Those of you looking for books for the 7th - 10th grade boy who likes adventurous fantasy set in our world should most definitely try the Alex Van Helsing series. In this second book, Voices of the Undead (HarperTeen, 2011, 304 pages), 14 year-old Alex continues along the path he began in book one (Vampire Rising), as a new (and unusually gifted) member of a global anti-vampire organization.
Alex can sense vampires. These are not pink rainbow sparkly vampires, but vicious, immoral killers. Unfortunately for Alex, the Swiss boarding school he attends is practically on top of an ancient vampire school, so there is no shortage of potentially deadly encounters. Especially since he is in the cross-hairs of the vampire's leaders--he is not entirely sure himself of the scope of his abilities (neither is the organization that has taken him in), but it's no mystery that the vampires see him as a significant threat.
But Alex is not the target of the current plot being hatched...one that involves a mysterious vampire from the past, a vampire with the ability to mesmerize his victims and use them as players in his deadly games.
When Alex's school is burned down in a mysterious fire, the boys are moved into their sister school. Alex and his room-mates are pleased to have the chance with their pal, Minhi, and her room-mate, the mysterious Vienna (budding, or possibly even pre-budding, teen romance time), but what with murderous vampires planning mayhem, there's little time to socialize....
The action and adventure aspect of the story is front and center, as it was in book 1. Book 2 kicks off with a car chase in which Alex, on his cool motorcycle, must outmaneuver two car loads of would-be killers, one of whom then attacks him with horrible leech worm things, which ultimately leads to his school catching fire, destroying Alex's room-mate's irreplaceable collection of vampire books, as well as the building, which is less emotionally wrenching for us bibliophiles (and that's just the first two chapters!).
But I found that in Book 2 the story is more nicely balanced with mundane details concerning Alex's family and friends, and life as a boy in a girl's boarding school. The tension and danger are still there in spades, but Alex felt more three-dimensional in this book, and I appreciated that (I hope the target audience does too!).
Other reviews at Girl in the Stacks, Bibliojunkies, Ms. Yingling Reads (scroll down), and Sci Fi Chick (where both books are being given away here)
And here's a link to Alex Van Helsing: The Blog, where vampire fans will find much to interest them....
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.