Out of the many YA vampire books that have emerged post-Twilight, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is one of the most popular. Though the concept is fairly ridiculous. It’s a boarding school! Of Vampires! But it features strong, interesting characters (mostly), fast-paced action, and a fresh and detailed Vampire mythology. The series stars Rose, a tough, sarcastic heroine who is more than capable of taking care of herself, but still has a lot to learn. Her love interests include Dimitri, her super-intense trainer who is 7 years her senior (appropriate!), and Adrian, the charismatic bad boy. I could do without Rose’s whiny and needy best friend Lissa, but the rest of the characters flesh out the world nicely. The series went on a bit too long for my taste, but I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good soapy, yet action-packed, YA series. So when it was announced Penguin was launching an app called “The World of Richelle Mead,” I decided to check it out. It’s, to my knowledge, the first app based on a YA book or series. It opens up so many possibilities for authors and publishers to reach out and interact with readers. Plus it was free, so why not?
The first section of the app is the bookshelf, presumably the impetus behind this whole venture. This is where fans can purchase enhanced e-book versions of the Vampire Academy and spinoff Bloodlines series. These e-books are designed to look like actual books (pretty!) and contain extra behind the scenes info from the author herself. I don’t blame Penguin or Mead for adding extra content as way to get people to buy e-books directly from them, but it’s kind of crappy to do that to the hardcore fans who presumably already own the books. I mean at least with Pottermore (which I assume will become an app soon) the background info is separate from the eventual e-books (and free!). The e-books will also link to any tweets or Facebook posts that fellow app users have made about the book. I personally find that to be useless and uninteresting, but your mileage may vary.
The second section is all about the characters. Click on a locket and it will tell you all about that character. You can also find out the relationship between two characters by dragging their lockets together. It’s a beautifully designed page, but since the character bios only include info from the books, I assume that this feature will only be useful for readers bypassing the original series and jumping straight into the spinoff series. Although, if you sway your tablet from side to side then you can make ALL of the lockets swing wildly off the page. This provides whole seconds of fun.
Next is the obligatory author page. There’s a brief bio as well Mead’s twitter feed and a few short video interviews. It’s fine, but there’s really not much to say as I don’t think fans will be spending a lot of time here.
Lastly we have the community section. This contains polls, links to fan communities on Facebook and twitter, and a VA news page. There’s also a world map that posts the locations of everyone currently reading one of the enhanced e-books. I find it creepy in a Big Brother is watching sort of way. Now I’m not much for joining communities (although I am for watching Community), but it seems like they could do a lot more with fan interaction.
Actually, that seems to be the theme for the entire enterprise: they could do more. The app is fine, but doesn’t provide much in the way of activity. There could be games and quizzes and who knows what else! I’m not planning on buying any e-books, so I don’t anticipate spending more time on this app, but I’m curious to see who else jumps into this arena. What YA author do you think should get an app next?