cover image Thicker Than Water

Thicker Than Water

Carla Jablonski. Razorbill, $16.99 (246pp) ISBN 978-1-59514-023-4

Seventeen-year-old art student Kia has just moved in with her non-custodial father in New York City because her mother's unspecified cancer has reached the terminal stage. Floundering at school, the teen has been ""hitting the blades regularly,"" hiding the cuts she makes in her arms under long-sleeved shirts. At her mother's hospital she meets Hecate, whose grandfather is undergoing treatment, and the two girls strike up an instant friendship. Levelheaded Hecate gets Kia a job at the Goth clothing store where she works and introduces her to an edgy club scene where the preferred beverage is a red wine concoction known as the ""bloodbath."" This is also where Kia first lays eyes on Damon, a pale, ""sizzling hot"" disc jockey who becomes her obsession. School, friends, her dad-even her mother's illness-recede into the background for two-thirds of Jablonski's (The Invitation) book, which segues awkwardly from familiar problem novel to campy vampire mystery. Unfortunately, the ""cutting"" issue is handled as if it is a symptom of latent vampirism, which is to say it is not addressed seriously, and a party scene in which a handcuffed couple, naked to the waist, are slashed while others watch-and feed-is dismissed as ""kinky weirdness."" Teens tired of Buffy reruns may enjoy this, but it's a mish-mash of motifs and messages. Ages 14-up.