Department 19

Discussion in 'Young Adult Fiction' started by Mark Robson, Apr 27, 2011.

  1.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    I am most certainly the wrong person to write about this book, but having bought it (on the strength that it is receiving a lot of hype and with no prior knowledge of the story) and read it, I thought I would feed back a bit about it here.

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    I must admit the opening was shocking, scary and brilliant, taking the boy hero-to-be way, way out of his comfort zone. However, I will also admit to instantly groaning as I realised this was yet another vampire book to join the multitude that have been published recently. Commendably, in this story vampires are neither sparkly, nor (for the most part) nice creatures. Here we come back to the traditional vampires – the offspring of Count Dracula. However, not being a fan of this sort of thing, that is where I find myself running out of praise.

    If you are in any way of a squeamish nature, do not attempt to read this book. Department 19 is basically a gore-fest. I very quickly lost track of how many times the heroes were splattered from head to toe in the blood of their vanquished vampire foes. The body count is truly astronomical and the violence level is off the scale. I must admit to finding it hard (with my parent’s head on) to understand why any adult would consider this story to be suitable in any way for young people. The 13+ label on the back gives a bit of a clue as to what is to come inside, but as there is no way this book could be made into a film at anything short of an 18 Certificate, it makes me wonder why publishers think that the book should be any less censored.

    Is this really the sort of story we want to encourage our children to read? I mean, I don’t flinch from killing off a few characters in my books and sometimes their deaths are far from pleasant. Having a few unexpected deaths adds an edge to the story that leaves the reader wondering if their favourite characters will make it to the end of the story. But surely there’s a limit, isn’t there? Yes, I understand the attraction of horror stories to young people and the thrill of something scary, or stomach-turningly gory, (like some of the scenes in the brilliant book Gone by Michael Grant, for example) but the wanton killing sprees in this story were so over the top that they left me feeling that life was cheapened through reading about them.

    No offense is meant to Will Hill. His story is well written, but I have to question the motivations of the publishers who feel this is suitable material to promote to impressionable young minds. I’ve no doubt that Department 19 will become popular with those who like the genre, but I’m afraid this is one book that will not find its way on to my recommend list for schools.
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    Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    So er... you liked it then Mark? :eek:

    Actually it sounds like exactly the sort of book that I would hate as well!
  3.  
    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    Being the age I am, I assumed that this was a nod at Depertment S (s being the 19th letter of the alphabet). It seems as if this 19 has more to do with Stephen King's view of 19 as a significant number.

    This book wouldn't be my cup of tea now, and I doubt I would have liked it *mumbles* years ago, when I was 14.
  4.  
    Mark Robson

    Mark Robson Dragon Writer

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    The style was actually very readable and I had no problems seeing it through to the end, but it's the potential effect on the target audience that is my main gripe. As an adult I am able to better judge the content than I would have been as a teenager. This sort of mindless slaughter and horrific torture can't be good food for young minds, particularly some of the more disturbed and vulnerable youngsters who feed on this sort of stuff. There are plenty of well-written horror stories out there that don't have this degree of bloodshed in them. I just felt it unnecessary.

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