Mary Downing Hahn’s Look for Me by Moonlight tells the story of 16-year-old Cynda. She spends the winter at her remarried father’s isolated Maine inn, where she feels left out of his new family. She ignores the overtures of friendship from a fellow loner her age, Will, in favor of the only person that she feels understands her: the elegant, cultured Vincent, who is at least twice her age [well, actually more like 31.25 times her age, but he looks 30].
Vincent plays on Cynda’s crush and enthralls her so that he may drink her blood. She finds herself powerless to resist his commands and even to tell her family how he is sapping her will to live. The climax occurs when Vincent manipulates Cynda’s 5-year-old half-brother Todd into becoming his next victim. Wrenching herself from her enchantment, Cynda enlists Will’s help and, with some supernatural aid from the ghosts of previous 16-year-olds that Vincent has drained, eradicates the vampire.
I fucking love this book! As a novel for kids from 9 to 13, it’s written simply, but evocatively, with the usual mastery of creepy atmosphere demonstrated by Hahn in most of her stories. At the same time, even though it’s a YA book, Hahn directly engages with the combination of sex and death that makes seduction by vampire so peculiarly potent. I mean, everyone in the entire book [including Cynda] worries about Vincent taking advantage of Cynda and even raping her, though, thanks to Vincent’s machinations, Cynda’s parents end up believing that Will represents a sexual threat to her. After reading so much YA paranormal romance bullshit [oh hey there, Twilight saga!] that doesn’t seriously address the power differential between the mortal female protagonist and the vampire male love interest, I am so glad to read a well-written exposition of the temptation and also the supreme, cold ickiness of finding out that your fantasy is made of ice that wishes only to penetrate you and kill you to the core.
Look for Me by Moonlight reminds me strongly of Sarban’s Doll Maker, another nearly allegorical, simply written, evocative novel in which a young woman dances with, goes under and then, finally, resists and pulls free from, an older man who sexually dominates her and prefigures death. As Cynda almost becomes Vincent’s icy object, so Clare in the Doll Maker almost becomes Niall’s doll, but they both end up overcoming those men who would occupy them. Interestingly, both of them use the ambivalent, cleansing power of fire to effect their final transformation from thrall to independent agent. [Kill it! Kill it with fire!!]
Look for Me by Moonlight also reminds me of Labyrinth. I mean, heck, it’s about a 16-year-old girl [Sarah] who feels displaced from her family due to her mother’s absence and her father’s remarriage. She resents her half-brother [Toby] and spends much of her time living in fantasies [that damn play] where she is convinced that an older dude [Jareth] cares for her. Ultimately, though, she realizes that the older dude means death, so she must rescue her half-brother and herself from his clutches. Of course, Look for Me by Moonlight lacks the added layer that Labyrinth has of occurring entirely within the protagonist’s mind. Therefore Cynda needs to neutralize Vincent, while Sarah, in my interpretation, should be doing something more complex than that with Jareth. In any event, I will never tire of reading feminist tales of girls kicking oppressive patriarchal ass and coming into their own power based on warmth, love and connection.
Jareth is such a pedophilic vampire. I mean the one in the movie.
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