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Nina the Vampire Slayer: A ‘CHOSEN’ book review (SPOILERS)

AHHHH! Ya’ll. This book. It had everything that was missing from the first one, and my little Buffy heart is so full, I can’t even breathe. I want to be very clear — the following review WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW. I apologize, but I can’t gush about this book and not talk about all of the awesomeness. This will be one of my very few spoiler filled review.

**This is the second novel in the SLAYER series. You will do best to read the series in order.**

***THANK YOU TO S&S FOR AN ARC IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW!

★ ★ ★ ★

Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Format/Source: ARC

From GoodReads:
Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.

Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Character Development: ★★★★

the writing: ★★★★★

I’m going to start with saying that Kiersten White was the perfect person to write this duology.

Being a BTVS fan herself, she understands the importance of treating the world with care, being as canon as possible, and giving Buffy fans the best Easter Eggs and “Buffy-isms”. If I am frank, this was not an easy task, even for the best writer and biggest stans. Especially in the Buffyverse, where everything is analyzed, picked apart and criticized. White did the fandom justice, injecting just enough familiarity to make a new set of characters, in a new setting, still feel like home.

The sarcasm and wit in this book really pulls you into the Buffyverse — I did not think that White could top the banter in SLAYER but I was wrong. I found myself laughing out loud, completely immersed in the world.

White’s writing is definitely aimed towards a YA audience, but it’s snappy, quick paced, and gorgeously bitchy. I felt like it was balanced, as well. Just enough information given without being overwhelming – while still allowing us to dive into the parallels that BTVS is so famous for – using monsters to explore the real life problems that plague the youth of our world.
Over bearing, manipulative parents, siblings that begin to hide things from each other, friendships built on lies, not trust. These are all things that we deal with in our everyday world, and in true Buffy fashion, are handled by stabbing, fighting, and a lot of soul searching.

the plot: ★★★★ 1/2

I really enjoyed the plot in this novel. It was a mixture of carry over from SLAYER and a new path of disaster for Nina. I really enjoyed the focus on mental health in the story. Rarely, I feel, do we have stories that continue after the “big event” happens – showing us how the characters are struggling to cope with the aftermath. Nina suffers from survivor’s guilt to the extreme – considering the person who didn’t survive was her love interest, watcher, and of course, half demon — because let’s not allow things to be TOO simple. Her journey from self-doubt, self-hatred, and to some extent loathing of the world around her, to a confident, still some what self-doubting, but ambitious Slayer. She blossomed from what everyone expected her to be into what she was MEANT to be. It’s extremely important to have role models to look up to – people who have walked your walk, understand your struggles, and feel as deeply as you do. Nina needed that comfort and she found it in her Slayer dreams with Faith LeHane (who is BAE for those of you who don’t know). Faith was able to use her own experiences walking in the darkness to guide Nina towards understanding how to control and use that darkness that she possesses.

Nina grapples with the knowledge of how she got the darkness, a consquence of Leo returning her powers, and Faith pushes her to embrace it, regardless of how or why she now has it. Something Faith said really resonated with me, not just for a Slayer – but again, for anyone who has suffered trauma.

“You can’t go back. […] So discover the new you. Learn to live with her. To LOVE her, when you are ready.”

Our trauma does not have to define us, and at the core of this story, I hear that message loud and clear. You can overcome and embrace anything thrown at you. Let it help you grow and flourish, not hardened and walled off.

I found it interesting how even though Magic was gone from the world, there were still magical aspects. I know know if this contradicted with the “no magic” rule, but I enjoyed it none the less. Leo’s inability to be moved due to the larger gravitational impact on his body was an interesting “non magical” side effect.

Another very interesting detail that was included was the “zompires” that now occurred without the magical ability to implant the demon in the human’s body. No longer could vampire sire, and many *coughHARMONYcough* used this to their advantage. I thought this was a hysterically accurate story line for Harmony as well.

A large plot line was Artemis’ desire to obtain power. This was, in my opinion, an amazing twist. Artemis seemed to submit to Nina’s calling but she struggled with feeling left out and unneeded. Paired with Honora and Nina hating each other, Artemis felt torn and broken. It wasn’t a far stretch to believe that she would want some semblance of power for herself. The ‘Artemis’ part of the plan was that the power was to shape the world to be in a better place for her loved ones. This made her goal murky in the morality lane because on one hand, yes, she’s doing something completely absurd, but on the other hand, she’s doing it for reasons she truly believes will help.

While the plot was a bit convoluted at times, over all I enjoyed the twists and turns as we progressed through the novel.

the characters: ★★★★★

Y’ALL! IT’S CLEM! HE’S HERE! I cannot even tell you how much I squealed through the novel when old baddies – and some amazing goodies (I’m looking at you OZ!) showed up. Even though Joss was not penning the dialogue, it felt true to the characters. I have to say that my favorite quote in the novel hands down is:

” If you see that good for nothing peroxided nightmare of a vampire, tell him I haven’t forgotten he owes me ten Scottish Folds and three Siamese. Gets a soul and thinks all debts are crossed off. I’ll get those Kittens, diet be damned!”

I can’t help but giggle at Clem’s harsh – but true to Clem – description of my darling Spike. In fact, the way they refer to all of the OG Scoobies is quite comical, even if you are a Buffy stan.

Nina makes a big leap in her character arc through this novel as she grappled with the betrayal of her sister, and the overwhelming darkness that continues to plague her soul. Nina is probably the character that I struggle with the most. I really love her, but at times – I hate her. I hate the way she whines, and questions herself. I hate the way she continues to act like everyone has turned against her when so often she has shut them out in the name of “protecting them”. I also loved Nina so much. Her dedication to her family, her DESIRE to heal the relationship between her mother and her sister. Her determination. Her tenacity. I think that’s what makes her such a brilliant character. She isn’t one sided or stale. She’s a beautifully flawed teenager who acts as such. I was very satisfied with her development along the way.

I flopped back and forth on me feeling around Honora and Artemis. I understood Artemis’ struggles – both internally and externally. Her entire life she was a protector, a brace, the unwavering rock for her sister – the fragile and innocent Nina. With Nina coming into her slayer powers, then losing them – and getting them back all over again – she is thrust into a world that she doesn’t know. A world that doesn’t need her the way it did only days before. I found that my heart ached for Artemis far more than it did for Nina. Maybe it’s because I identified with Artemis more, but I really enjoyed getting into her head and being able to understand her emotions and motives behind her actions.

Honora, on the other hand, was a force. She was still the nasty bitch she always was towards Nina, but her devotion and love for Artemis made it easy to forget all the shitty things she’d done. The bond between the two girls is seriously beautiful and trumps everything else. I don’t care what you think. LOL But really, it is one of the sweetest relationships in a book entirely about relationships.

As we learned at the end of SLAYER, (so this should come as no surprise to anyone) the hunter laying in wait for the girls was none other than beautiful, murderous Imogene. I really loved Imogene, for so many reasons. She was such a multi faceted character – a broken girl who was given one mission, one final assignment – and she clung to it, even through her love of them, Nina especially. It broke my heart to see the way it tore at Imogene, the darkness that she couldn’t fight. She opened up to it far before anyone had the ability to help her, and it took her down a path that she couldn’t come back from. I really wanted her to pull through, but even evil and dead, she’s my favorite. <3

The entire cast of secondary characters is just perfection. From Cillian & Rhys to Doug & Jade – it’s hard not to find something relatable and lovable about each one of them. With the return of some old friends, and the introduction to new Slayers, the characters were ever changing and evolving – again, in true Buffy style.

….final thoughts…

While I was very nervous about the idea of someone dabbling in a world that means so much to so many people, I can honestly say that Kiersten White has blown away the BTVS fandom with her candid, canon and hysterical work of art.

We are not alone in the dark. Not as Slayers. Not as sisters. Not as friends.”

tl;dr

After learning she was a Slayer, Nina did the unthinkable – having to choose, as Buffy once did, between the world and her love. Dealing with the aftermath of the decisions made, her family falling apart, and her heart in shambles – Nina sets out to stop a growing threat, one that she fears is taking her sister from her. Now, the stakes are as high as ever, and she must rely on the one thing she fears the most to help her save everyone she loves.
With Easter Eggs that brought way too many girlish squeals, characters that we know and love, and new ones that we root for; Kiersten White creates a world that feels both brand new and completely like home. CHOSEN will take your heart on a roller coaster of emotions until the very end. After all, isn’t that the life of a Slayer?

Welcome home, Slayers. Welcome home.

About the Author:

Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of many books for teens and young readers, including And I Darken, Now I Rise, Bright We Burn, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and Slayer. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, where she perpetually lurks in the shadows. Visit Kiersten online at KierstenWhite.com and follow @KierstenWhite on Twitter.

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