YA Review: Carmilla by Kim Turrisi

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TitleCarmilla by Kim Turrisi

Rating: 3/5

Two-sentence summary: This LGBT YA novel is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Welcome to Nightvale. When Laura’s roommate Betty is replaced by the mysterious Carmilla, a little detective work reveals that this nocturnal new roommate might not be human.

Portrayal of LGBTQ issues: As this adaptation’s based on a Gothic novella with a lesbian vampire, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this Carmilla features a queer romance between two women. There’s also a genderqueer minor character named LaFontaine who uses they/them pronouns. Unfortunately, however, LaFontaine is misgendered pretty heavily and often on accident by the author. I think that a little tightening up the prose and editing could have solved that because for that reason, I might hesitate before recommending this to a non-binary person.

What I liked: Before I give my thoughts on this one, I should probably note that this is a novelization of a web series that I haven’t seen. If you’re more of a visual person, however, you might want to check it out! It’s reminiscent of The Lizzy Bennet Diaries except that it’s a retelling of Carmilla, a nineteenth-century Gothic novella that helped solidify some of the mythos around vampires as we know them today. Even better, apparently the original story also portrayed the vampire Carmilla as a lesbian (though, as you might guess, not in a positive light).

This was a pretty engaging and spooky read–perfect if you’re looking for some Halloween vibes in springtime, and who isn’t? The description is brief and the plot fast-paced enough that at some points I felt like I was skimming, but that’s just how quickly the plot flies. For that reason, though, it was hard for me to really connect with the characters beyond an “oh boy, what’s gonna happen next” level. But that could just be an aspect of the horror genre that I’m not as familiar with. Overall it was a nice homage to Gothic literature, if a little silly at times.

Recommended: This was a light book but exciting and fun, even though it’s a pretty easy story to predict what will happen. I can’t think of a lot of LGBTQ YA horror books out there so if that’s something you’re interested in, Carmilla could be the perfect story for you.

Note: I was given an ARC in exchange for a fair review.

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