Stephenie Meyer, honey, watch out. Twilight fans, you are gonna l-o-v-e Eternal (2009, Candlewick) -- the follow up/prequel to Tantalize -- written for ages 14 and up by Cynthia Leitich Smith (read my interview with her here.)
Take one guardian angel, Zachary, who happens to be crushing on his charge: Miranda. Although Miranda's number has come up and she is meant to stumble into an open grave while exploring a local graveyard, Zachary does the unthinkable to save her from breaking her neck -- he appears.
This begins a string of events that leads to Miranda's kidnapping and ultimate conversion into a vampire... by the reigning Dracula, no less.
A year later, and now the heir to the Drac empire, Miranda is living the high life, but still has a smidgen of goodness left in her. Zachary, now a "fallen" angel since he broke the rules, is given an earthly assignment to hunt down and destroy Miranda's new "father figure". Without realizing he will find Miranda there, Zach finds his way to Chicago and Dracula's castle, landing a job as Miranda's new personal assistant.
The relationship between the angelic boy and vamp girl develops in alternating first person chapters delivered by both Zachary and Miranda, which is the perfect way to showcase the author's trademark dry wit. Like in Tantalize, this is a world where vampires and were-wolves (and were-any animal, including armadillos) are known to exist. However, these creatures of the night remain on the fringes of society -- feared and, for those trying to live among us, prejudiced against. As in Tantalize, Smith draws this world so naturally that when a character turns out to be were-something or other, you don't blink an eye, you just go with it.
Zachary and Miranda have an on-the-page chemistry that just might rival Edward and Bella, if only due to the lovely twist surrounding their polar opposite origins. Zachary won me over in the first chapter, and if it took me a bit longer to warm up to Miranda then that might have something to do with her cold-bloodedness early on.
This is a vampire book, and their bloodlust is not sugarcoated whatsoever, but the message of good triumphing over evil shines throughout. A true page-turner, I can't imagine any fan of gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this -- and not just YA readers either. I am eagerly awaiting the final installment, Blessed, where we return to Austin and Sanguini's to find out how all the characters are connected. 4 1/2 bookmarks!