I first started reading the “Undead and Un____” series by MaryJanice Davidson over a decade ago. I’m pretty sure the first one I actually had to wait to read was 2006’s “Undead and Unpopular,” book number 5 in what was eventually 15. The first, “Undead and Unwed,” was published in 2004, so that there should tell you how quick they are to write, and therefore how quick they are to read. I’ve still never finished the series–I started rereading them now to finally rectify that. I have a tendency to reread every book in a series if I’m going to catch up to the end, or at least the current slew of books that are out.
I mention this so that I can confess that initially, I legitimately liked this series. I mean, it’s definitely not high art–even Laurell K. Hamilton is technically better-written–but it has the then-distinction of being fun. It starts out fun, and funny, at least when you’re a 19 year old 80’s baby who grew up on Anne Rice and the aforementioned Laurell K. Hamilton, where vampire novels are either super-serious, or aspire to be.
MaryJanice Davidson, through her super-obvious Mary Sue avatar Betsy Taylor, was at least a breath of fresh air in that regard.
Sadly, this series, like seemingly all long-running series, eventually takes a turn for the ridiculous (and not in a good way!) to the point even going back and rereading the initial books, the ones you liked or even loved, become ridiculous in hindsight. I have never finished the Anita Blake series, for instance. I have been on-and-off reading that series since at least the year 2000, but there are at least 5 new ones I haven’t read–perhaps more. I know I own “Blood Noir” but I can’t even remember if I’ve read it!
As for the Undead series, the growing irritation starts with the fact that she cannot keep anything straight, even who is speaking to whom, or which paragraph pertains to which speaker, or a long-standing blonde character suddenly a brunette (and no, not because of hair dye–she forgot what a main character looked like), or even a major plot point like Betsy’s prophesied rule goes from 1,000 years for half a dozen books, and then abruptly switches to 5,000 for some reason…she consistently thanks her editor and continuity person, calls them “the best,” but each and every single book contains mistake after mistake after mistake…and yes, even mid-conversation a lot of times…!
Anyway, I am getting more and more off-topic, or more and more into ideas I should be fleshing out later, so I’m going to cut myself off and welcome you my first review for Trailer Park of Emotion, “Undead and Unwed.”
CHAPTER 1: Birthdays Are The WORST Days!
“Undead and Unwed” starts out with Betsy musing to the reader, “The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry.” She then goes into the minutiae of her day: hitting snooze one too many times, only having time for a Pop Tart breakfast, missing the bus to work, complaining about bus drivers always being too late or too early (“complaining” may very well end up the most used word of these reviews–Betsy, while initially fun, is incredibly whiny…to the point you’ll understand why I say “initially”), complaining about being late for a meeting, complaining about how the recession has lost her her job (yeah, that’s a legit complaint, but still), then goes onto cheerfully explain that she’s a secretary for, uh…some random company that I at least know cares about the stock market, but not why…and secretaries are the real power behind any given company, without whom they can’t even work a copy machine. She goes on and on about the damn copy machine (which is sometimes a fax machine) and the trials and tribulations it has cursed upon her throughout the book, although sometimes she refers to herself as “secretary” and other times “Executive Assistant,” so don’t go whining at me for my choice of word. I’m only the messenger.
There’s also some random comment about it being spring so “Dairy Queen is open for the season,” and I always wonder if that is actually a thing in other states…they are open year-round in Oregon, that’s for sure, and while I understand Minnesota has seasons, I just don’t see a company in 2004 shutting their doors for half the year. This is also somewhat noteworthy to me as a few sentences later she comments about that day having a freak snowstorm, so if their Dairy Queens aren’t open because of weather, why did they open now anyway? Okay, yeah, I digress.
She finally reveals that today is also her birthday, via her (asshole) stepmother leaving an answering machine message that she and Betsy’s father won’t be coming to her party that evening, which is then canceled outright anyway (apparently the party was going to be drinking daiquiris at the Mall of America…what?) for aforementioned “freak April snowstorm.”
Then Detective Nick calls, for no reason ever given–just an excuse for her to think about that time she was attacked outside of Khan’s Mongolian Barbecue after enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet for $11.95 (I mention because in the book I’m reading now she calls it Kahn’s and claims it was $14.99–and okay, yeah, now I’m just being way too pedantic but come on! You’ll see!) And then she has the fucking gall to claim: “Okay, well…”attacked” is putting it mildly. Like using the word “unfortunate” to describe World War II,” and she goes on to describe being surrounded by some dirty, disheveled people who “clawed and bit at me like a bunch of rabid squirrels while I fended them off with the toes of my Manolo Blahniks and screamed for help as loud as I could” and they ran away. I mean…yeah okay it sucks being attacked, but in what world, real or imagined, does that pathetic display warrant a WWII comparison? I’m just sayin’. That line always bothers me, because what the fuck IS that attack?!
Anyway, she reveals what is the closest thing she has to a tragic backstory, talks about how hot Detective Nick is for a little while, and then finally explains how she dies. Her cat is meowing outside and refusing to come in, so she walks out into the middle of the street where Giselle the Cat is sitting, and then is run over by a Pontiac Aztek. The fact that it is an Aztek is one of the only details she ever gets straight, as in later books her friends and family all laugh at her for being run down by such a dorky car. She goes into fairly graphic detail about her shattered skull and relieved bladder, watching her blood redden the snow, her last visual being Giselle casually cleaning herself on the porch while the driver of the Aztek screams and screams for help, all of which is later considered hilarious by everyone who has ever loved her, because the car that killed her looks stupid.
And that is how Chapter 1 ends, with her bloody, mangled body lying in the middle of the street of the quiet Minneapolis suburb in which she spent the last years of her full-human life. Our heroine dies, but of course this is the first chapter in a book I’ve already revealed has 14 sequels, and I’ve also revealed is about vampires, so you probably have at least a vague idea of what’s coming next…
WHAT’S COMING NEXT: A dying Betsy’s last thoughts are to brag about her physical beauty and how much she hates that copy-or-fax machine…but then, what’s a girl to do when she wakes up dead?