Book Review: The Silver Kiss
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 21st 2010
Genres: Young Adult, Supernatural, Vampire, Romance
Buy from: Amazon • Book Depository • Wordery
Zoe is wary when, in the dead of night, the beautiful yet frightening Simon comes to her house. Simon seems to understand the pain of loneliness and death and Zoe's brooding thoughts of her dying mother.
Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before. Does Simon dare ask Zoe to help free him from this lifeless chase and its insufferable loneliness?
The Silver Kiss was first published in 1990, making it one of the oldest YA vampire novels around. The first book in the original Vampire Diaries quartet, The Awakening, would not be published until the next year, and the only other YA vampire novels preceding it1 are Meredith Ann Piece’s Darkangel series from the 80s and The Shiny Narrow Grin by Jane Gaskell which was published all the way back in 1964. Because of this, as well as its traditional gothic feel and heavy emotional weight, The Silver Kiss stands out among YA vampire novels – especially those of the post-Twilight era more than a decade later.
The Silver Kiss is a short novel, both in word count (around 41k) and in the period it covers (a few days either side of Halloween). That does not weaken the story, for the most part and instead gives it a feel much like the older gothic novels; its less dense but still often poetic descriptions fit nicely here, and also help add to the feeling of numbness and isolation surrounding both narrators. However it should be noted that it also has the effect of skimming lightly on characterisation for those outside the main pair. There’s enough there for most of them, but it does feel rather thin in general, and for the antagonist a few thousand extra words might have made a huge difference. His initial presence and concept is a good one, but soon he falls rather flat and lacks just that little bit more development to make him stand out and more of a part of the story. Here he feels like something added on when Klause or her editor realises the story needed a bit more conflict.
What The Silver Kiss does best is the emotions tied to grief and death, with vampirism existing as both a metaphor for death and a contrast to the actual death in the book. It’s honest and raw, and left me – a somewhat cynical reader who has read the book before and was not surprised by the ending – weeping multiple times. The majority of the book is serviceable and traditional, but the last section of the book just ramps everything up in a way that feels honest in a way that many novels fail to capture.
The semi-recent reprint – complete with Twilight-esque black/red/white cover – is bookended by two short stories. The first, “The Summer of Love”, focuses on Simon in 1967 San Francisco where he finds some sort of humanity in a stray cat. The second, “The Christmas Cat”, checks in with Zoe just over two years after the end of the book, still grieving even as she attempts to move on with her life by moving to San Francisco. While The Silver Kiss is a complete story, the addition of these books adds a little something extra – a little bit of closure, and a little bit of a necessary reminder that life does go on.
An important chapter in YA vampire history, The Silver Kiss is a short gothic tale that will leave you reaching for the tissues. I’ve read a lot of vampire works, so believe me when I recommend this one for both fans and newcomers to YA vampire fiction.
Want to hear more about The Silver Kiss? Then listen to our January 2017 episode of The Bloodsucking Feminists: We Legit Cried.