Sunshine and Vampires: A Book Review

27 Aug

Sunshine By Robin McKinley

I discovered at about the same time I learned I would no longer be taking the Metro North to work, but driving instead. In fact, the two may have had a corollary relationship.

Unfortunately, listening to the news was not an option– at least, not once I sickened of NPR’s ceaseless repetition. I’m sorry guys, but I just cannot listen to the same half hour news segment on the way to and from work…for five days in a row. I mean, from how many different angles can we examine the NYC mayoral primary?

Robbed of my choose-your-story options so thoughtfully provided by the NYT iPad app, I turned to Young Adult fiction. I figured that since I spend most of my free time on my own fiction, this could be good writing research. Right? Okay, whatever. I just love the thrill of a good plot. So sue me.

Listening to an audiobook is an interesting experience, not only because I can now eat while reading without any discernible difficulty. The voice of the reader makes such a difference; for example, listening to Tamora Peirce‘s full cast audio books was more like watching a play with many different actors whereas Sunshine‘s narratorLaural Merlington, became intrinsically entwined with the protagonist, Rae.

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, is a long novel, weighing in at a little over fifteen hours. The novel was too long in my opinion, though the length could be explained by the genre: this is McKinley’s first foray into adult fiction. However, Sunshine  didn’t feel like an adult novel to me, and has even prompted reviewers to write this is a coming of age story despite Rae’s twenty-fiveish years and the judicious use of the “c” word.

Perhaps that’s because, as protagonists go, Ray is a little bit stunted. Her life revolves around baking, the boyfriend she sees because “we were both single,” and fighting with her mother. Even living in her own apartment is something of a victory for Rae.

Rae’s life is one unexamined mystery after another.  From the disappearance of her father to the disinterest in the magical ability taught to her by her grandmother, Ray knows plenty about her interesting history that she doesn’t think about until a quarter of the way through the book– pretty surprising considering this is a first person narration not to mention that Rae can’t seem to help examining and reexamining everything else she knows about herself, including her fears, her love of baking, and her disinterest in her own magic but her obsessive interest in the others over, and over, and over again.

Still, Sunshine is worth reading– especially for all those Twilight hating naysayers– because it provides a unique, somewhat mature take on the now traditional female + vampire love connection. Con,  (since I heard the book instead of reading it, I always imagined his name to be Khan. Too much Star Trek?) the vampire in question, is the antiquated stick in the mud we’ve come to expect from chivalrous “nice” vampires,  but without the crippling self-loathing and blood lust that has come to define our understanding of vampiric love. But don’t worry guys– being a vampire isn’t all good in the post-voodoo war McKinley universe.

Rather than handsome and sparkly, Con is hideous, ugly to the point of Rae comparing him to a homeless drug addict and, at a different point, a spider. Perhaps one of the most enduring similes in the novel is the description of Con’s skin as being akin to old mushrooms.

In addition to being like, really ugly, vampires suffer from a lack of corporeality in their old age, along with an inability to withstand even the weak rays of sunlight reflected off the moon. Covens become more like gangs, and Con remains above it all by snacking on deer (*cough* Twilight) and living alone in a cave with all his dead master’s things (a la Psycho).

Title: Sunshine

Author: Robin McKinley

Also Wrote: The Hero and the Crown

Kind of Like: Twilight meets Buffy

Verdict: Three Stars

Read this if: You’re looking for more Vampire love stories, like to be a little creeped out, and don’t mind skipping past some Rae-lly long introspection.

One Response to “Sunshine and Vampires: A Book Review”


  1. Top 10 Ways Vampires are Trying to Worm Their Way back Into Your Life (as seen on Fanfiction Fridays) | The Twilight Fun Blog - August 27, 2013

    […] Sunshine and Vampires: A Book Review ( […]

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