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I have been recently made aware of Forever 16, a Lifetime movie that has a plot eerily similar to Forever Fifteen. A vampire housed in the body of a 16 year old girl tries to survive in a modern day high-school setting.
“Sixteen-year old Raven Highgate is not your average teenager, she is a vampire and this is her umpteenth time attending a new high school to keep her identity hidden. But when a local cop reveals she knows Raven’s secret and offers to introduce Raven to others of her kind in exchange for help catching a murderer loose in the school, Raven has no choice but to accept. . .but at what cost?”
In the case of Forever 16, the girl is named Raven Highgate and she rides a motorbike. I have not had a chance to watch Forever 16 in its entirety. From what my friend said, Raven ends up helping the police solve crimes like a vampire Nancy Drew in exchange for them assisting her in keeping her low profile and not outing her as a vampire.
Is this plagiarism? Most people I talk to are and saying “yes” I should be outraged. I really don’t know. The Forever Fifteen free audiobook has been downloaded over 1 million times, however, that doesn’t mean every single person on Earth has heard of it or that some person would make a copy-cat version of it.
From what I have seen of this film, it is a bit unfortunate. Ham-fisted in the acting, heavy-handed, with massive holes in the plot. A vampire who is supposedly trying to be incognito yet wears black rubber spandex bodysuits, attracts abject worship of her beauty, and has eyes that go the color of Liquid Paper when she reads someone’s mind. A thrift store CGI raven that follows her around. The problem of who she is going to eat conveniently solved with pilfering from blood banks. Yeah, the trouble with watered-down vampires is they’re watered down. Not quite as exciting as imagining the real thing.
I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The characters of Forever Fifteen and I were chatting the other day . . .
FF fan Robert Basiewicz recently penned this extremely insightful look into the world of Forever Fifteen:
I’ve found Forever Fifteen completely by accident and I’m very glad as it’s one of the better fantasy novels with vampires in it. What’s more it’s refreshingly short compared to most recent books. It’s 297 pages, but don’t worry, it’s just fine. The author’s Kimberly Steele and from what I understand this is her only book to date, but she’s working on the first of 2 sequels. I’d say that it’s more than worth keeping an eye on her future works. I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously fed up with 500+ pages „novels” which look more like a dictionary or some kind of encyclopedia. I mean, not so long ago I’ve bought an eBook version of latest Laurel K. Hamilton book and it was like 900 pages? Anyway, let’s get to the point, that is, how good this one really is?
First of all, this isn’t the kind of book for someone looking for some cool, dark and „kickass” vampires destroying everything in their way and getting away with it. No, this one is far more realistic, if one could say this about a fantasy novel.
After all, vampires don’t exist in our world. Here, there’s a lot more downsides to being immortal and myself I’m far from being sure if it’d be worth it. Vampires in this novel are literally sucking the life out of their prey along with their blood. That means they have to kill someone once or twice a month and then try to get away with it which means that sooner or later they have to leave the area.
To make the rest of this review easier to understand I’ll explain cons and pros in more detail. One of the biggest advantages of vampires in this book is that they can stand being under the sunlight ( even though it seems to be somewhat damaging to them ). Other than that they’re relatively „normal”. They are stronger and faster than humans and hard to kill ( obviously, but it’s still possible, for instance, chopping their head off will be enough ), but that’s about it. Vampire born children seem to be completely inhuman and considered dangerous and „kill on sight” even by the vampires themselves.
I must say I like how the author balanced everything. We don’t have the “trying soo hard to be harmless and likeable” vampires ( a good example would be “Twilight” series, sorry, glitter vampires? Come again? ), but they aren’t complete monsters either ( or at least not all of them ).
The book is written in a rather interesting way. About half of the novel is placed in modern times ( not sure if the exact period is mentioned, but it seems to be 70s or 80s ) in the USA, suburbs of some city. The other half is describing the more important moments in main heroine’s past ( starting few years before her becoming a vampire ). The „biographical”, in a way, part starts just before the Black Death and then jumps forward, sometimes by few hundred years. The main heroine is of italian origin and she spends her childhood and early adulthood there. This part could probably use slightly better description as we don’t really know when she leaves Italy and where exactly she lives throughout her several hundred years of life. All in all, the story’s more focused on the situations than places and time frames. I’m willing to believe that this book wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it were written differently.
The author isn’t trying to hide who the main characters are at all. More like, she throws them right in our face in the very first line ( and it’s a short one to boot ) of the first chapter.
First is the heroine which is undoubtedly having the most of the book describing either her life to date or what she’s doing currently. Let’s throw a little bit of info first. Her name is Lucy, however throughout the past she used “Mary Lucia Iovelli” most of the time, that being her actual name, too. She uses “Alberti” as her last name every now and then as it’s her family name from before her marriage to Gianfrancesco Iovelli. Even though she’s several hundred years old she looks like a fifteen year old girl which became quite a big problem for her once she left her longtime lover ( and the one who turned her into a vampire ) and began living on her own. Travelling throughout the States for last hundred or two years she’s currently staying with a foster family, the Becks. She’s pretending to really be 15 and going to school with other kids “her age”.
Considered a bit of an odd kid ( at least that’s how others picture her ), but who can blame her, she’s a lot older than her “peers”. Now, here is where I’ve been slightly disappointed. She should be a lot more mature and probably far more knowledgeable and smarter than she is, at least in reader’s eyes, but it’s more like the opposite. In some situations we have to remind ourselves that she’s several hundred not fifteen years old. As appreciated as it is to see that she isn’t rid of human like behaviour and feelings it’d be nice if she had shown some more of her age and experience every now and then. The way it is, maybe pushing it a little, she could be a normal mature teenager not an ancient vampire. Maybe it’d be better to show more of her mind and thoughts? There isn’t that much to tell about her current life, she’s acting her role quite flawlessly, going to school and all.
Later on as the main hero shows that he’s interested in her she’s even going out with “other kids” and doing normal, teenager stuff. That is, if you count out the occassional murder when she needs to feed. Now, she isn’t exactly happy to do this and all of her victims are people who deserved it, more or less. She’s not exactly carefree thanks to this, either. She understands that with civilization becoming more and more advanced it’s getting hard to stay out of sight ( which is a nice change compared to most books where such situation are more for a thrill than anything else ).
To sum it up, she’s quite a good actor, but an unhappy person who has resigned to her fate and is existing rather than living ( until she meets the hero who makes her feel young again and she starts to enjoy life once more ).
Main hero is one of the popular kids with rich parents at school ( quite the contrary of Lucy as she’s an adopted child of your normal, everyday family and one of the “average” bordering on “stay away from” kids ). His name’s John Diedermayer and he’s one unlucky fellow thanks to taking interest in Lucy who is far from looking for any kind of deeper relationships and God forbid, love. For a “rich” kid he’s actually quite a nice person, however not flawless.
Sometimes he acts self centered, his ego isn’t small thanks to being one of the most popular kids around and he’s having some trouble understanding that there are girls who aren’t that willing to fall all over him and tell him how great he is. All in all, Kimberly Steele managed to create a believable character who, even though spoiled, is a good kid deep down. He’s certainly having a good effect on Lucy who, through their relatively short relationship, probably does more fun stuff than in the past few years of her life.
The story is actually simplier than it seems at first. It’s probably thanks to all the time frame and location changes. Well, as long as it’s enjoyable it’s all
good, isn’t it?
To start with, I have to warn you that this is an organized version of the original story to make it easier for me to write about. In the book we learn more and more about Lucy’s past every second or so chapter. It’s far more interesting that way.
In the “biographical” part only the very beginning is detailed. I don’t know, maybe the author planned to write something longer at first, but changed her mind, who knows. First we’re told of Lucy’s childhood and her marriage to Gianfrancesco Iovelli and after short and happy period Black Death hits the city they’re living in and soon afterwards she’s turned into a vampire by Sebastian who took care of her for a time earlier as a medic.
It’s all nicely described, but after this it gets kind of vague and all we’re told is that she lived for over a hundred years with Sebastian then left him and Europe and headed to America. She witnesses colonization of America and soon after that it’s relatively modern times and how she’s moving from one foster family to another all over United States of America.
After that it’s her current life in the suburbs with Becks family. If not for John, it’d probably look the same as her last hundred years, staying for a while, then moving on before all the trouble caught up to her. Somehow he manages to force Lucy to start doing something else than her everyday routine and enjoy her life a little. Thanks to him she goes to cinema, a party, visits his house a few times and hangs out with others a little more. Now it’s not all sweet and lovely, there are downsides to this change of behaviour, too.
To start with, our couple has few arguments along the way and there’s this case of jealous ex-girlfriend who’s trying to do all she can to make Lucy’s life miserable.
To top it all off, main heroine’s vampire lover suddenly appears thinking it would be nice for them to get together once again and police sniffing around isn’t really helping things either. Still, it’s probably a good thing Sebastian showed up as Lucy was already seriously delaying the moment she had to leave the city, or more like, the State.
He even helps her out with cleaning up all of the loose ends and disappearing once again. There’s one difference here though, she first told and shown John that she’s a vampire. Just how much of an important thing that was is revealed shortly thereafter, but I’ll leave that up to you to read the book and find out.
To sum all of this up, it’s a relatively short book, with simple, you could say, banal story, but somehow it’s very enjoyable and refreshing to read. It’s not completely brainless either. There’s quite a few things to think about during reading and it’s not a perfect little fantasy world. Except for the vampires it’s very realistic and our main heroine almost got caught when her past started to catch up with her. I didn’t mention it in the review, but there’s a set of support characters that are either parents, friends or even a boy who is, too, interested in Lucy. They really lit up the story, make it more complicated and alive.
Really, the biggest “fault” would be that Lucy just doesn’t feel like she’s several hundred years old. It’d be refreshing if only it happened less. The way it is, we’re more often in need to remind ourselves that she’s a vampire than the fact that she still has human emotions and needs after all these years. On the other hand the novel deserves a thumbs up for ending properly, with no main parts of the story left unfinished.
Thanks to that you feel positively wanting to know what happens next rather than almost craving the next book. Keeping in mind everything mentioned in this review I’m giving “Forever Fifteen” 8.5 / 10. Half a point being removed for lacks in Lucy’s “vampireness” and 1 point for the story being slightly too short and too simple. I know, I know, I said it’s fine, but it certainly could use, either, less material to base the storyline upon or about a hundred pages more.
All in all, it’s more than worth reading, there’s quite a bunch of interesting or refreshing ideas and even more a reason, it’s FREE while being better than a lot of books you’d have to pay for. If you feel like reading something enjoyable with some romance in it, don’t think twice, this is what you were looking for.