Written by: Will Hill.
Published by: HarperCollins.
Released: 31st March 2011.
Official synopsis: "In a secret supernatural battle that's been raging for over a century, the stakes have just been raised – and they're not wooden anymore.
When Jamie Carpenter's mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government's most secret agency.
Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something much older is stirring, something even Department 19 can't stand up against…"
Late last year, some buzz began to grow within the bloggosphere about a book that was top secret and set to blow. Much like a timebomb, Department 19 came into my life. I first heard about it through twitter... saw some top secret (not really because it's twitter) tweets, had an email and then a book popped through my letterbox (I was invited to this really cool event but couldn't go due to just starting my current job...) with the following image.
No writing. Just the image. So simple and so intriguing. Well I decided to read the first chapter just to see what all the fuss was about - I'd heard several folk who had already read the book rave about it - and wish (in a good way...) that I hadn't started... Because what I read in the next 400-odd pages blew my mind.
Will's writing has something about it that's so engaging and yet at the same time you don't have the feeling that you're being told the story, more living it. Department 19 is one of those books where it feels more like watching a movie, or as I said a moment ago, with a little imagination you could be right there, in the thick of it all with Jamie. It's so effortless and second nature. So smooth.
The characters are well rounded. I'm only going to focus on one in the review as I don't want to give anything away within the book and some names would kind of spoil it unless you're reading it... He's a bit of a weird one. The social outcast at school. Everywhere really. And his mum is just as much of an outcast. Why? Because his father was a traitor - or so everyone believes. He obviously has some resentment towards his father and as he learns the truth about everything - the cover up's, oh the COVER UP'S! - things begin to get a lot clearer and we learn about Department 19 itself, a secret section within the UK Government who specialise in protecting the general public from vampires and other monsters.
The concept of a secret sector of the government defending us against the creepy crawlies of the night isn't exactly a new one, but it's the approach to this one that makes it completely original. The book doesn't let up for one second. Violence and rightfully so - these are vampires after all - lots of blood and gore. For a few moments when reading it, I forgot that essentially, this book is aimed at teenagers. It doesn't feel that way at all, when reading it. The book gave me everything that I needed when I read it and I felt like Will had actually written the book just for me. I felt that the book itself got me, and got inside my head. Like the pages were manipulating themselves just for me yet leaving me breathless to see what on earth happened to Jamie next. I know that Will did not write it with me in mind and not just for me... but sometimes when reading a book you just get that feeling, right?
For so long now books have been making promises. The next Harry Potter. The next Twilight. The next this, the next that. And they hardly ever live up to those expectations, although in some cases they do surpass... But with Department 19, there are no frills. You get it as it is. A raw and gritty novel that will shock, make you squirm, and yet make you laugh in equal measure - because there are funny moments too. In all honesty, the book doesn't take itself too seriously. And that's what I love about it so much. It doesn't say "ooh look at me, I'm going to look real cool and actiony and dark and then let you down... my bad." Whenever I look at the cover, which I love for its simplicity and yet being so damn eye catching, it says "take me as it comes... what have you got to lose?" For once we're not given false promises and we get a delivery worth waiting for. Wall to wall action. Sometimes in even the most thrilling of thrillers there can at points be an element or two of boredom, but not here!
And the monsters are actually scary for once! In recent output, in the vampire fiction market in particular, things have become watered down, second rate and romance fueled taking away from the fact that these are beasts, monsters who would rather rip your throat out than kiss it delicately! These are the stuff that real vampires, vampires as we know them and as they should be, are made of! This book reminded me of being small and being terrified of anything bloody, regardless of what it was.
Will has definitely set the bar with this one. Big time. I really don't know what else to say - what else I can say... Just make sure you do not miss out on this one. And with the release of the second book Department 19: The Rising is just under 4 months time, you don't have much time to waste! Trust me, I am gagging for book 2, and so will you be once you've read this!
My thanks to HarperCollins for my proof... and to Will for writing the book itself. You should definitely seek him out on twitter too. He's a very funny guy!
(N.B... And if you hear him speak on YouTube you'll understand when I say that he should narrate the audiobooks! Love his voice. Can you have voice envy? I do... so I'm going to say yes, yes you can!)