Confession: this is not my book cover; this is. Obviously, I'm not a big fan of the YA cover. I have, however, become a fan of the book.
When I found out that this was the 2007 winner of the Mythopoeic Award, I was excited. My new goal is to read as much of the Mythopoeic winners as I can, especially since a number of them are already my favorites (Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Hand, Patricia McKillip, among others).
Sunshine bakes cinnamon rolls every four in the morning for her stepfather's quaint little diner. One night, she heads to the lake, gets abducted, and experiences what every Twilight fangirl dreams of: being shackled right next to a vampire.
Normally, I don't like characters like Sunshine. Most of them, I feel, are too conveniently dropped into a storyline with paranormal creatures and because of (surprise, surprise) some mystic power in their blood or some obscure prophecy, they are able to triumph over evil. Ho-hum. But while this may be true for Sunshine, Ms McKinley sets her apart through the observant tone her main character uses. Sunshine makes her days at the coffeehouse just come to life and it is this same eye for detail that allows her strange encounter with the vampire Constantine to remain on some grounded level of believability.
Sunshine is not quite romance, even if you have vampires and crimson ballgowns and a devoted human boyfriend. It's not quite science fiction either, even if you have a recently-concluded war with drastic effects and tech names for familiar things. There's a lot in Sunshine that makes you think you know where it's going, but it has surprised me in many (small and subtle) ways. I appreciated how the book deals with the morality of killing (a vampire, yes, but killing just the same) or the way that it leaves some loose ends that may (or may not) have anything to do with the main conflict.
But the ambiguity is not the sole reason that I feel that the book has two different personalities. As the story progresses, the reader will feel the change in Sunshine, but it's hard to pinpoint the exact passage when her tone changes. You do know that she still cares for the same things in the end, still wants her old life. But her voice--her storytelling--has moved on from its originally sharp and tongue-in-cheek effervescence into more deliberate, more mature shades. I suppose I loved that feeling, reading the last few pages of the book and letting Sunshine's realizations wash over me as well. Not really what I expected from another 'vampire novel.'