Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantasy, Romance
Paranormal Element: Eternal Life
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Stalk the Authors: Hillary Duff | Elise Allen
Review of the audio book from, reader: Julia Whelan

This is one of those titles that I was ambivalent upon completion but then on further contemplation became completely flabbergasted that I actually completed it.  Oh wait, yes, now I know why it wasn’t a DNF, because this was an audio book – and I listened to it while I was at work. This novel had great potential it really did and I actually went in to it with an open mind. On first thought I believed this to be just a churned out celebrity endorsed fluff piece. Duff had a bright idea while sipping her latte on set – and she called someone that called someone else and then they wrote a book based on six words “Twilight but no vampires or werewolves.” I really did push those thoughts aside. I watched the trailer. I tweeted about it and was reassured by a few peeps that they heard it was good, they heard Duff actually was a creative force behind the novel. I should have stuck to my guns. Really. This little literary piece of fluff was about as intellectually stimulating as Jersey Shore with Lindsey Lohan making a guest appearance. The only thing semi-decent about it was the writing style. Allen, because I’m pretty sure she is who crafted the words behind this baby, did a good job of staying in tone and the prose was typical young adult. The concept even had some merit…too bad the implementation was not very well done.

Elixir is the story of a jet-setting teen by the name of Clea Raymond. Traveling the globe with her best friend Rayna she has accomplished more in her 17 years than most 80 year olds have dreamed of. She parties in Paris, jets back to the US which is her home and then sets off for a photo gig in Rio for Carnivale. But, all the while she is plagued by the death of her father, whom went missing on a humanitarian mission in Brazil. Recent events have brought about a resurgence of curiosity in his disappearance and leads her to searching his office…and finding images of one man, a man that seems to always be there, in her pictures and in her father’s pictures, at every step of her life. Something that can’t be explained and should scare her, but for some reason she is strangely drawn to the stranger.

Here is the critique. Where do I start? Let’s start with the characters:
The characters were very one dimensional. They elicited no emotional reaction from me. I could careless about any of them. Clea, the main character was vapid, yet too perfect to be believable. Rayna, the ditzy best friend was overdone and her actions were annoying and almost offensive. The first part of the love triangle, Ben, was overpowering, overprotective and rather spineless. The second part, the mysterious paranormal, Sage, was so mysterious that you barely even connected with him at all.

Then the plot. It had holes galore. First we are searching for clues for the father’s death. Then we find out the father might be alive. But, with that discovery we find out about our mysterious soul mate/serial killer/incubus guy. Well, with his introduction that search for daddy gets totally forgotten and now it is something new entirely. Let’s forget dad and search for the vials. Then in between searching lets have odd moments of cinnamon rolls and drawn out moments in wonder of a black AMEX. Odd. Then there is the whole Elixir, Sage and these two mysterious groups that are chasing after them. These evil men, bred to what? Bred to just hunt down Sage? Bred to find the vials? There is no explanation, just these lethal groups of comic bad guys. This book left me with so many questions that weren’t explained, or explained poorly. They mention over and over again that Clea is home schooled. But who home schooled her? And when? And what was the purpose of the Hungarian maid? That was just bizarre with all the spitting. Then the major, to top it off ending. It was horrible. Horrible. I think it was meant to elicit an emotional response…but by then I was so just indifferent that I could care less. It shouldn’t be this way with a book. The worst part about it was that it was supposed to be this big climax and it just was a total dud. It reeks of sequel… egad brain, please just say no.

Now, on to the part where I say i wouldn’t let my teenage daughter read this if it was the last book on the planet. This book is full of bad behavior, lack of parenting and just unrealistic teen life. The book starts with Rayna and Clea partying in an exclusive Paris nightclub. Alone in Paris! In a bar! And Rayna goes home with a guy and leaves Clea by herself in said club. These are two seventeen year old, high school seniors! This is just the start. Then these kids traipse all over the globe from Rio to Japan. There are sex scenes in the front seats of cars, a mother that just isn’t there at all, and relationship with much older men. Not for tween and younger teen consumption, even though it is recommended for 9 – 12 grade.

Next part, we will cover the cliches. The tired Love Triangle. The self-sacrificing immortal male. The bland, anything-for-love heroine. Then the ever popular mysterious paranormal themes. Guess want mysterious boy is? Oh is he an incubus, or maybe a ghost, or maybe a serial killer? Very original {insert sarcasm font}.

I really hate saying this, but I do feel that Hillary Duff’s agent or manager or something came up with this brilliant idea to try to recreate the Twilight / Harry Potter phenom. They brainstormed for a few hours on what would make a great Young Adult novel that could be made into a movie, churn out tons of merch like Clea Barbie Dolls and Sage Action Figures, they wrote a quick outline, had their people find a writer, and voila’: Elixir. Allen came up with a book, they edited the crap out of it, like they would a script and the final product turned out to be this. In the great divide that is good literature, mediocre literature and really bad literature, I don’t like saying this about a book, but this one is the last category. Stick to acting, Hillary Duff, because writing just ain’t your thing. That is if you penned a word of this novel.

Older teens, there is sex, partying and no parental guidance.