10/15/2013 AT 9:05 AM ET
It’s hard enough being a teenager – just imagine being a teenage vampire.
Vampire Academy, the film based on Richelle Mead’s best-selling novels, follows Rose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomir, students at St. Vladimir’s Academy in Montana. But these aren’t your run-of-the-mill, glittering-in-the-sun, garlic-and-silver-fearing vampires.
There’s the Moroi, mortal vampires with magical abilities who drink blood from human volunteers and don’t kill anyone, and the Strigoi, immortal vampires who prey on Moroi and humans and murder in their quest for blood. And it’s up to a few teenagers to keep the peace between the two.
The film, which stars Ringer’s Zoey Deutch (the daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch) as Rose, Lucy Fry as Lissa and Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland as Natalie, doesn’t hit theaters until Valentine’s Day, but Mead is already speaking out about the cast.
“Zoey looks so much like the Rose in my head, it’s almost eerie,” Mead exclusively tells PEOPLE. “Zoey not only looks the part of Rose, she lives it. She’s got that same energy and powerful presence that Rose has – not to mention a similar sense of humor! When she walks into the room, everyone knows it.”
Of the 18-year-old, she continues: “On screen, she gives everything she’s got … and is one of the kindest, most hardworking young women I’ve met. There are a lot of pretty girls in Hollywood, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one willing to put in the dedication and physical training that Zoey has for Rose.”
While Hyland, 22, often leaves audiences in stitches as Haley Dunphy on Modern Family, Mead says viewers will see another side of her in Vampire Academy.
“I’m so glad they cast an actress as skilled as Sarah Hyland to play [Natalie]. When we first meet Natalie, she just comes off as a geeky hanger-on who’s desperate to please, but readers of the book know there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. Sarah totally gets this and has been able to play up all sides of Natalie s personality,” she says. “Fans are going to especially be blown away when they see her at the film’s end.”