In honor of Banned Books Week, the wonderful Rejectionist and Tahereh have put together a collection of reviews of favorite books that have been banned or challenged. I am an ardent supporter of books, and this blog is designed to work against the kind of ignorance that is the cause and consequence of censorship. So I am joining them, reviewing Blood and Chocolate, the Young Adult book by Annette Curtis Klause. I enjoyed the book from the first time I read it, years ago, and only become more impressed upon hearing Ms. Klause speak.
The heroine of Blood and Chocolate is Vivian Gandillon. She is a werewolf, loup-garou from the French. She is very much human. She goes to school, reads, and interacts with the humans around her. But she also has a hidden life with her family, where her wolf side is celebrated, almost to the exclusion of humanity. The loups-garoux hold themselves distinct from the humans they live among, creating a separate, reclusive culture. They fight and hunt and mate young, and go into the human world reluctantly, when they have to in order to maintain their lifestyle.
For Vivian, the change from human to wolf and the life that it represents is seductive and powerful, charged with danger and lust. She inhabits her body and loves it for what it can do for her, what she can do with it. But she is not content with only that part of her life. The human world fascinates her, all the more when she falls in love with Aiden, a gentle, human classmate. Aiden is all that the loups-garoux are not, but he is interested in the supernatural, and Vivian dreams of telling him about her secret life.
There was so much I love about this book. I read it at first for the novelty, for the magic of the change, and for the romance between Vivian and Aiden. But Vivian herself left the most lasting impression. She is so strong. She is an outsider in human culture. Unlike so many women, so many of the girls that inhabit young adult novels, no one has ever told her to hold her body back from all it can do. She has been encouraged to hone her body, to be comfortable in it and to revel it its potential for violence and sexuality. But she is not reduced or objectified by that. She is also intelligent, graceful and human. The story in the end is the story of the tension between those two sides of her nature. There could be no tension if either side were weaker. I imagine that this book is banned because of the violence, the sex, what is seen as the primitive impulses and their hold on Vivian. But she wouldn’t have the life that she is named for if she were in any way watered down. And the blood, and the chocolate, and the girl, balanced in between, are what caught at me.