2007 was a very different time; Umbrella by Rihanna was topping the charts, the iPhone was announced, Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered and the first book in the House of Night series was released. I have loved the House of Night series for many years and have re-read each book many times. A few weeks ago I decided I was in the mood for some nostalgia (I managed to snag the first 10 books on eBay for $50 – SCORE!) and gave the series another read. Now, I’m halfway through Tempted (book 6) and I’m discovering themes and ideas that I’m really not enjoying as much as I used to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE these books but now that I’m learning to read with a more critical frame of mind I noticing that these books aren’t as pure as I initially thought they were.
The House of Night series is about sixteen year-old Zoey Redbird who is ‘marked’ as a vampyre fledgling (meaning she’s not a full “adult” vampyre but she still has some of the perks) and is required to attend the House of Night boarding school in Tulsa so that she can be around other fledglings and full vampyres (fledglings need to be around adult vampyres to be able to complete the “Change” although not all fledglings will Change and many will die before reaching adulthood). The first book, Marked, is about Zoey meeting her new group of friends and coming to grips with her new powers. What makes Zoey special is that her powers are more advanced than her peers (and some of her teachers) due having the favour of the vampyre goddess Nyx. Zoey has an affinity for all five elements (earth, fire, air, water and spirit) when it is rare for a fledgling to display an affinity for even one element. With her group of friends (dubbed the “Nerd Herd”) Zoey has to battle dark forces threatening both the vampyre and human world.
Only a few chapters into Marked I noticed a very problematic theme occurring. Zoey stumbles upon a fellow fledgling, Aphrodite, trying to give another fledgling, Erik Night, a blowjob. It is from there that Zoey, and many of her friends, begin slut shaming Aphrodite. Slut shaming as a constant throughout many of the books with girls (and sometimes guys) often being referred to as “hoes”. The fact that Zoey’s friends actually turn on her and slut shame her for losing her virginity (to the wrong guy, yes, I know, more on that in a couple of paragraphs) really pissed me off. There is also a lot of general nastiness and bitchiness between many of the female characters with members of the “Nerd Herd” calling Aphrodite a “hag from Hell”. If the House of Night series was written now with the more feminist way the world is this slut shaming and put-down mentality would be completely different.
Another issue I’m discovering is the portrayal of men as objects for female desires. Every attractive male character (pretty much 99% of the male characters are attractive as it is a quality of vampyres) is described as “yummy” and is often harassed by female characters. I’ve noticed the Twins (Shaunee and Erin) are constantly making jokes towards many male characters about how they would be better for them than their current partners and that if the couples break up the males “know where to find them”. I feel like each male character (except for Jack and Damien – the standard gay couple) is written only to be sexualized by the female characters; I mean, does Erik really have a purpose other than to be Zoey’s possessive hot boy-toy who is constantly wronged by her but keeps forgiving her and is a general nice guy but does some shitty things when he’s hurt?
And lastly the love triangles (squares? hexagons? whats the correct term here?) that Zoey is constantly involved with just send the wrong message to me. If these books were adult romance novels and included some smut then they would be categorized as “reverse harem” (don’t look it up if you think polygamy is cheating; I am scarred for life). The whole shit-I-have-multiple-guys-interested-in-me-and-I-know-it’s-wrong-but-I’ll-just-keep-smooching-them-all thing just does my head in. I cannot stand cheating in books (I think I previously didn’t notice this the first few times I read the books because I hadn’t been cheated on back then) and the House of Night books just take the cake for shitty relationships. From Chosen to Tempted Zoey can’t choose between not two but THREE different guys to be with. She constantly states that she knows what she’s doing is wrong but she still continues to act on the feelings she has for each guy by kissing, drinking their blood and losing her virginity to one of them (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not her dedicated and loving “boyfriend”). If you check the House of Night Wiki page it lists SIX different love interests for Zoey for the series. I’m all for doing what you want with who you want and I wouldn’t mind if Zoey had six different relationships with these characters but it’s the fact that most of these relationships are occurring at once that doesn’t sit well with me. I’m only continuing with the series because I know that she (kind of) gets her shit together and (mostly) settles down with one guy in the end.
Even with all of that said I’m trying to keep an open mind with these books. I can remember not batting an eyelid when I first read them as these issues weren’t really big issues 10 or so years ago. Yes, these books are trashy as hell (trashy books are my guilty pleasure, sue me) and yes, for 2019, these books are problematic as hell but we’ve all got to remember how things were in the early 2000’s. I’ve seen that there’s a spin off series called the House of Night: Otherworld which has the same characters but it’s set a year after the last House of Night book and more books are currently being written so I have high hopes for the series. Even with the issues I still strongly recommend the series and still rate it a strong 4.5/5 stars.