s top banned books lists, though for some of them I can empathize with the objections. In the case of this particular book, I understand the objections, though I think banning it only gives the book added attention. Blood and Chocolate is #57 on the ALA’s list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 2000-2009.
Vivian is a 15-year-old werewolf living happily with her pack in the country when a murder destroys the world she loves. In tragic disarray, her pack moves to the suburbs and tries to get reorganized. In the midst of this chaos, Vivian has an identity crisis and falls for a human “meat-boy.” Her experiences trying to fit in with meat-people teaches her a lot about herself. Meanwhile, the grisly murders continue, and the pack must hunt down the killers before they, themselves, become hunted. This book was very engaging. It was interesting and suspenseful enough that I really wanted to know how it ended, despite the fact that I disliked all the characters. Vivian was manipulative and conceited. Her mother had little character other than expressing concern for her daughter and being obsessed with sex. Vivian’s meat-boy boyfriend seemed likable enough at first (though not particularly alluring), but then his qualities took a nose-dive towards the end of the book. Honestly, I’m not sure why this book gets such good reviews, but I suppose it’s simply because the narrative is so engaging.
My feelings about why this book was banned
I had the feeling while reading Blood and Chocolate that Klause intended this book to be a slap in the face to prudish book-banners. For me, that took a lot of the enjoyment out of the book because I felt like I was being beat over the head with a Message. Even if I agree with the Message, I think a novel’s MAIN objective should be to tell a story. If the story is told well, the message comes through in a smooth allegory. This book seemed like Klause was going for shock-value to pump up her sales. The reason I believe that this slap-in-the-face was purposeful and not simply part of the story is because Klause included a conversation between Vivian and her boyfriend about adults that objected to certain types of behavior and wanted to burn his books.
Klause included almost all of the qualities that our book-banners of America hate: explicit sexualization of everything, the occult, disrespect for religious symbols, obscenties, violence, age-inappropriate relationships, and an entire page musing about different ways to commit suicide. None of this was bad enough to scar a child or young teen. However, I feel she REALLY overdid it with the sexualization. You’d think from this book that the defining characteristic of werewolves is that they were unabashedly and continuously horny. This seems to be the defining trait of teen-aged boys and middle-aged men as well ;). It was a bit obnoxious. The randiness of every character was SO overdone that it distracted from the story. So in the end, no, I don’t think this is subversive literature. But I have no respect for Klause’s ability to portray a message with finesse.