This is the first audiobook I've ever read/listened to, and I think in this case the narrator worked well for the story, since she didn't distract me. In Tana's world, vampires are real. When she was only six, a vampire decided he was tired of living in the shadows, and infected many people, leading to a worldwide epidemic. In Black's world, you don't have to drink vampire blood to switch over, but you are infected once they bite you, and if you drink human blood while infected, you will die and wake up a vampire. Given the uncontrollable hunger that accompanies the infection, most give in. By the time Tana was seven, vampires were common knowledge. Now, Tana is sixteen, and vampires and humans have found a way to live together in the US, at least to an extent. The vampires have all been segregated and locked up in Coldtowns, seven of which exist in America. Springfield, Massachusetts is the first and oldest as the location of the first outbreak and also relatively close to Tana's hometown. Vampires are seen as both scary, dangerous creatures as a result of the last ten years but also glamorous, a way to a better life. This is a view that the vampires encourage with live streams to Coldtown and its parties as well as various reality shows - the online videos make money and entice humans to come to Coldtowns, thus providing the vampires a steady blood supply. This has all been a common part of Tana's life for ten years when she wakes up in the bathtub one morning, and realizes that she is a survivor of a vampire massacre at a high school party.
However, she soon realizes that she is not alone when she finds her ex, Aidan, and a vampire, both tied or chained up in a downstairs bedroom. Aidan is infected, and Gavriel, the other vampire, is in some type of trouble with the vampires that caused the massacre, and who are still in the house. Tana saves them both, and in the course of the rescue, one of the vampires manages to scrape her leg. Since Aidan is definitely affected and she can't tell if she has enough venom in her system to be or not, Tana decides to drive Coldtown for the safety of everyone else, and to try to defeat the virus, avoiding the temptation to turn for the next 88 days.
Even though Aidan and Tana clearly have a history and their break up hurt her, I really liked the fact that the novel didn't make him a love interest. Based on the descriptions of him as human and an infected person controlled by hunger, it is obvious that he is selfish, though charming. In fact, he often comes off as a bit of a tool, and Tana appears to have little interest in rekindling anything during their time on the run. However, she is clearly drawn to the odd, mysterious and unbalanced Gavriel. I really liked Gavriel, and enjoyed the fact that Black gave him more background.
The narrative clearly showed the risks of Coldtown, and Tana's own background explains both her aversion and her draw to the idea of being a vampire. She was a very resourceful heroine, and I loved the fact that she didn't get distracted by romantic interests, though she had an interest in Gavriel. Her main priority is always her sister, and making sure that Pearl is safe, and if that means Tana has to break off contact with her, she will. Black did a great job of portraying the Coldtown, and the type of people that might live there, a mix of humans trapped by the quarantine and people drawn to the idea of immorality, hoping to please a vampire enough to be "worthy" of infection.
I also just loved how intricate and detailed the plot was, though I guessed quite a few things before Tana and became suspicious at various times. However, Tana is still very smart, and after Splintered, I was just so happy to have a protagonist who took the lead, and even saved the boys around her rather than being completely reliant on everyone around her. The novel is primarily told from Tana's perspectives but alternate chapters provide different view points, such as Pearl and Gavriel, and flashes into Tana's own past. The novel ended in the perfect place. It works great as a stand-alone which is what is listed as on her Goodreads author page, but Black could easily revisit Coldtown if she wanted to. Personally, I'd be curious to see what's going on in San Francisco where the feeds have gone silent. I definitely liked it enough to want a physical copy for my bookshelf.