They’re not charming or sexy. The undead members that make up The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Australian author Catherine Jinks, are bored, apathetic, unattractive whiners prone to headaches, eye bleeds and nausea. Rather than spread their “infection” among more of the living, they curb their addiction and sustain themselves with specially bred guinea pigs (easy to clean up and dispose of) and supplements.

Narrator and Sydney native Nina used to be a party girl until she was fanged 51 years ago at the age of 15. Now she spends her time holed up in her faded bedroom, writing romanticized novels of vampire super-heroine Zadia Bloodstone. Former musician Dave, physician Sanford, arthritic Gladys, Internet scammer Horace and the rest of the motley group pick up odd jobs when they can (a vampire still has to pay the rent). Even their Tuesday night, AA-like support group has become mundane until fellow member Casimir (directly and indirectly responsible for most of the group’s fangings) turns up staked in his coffin.

Now the ragtag bunch must really support each other, as they solve the mystery of Casimir’s killer and protect themselves from a potential vampire slayer. They receive more help from Nina’s elderly chain-smoking mother, idealistic Father Ramon and unlikely strays they meet along the way. Because vampires are dead to the world during the day (literally and figuratively), these humans are needed to take care of daytime necessities and fill in the gaps of Nina’s narrative.

Through the adventurous twists and turns of saving herself from vampire haters, Nina discovers justice, friendship and maybe even romance. She begins to emerge from the depression, lethargy and victimization of vampirism (also symptoms of adolescence) to find life (er, death) worth living. With this budding heroine in her own right at the forefront, this ensemble of eccentric characters gives a wry spin to the ever-popular vampire tale.

As a child, Angela Leeper slept with a blanket around her neck to ward off vampires.

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