Title: High Stakes
Series/Universe: The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles, Vol. 1
Author: Brandy Schillace
Publisher: Cooperative Press Trade
Publication date: April 1st 2014
Page Count: 142 pages
Age Rating: YA (mild violence)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: High Stakes
“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?
Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?
Narrated by sixteen-year-old Jacob Maresbeth, High Stakes reads like the most interesting “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay I’ve ever read.
Jake is not a vampire, not really. Except he kind of is. He drinks blood and his internal clock definitely has a nocturnal preference. But besides that, he’s pretty much your average healthy, growing teenage boy. And being an average teenage boy, he’s pretty disgruntled that he has to leave the sunny beaches of his home town of Newport News, Virginia to spend two weeks of his summer vacation with his younger sister in Cleveland, Ohio with their Aunt Sylvia, an eccentric English professor. Aunt Sylvia’s been kept in the dark about Jake’s more, shall we say, vampiric symptoms, so Jake will have to spend the whole time living up to his father’s cover story of being frail, allergic to pretty much everything, and having an all-around delicate constitution. Jake figures the whole thing is a bust and just plans to wait the days out until he can go home– until he meets Zsofia, his aunt’s gold-haired, gorgeous Hungarian graduate student.
I love different takes on established genres and so a book about a living teenager with a mysterious blood disorder that mimics vampirism sounded great – and it was! The story flowed brilliantly and Jake had this fantastic dry, self-deprecating sense of humor that I really liked. Aunt Sylvia was quite a character with her clinking bangles, flowing skirts, and obsession with health foods and remedies (like the medicated soap she tries to thrust upon Jake in misplaced, but well-intentioned, helpfulness). Lizzy was a bit bratty and terribly dramatic, but loyal all the same – like any good little sister.
High Stakes was a great start to a fantastically original and readable series peppered with well-rounded, well-written, and well-detailed characters. I would absolutely read this author again and look forward to the next book of the Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles.
Along with drinking blood to survive, another symptom of Jake’s “disease” is a nocturnal leaning, making it very difficult for him to get up and get going in the morning. As someone who’s not a morning person myself, I recommend Boca Java Atomic Cinna-Buzz – a coffee with 50% more caffeine than other coffees and a strong cinnamon flavor that will get your blood flowing and get you up and ready to greet the day.