Alana Oakley: Bloodlust and blunders by Poppy Inkwell (Big Sky Publishing) by Poppy Inkwell (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781925275803
Reviewed by J Wishart
Bloodlust and blunders is the third Alana Oakley book by Philippine-born Poppy Inkwell. The series is aimed at 11 to 13 year-olds and follows the busy life of 14-year-old Alana, and her journalist mum, Emma, who live in a suburb of Sydney. In this installment, strange-looking neighbours have moved in nearby and – inspired by some Twilight-esque school-holiday reading – Alana’s imagination has gone into overdrive.
Inkwell introduces a squeal-worthy horror theme and sustains this throughout, with glimpses of a mysterious corpse (whose story is not revealed until the end) and more than a few nods to scary movie tropes. In addition to this, we have the trials and tribulations of secondary school and budding romance for Alana, and business/mid-life problems involving Emma’s two madcap mates, Ling Ling and Katriona.
In a pattern established in the first two books, the character point-of-view changes often. But where the story previously moved between Alana and Emma, it now juggles several threads – a couple of which come close to being lost in the action. There’s a lot going on – bodies, vampires, ballroom dancing, soccer, baby sisters, nosy neighbours, outback road-trips and reluctant ageing – but the snappy pace and bright, active characterisations keep things moving along and it’s fun just going along for the ride.
Where the story might work best for readers who are familiar with the characters, this book has a friendly tone to welcome anyone and is packed with new details to maintain interest. Inkwell also has a knack for describing her character’s antics in a visual way, evoking a good sense of comedic timing and occasional irony. As in the previous books, the characters are varied and engaging while the themes touch on friendship, integrity and learning to accept change. Alana and her friends are great role models – supporting each other, playing to their skills and working hard to achieve their best – but they still enjoy plenty of laughs.