Like many of you, I went through a vampire phase as a young reader. My involvement was deep enough that I can still spout off several titles from my childhood without searching them out: In the Forests of the Night, Sunshine, The Silver Kiss... I even co-wrote a YA novel involving a surfer-girl-turned-vampire and a reluctant vampire hunter with a good friend in middle school before deciding that it was probably better that this particular manuscript never see the light of day.
Eventually I moved on from the vampires to other literary pastures. Unluckily for me, this vampire fatigue happened to coincide quite neatly with the Twilight phenomenon. While all I wanted was to stake ALL THE VAMPIRES upon sight, vampires were spewing out of nooks and crannies, hunting me down with their melanin-poor arms and sharp fangs until I fell to my knees, screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! to the heavens.
Ten years later I'm still sick of vampires. And yet I have to admit a caveat: Once in a while (usually during a blood moon), a vampire book rears its head out of the rest of the noise and reminds me that yes, there are some seriously good specimens out there for those ready and willing to give them a chance. Without further ado, I give you five vampire books for people who (like me) exist in the strange realm between vampire fatigue and cautious optimism. (The following titles are listed in order of least to most frightening.)
Soulless and Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger. Yes, I'm bundling two books as one. But they're in the same universe! Carriger's steampunk universe is light and frothy, populated by werewolves who wear top hats and vampires who lisp embarrassingly when caught with their fangs out (an unconscionable faux pas!). Soulless was Carriger's debut novel (the first in a series of five), while Etiquette & Espionage (her YA debut) takes place several decades before the events of Soulless. The difference between the two is mostly in the intended audience, as hilarious supernatural hijinks ensue in both. Pick up if: you like your vampires slightly ridiculous.
Fledgling, by Octavia Butler. The final novel from one of the great science fiction writers of our time. In it Shori, a being who appears to be a human child, wakes famished, in pain, and stripped of her memories. Initial investigation reveals that she is in fact a 53-year-old member of the vampiric race called Ina, and Shori must fake her way through the complex world of Ina politics while hunting down the people who killed her family. Fledgling is lush, dark, and deeply unsettling. Pick up if: you like your vampire lore steeped in questions of gender, race, and civilization.
When the Sea is Rising Red, by Cat Hellisen. This book does not get the attention it deserves. Felicita, a member of the magical nobility in the oceanside city of Pelimburg, fakes her own death to escape her family's restrictions after the suicide of her closest friend. Once free, she tangles with the powerful matriarchal vampire society and the dark magic rising out of the sea. Notable for being not so much "a vampire book" and more "a book where (some seriously creepy/interesting) vampires exist." Gorgeous prose. Pick up if: you're looking for the book version of Doctor Who's "The Vampires of Venice."
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black. If I had one word to describe this book, I would say it's COOL. Black bypasses the initial "ZOMG there are vampires??" reaction and goes right to what happens after the vampire apocalypse. New world solution: the vampires are confined to quarantined cities known as Coldtowns. Humans can go within, but once they enter, they can never leave. The society Black conjures is fascinating, and the vampires are appropriately bloody. Pick up if: you want some romance served with your fang, but you still want to be wondering how safe your neck is.
The Hallowed Ones, by Laura Bickle. There is no glittering skin here. Katie is an Amish teenager almost ready for her Rumspringa when ominous reports start appearing from the outside world. In response the elders close off the community entirely...but this may not be enough to keep them safe. Bickle serves up vampires as your nightmares remember them in a story made more frightening by the relative isolation of the Amish community. Pick up if: you like your vampires classically gruesome (which is to say, highly dangerous and not attractive at all).
What would you put on a list of vampire books for vampire-fatigued readers?