ISBN 0553561286 - The cover and title might mislead you. The stained glass window and the creepy looking guy in black looking at the pale young Catholic school girl, along with the title, gave me the impression that this might be a vampire book. There's nothing wrong with vampire books, in general, but young adult vampire books are usually not great. Most Precious Blood is about adoption, and a Mafia family (who might be considered blood sucking parasites by some, but still aren't vampires).
Two years after her mother's death, Val Castaldi is in for a surprise. Her cousin, Michelle, drops a bomb on her in the middle of an argument at school: Val is adopted. Val refuses to believe the story, but the girls at her school begin to gossip. Rick Castaldi, rumored to be a Family man, scares most of the town - a little malicious gossip at the expense of his daughter seems to spread like long-suppressed wildfire. One rumor says she was bought, another that her father killed someone to steal their baby. Val needs to find out the truth for herself and finds that, despite her certainty that her father is just a respectable business man, she's almost too afraid of him to ask the questions. When she finally does, the truth is only the beginning of what she needs to learn in order to come to terms with her life and her family.
The story is one that a lot of kids can relate to, on some level, especially those who've been adopted and found out about it years later. The confusion and the questions about where you're from and why your parents kept it from you, and the feeling of being alone and lied to, those are all things a lot of people can understand. The rest - the mob, the bodyguard, Val's sense of entitlement, etc - is pure fiction to the average adoptee.
The problem, for me, is the writing. Val is one of the least sympathetic characters I've come across in a long time, expecting everyone to give her what she wants (because they always have) when she wants it. She's so involved in her own drama that she fails to see that her best friend, Kit, is in pain and might need some comfort - which Val would probably be incapable of providing, anyway. Kit's mother, an alcoholic, has gone on a rampage, tearing apart the house, and been taken away to a treatment center and Val's response is this: "Val thought about the real reason why she'd come over, to tell Kit everything her father had told her the day before. But she knew she'd have to get Kit's business out of the way first, so they could both concentrate on everything that was happening in Val's life." That Kit eventually calls Val on this behavior would seem like a great moment, but it's weird instead, and the reader has no idea if the two have just ended the friendship they've shared for sixteen years or started a real one.
Val's father, Rick, is a member of a mob family and acts like a don, forcing Val to have a bodyguard at all times, ordering everyone around all the time and scaring people in the process. Val, despite sixteen years worth of evidence, seems to be oblivious to the probability that he's a criminal. This just rings false. Lastly, the convoluted story about Val's adoption was really poorly done. It seemed to involve a handful of inter-related mob families and a death, but it was entirely unnecessary. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why Pfeffer felt the need to write a story about Val's adoption that was so complicated that it sounded ridiculous, made more ridiculous by the fact that Val seemed to follow Rick's telling of it, and her birth mother's later additions, without blinking and without question. By the time the author began to wrap up the story and attempt to redeem Val a bit, I was too frustrated to care.
After her mother's death, Val learns she was adopted. Rumors abound that Val's father used his mafia connections to buy her. An excellent YA novel.
from the cover:
Respect. Obedience. Loyalty. Love. Val Cstaldi never questioned the unwriten rules of the tightly knit family. Her parents were doved to her, and she'd always foudn it easy to be a good daughter.
But when Val's mother dies and Val accidentally finds out that she is adopted, she starts to question the 'truths' her family brought her up to accept. When she starts connecting small details, she is shocked at what they imply: Could it be true that Val's father bought her through his Mafia connections? And if she has always been deceived by her father, is it possible for Val to accept his love and family name?