If you want to know what kind of book Liz Kerin’s Night’s Edge is, look no further than the first paragraph: “It’s two in the morning. The fridge is empty. And Mom is dead on the couch.” How much terror would that provoke in a 10-year-old girl? Especially when she subsequently sees her mom’s eyes shoot open? Vampire tales often center on passed-down trauma, and Liz Kerin’s gruesome, tense and heartfelt novel takes this concept to its very limit.
After her mother’s resurrection, Mia’s life takes a very dramatic turn. Izzy has been infected with Saratov’s syndrome, which makes her stronger than a normal human, sensitive to light and reliant on human blood. The world has only recently discovered the existence of Saras, as they’re known, and it isn’t friendly to people like Izzy. She and Mia eventually settle in Tucson, Arizona, where Izzy runs a bar (she only goes in at night) and drinks only the now 20-something Mia’s blood. But Mia worries that Izzy has gotten back in touch with Devon, the underground activist for Sara rights who turned Izzy. When Mia meets a girl she really likes, she finds herself at a crossroads. Can she leave Izzy behind? Would Izzy let her leave? And if she wouldn’t . . . what would she do to keep Mia at home?
Kerin’s skill cannot be overemphasized: The physical and psychological pain that Mia and Izzy experience would be nearly unreadable in lesser hands, but Night’s Edge is engrossing throughout. Of course, there is physical pain; blood flows through the pages of this book, as expected of a vampire novel. But the psychological pain hits even harder. Mia’s mental health has been significantly impacted by the things she’s seen her mother do in the name of keeping their family safe. As Izzy and Mia’s relationship fractures, they constantly find new ways to hurt each other—when they aren’t ripping open old wounds. It’s heartbreaking but believable.
A playwright and screenwriter, Kerin knows exactly when to start a chapter, when to pick up the pace and when to give the reader a break. Her precise pacing switches from slow and intimate to tense and frenetic without being jarring. Kerin is a master at building memorable moments, and whenever she gets a chance, she cranks up the excitement: Several sequences in which Izzy shows off her Sara powers are downright thrilling, and a particularly tense scene in a hospital is a showstopper. The perpetual dread and clear-eyed insight of Night’s Edge will be haunting readers for years to come.