Book Review – “Hawkes Harbor”

Want a break from the Halloween movie reviews? How
about a vampire novel review?

General Information

Title: Hawkes Harbor

Author: S. E. Hinton

Original Publication Date: September, 2004

ISBN: 0-765-30563-1

Cover Price: $21.95 US, $31.95 Can

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Past fiction reviews can be found here.


The novel begins with the introduction of a mental
patient who has
scars on his neck, partial amnesia, and a fear of the
dark. At this
point, I was pretty sure I knew where the novel was
going. I was
quite wrong. I’ve never read a vampire story
anything like the second
half of this one. The change from the traditional
story in early
chapters to what this becomes is gradual and
pleasant, too.

High Point

A conversation at the bar on a luxury liner.

Low Point

A night visit from the nurse. (It was somewhat
pointless, and opened
doors to problems with a facility that should have
been pristine in
its operation for the purposes of the story.)

The Scores

My opinion of the originality changed
through the course of
the novel. In the first couple of chapters, I felt
like I knew this
story, and could already tell where it was going.
Each chapter had
the conversation/flashback/conversation structure,
the nature of
Grenville was clear to the reader, and the homage to
Stoker seemed
clear. About half way through, I hit a chapter that
didn’t fit the
same structure that the others had. That’s when I
realized that I was
no longer sure about where this was going. There
were surprises for
me right up to the end. I give it 5 out of 6,
dampened only by the
standard opening.

The imagery is there, and well paced. We
don’t always have a
complete picture of a location the first time we
visit it, but the
descriptions continue to develop as the details
become relevant. I
still can’t imagine the layout of the Hall, but I’m
aware of the major
rooms within. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story becomes more interesting as it
drifts away from the
standard vampire story. I still don’t understand how
exactly a
particular feat was accomplished, but since the story
is told from the
perspective of a character would probably wouldn’t
understand (or care
about) those details, it’s not a big obstacle. (It’s
like Shelley
omitting the details that brought the monster to life
Frankenstein.) It’s a vampire story that’s about
characters, not
horror. The events hold together well, and the
non-linear style is
very well constructed to keep you guessing. Most
importantly, it was
hard to predict, but didn’t depend on shock,
coincidence, or other
elements that feel forced and unnatural to stay
unpredictable. I give
it 6 out of 6.

The characterization is the core of the
story. There is a
large amount of growth for both of the main
characters, and it feels
quite natural as it unfolds. The entire chapter on
the luxury liner
is great for this, but one moment of it pulls things
together so
nicely that it was chosen as the high point. I give
it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response had some initial
disappointment, as this seemed to be a retread of
familiar territory.
I had fond enough memories of The Outsiders
to expect
something better than the same old vampire story from
Thankfully, this is not the same old vampire story.
I suspect the
standard opening was her way of telling the reader
that this is a
departure from the realism of her most famous work.
It grew into a
very personal and compelling story. The
unpredictability is a big
asset in this category, too. I give it 5 out of 6.

The editing of the content is very good.
There was the one
brief moment (the Low Point) that didn’t seem to fit,
but the events
are otherwise what they need to be. The
conversations had one
irritation, though. There were a number of times
that a pause in a
character’s dialogue was marked by a new paragraph
with both opening
and closing quotation marks. Anytime that happens, I
assume that the
speaker is the other person, as the convention (which
is followed at
other times in the novel) is to either leave off the
closing quotation
marks on the first portion of the dialogue, or to
insert prose that
isn’t dialogue. I could always sort things out
quickly, but that
mental sorting shouldn’t have to happen. I give it 4
out of 6.

Overall, this is a rather atypical vampire
story. If you
want proof that vampires can be well handled outside
of a horror
story, pick this up. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Hawkes Harbor receives 35 out of

Additional Notes and Comments

I should point out that this is Hinton’s first novel
targeted at an
adult audience, so if you’re thinking of buying it
for your kids based
on her work with The Outsiders and others,
you’ll probably
want to read it yourself first, just to make sure you
want to expose
them to this content. (There’s more sex and less
violence than most
the other vampire stories I’ve read.)