Review written by Jonathan Lavallee.
I picked up Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Storyhoping for a good laugh that I could share with the tweens in the house. I loved Adam Rex’s other book, The True Meaning of Smekday, and when I read that this was a parody of vampire stories and coming of age books, I thought it would be hilarious and touching and funny.
It’s a good parody of vampire and coming of age stories, but touching and funny wouldn’t be words I would use to describe it.
Doug is a vampire, not by choice. He was walking around one night at camp and got attacked by something that wasn’t human and he came out the other side a vampire. Except now he’s stuck, unable to leave the hell that is puberty. He’s going to be a little chubby, a little wide eyed, and a little too short forever. It bugs him, and he feels like he’s being robbed, particularly since he’s not well liked at his school except by his friend Jay.
Of course, he’s not the only one with problems. There’s an exchange student from India named Sejal who has come to the States because she has a problem called “The Google” where her online life was more real to her than her everyday life. There’s also a bit about a supernatural hunter show that is desperate for ratings.
Put all together, you get a book that kind of doesn’t know where it’s going. There’s a lot that’s happening inside the book, which makes the book seem confused about what direction it’s going in. That said, it does a great job satirizing the things that it wants to satirize—vampire stories, teenage romance, horrible SF shows, and high school in general.
The ending leaves it in a very open ended way. Like you almost get to pick your own ending about what ultimately happens to Doug. However, you don’t really because at the end of the book, as he lays there on the ground with a stake through his heart, the last option is “he dies” and that’s really the last thing that stays with you.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
There’s a lot of talking about sex, a lot of thinking about sex. Doug and Jay talk about getting a girlfriend. The jock that turned Doug gets angry because he doesn’t want to be seen as gay for turning Doug into a vampire. Doug talks about trying to pick up “Vampire Goth Chicks.” When Doug gets a girlfriend, he does nothing but feed on her. Despite the fact that nothing happens, Doug’s girlfriend thinks they are having sex, and Doug complains about the fact that she’s unhappy about the fact that she thinks all they do is have sex.
The friendship between Doug and Jay is problematic, in that kind of “we’re friends and then I insult you more when cooler people are around” friendship way. It’s great because Jay mentions it, but then Doug does his best to try to dissuade Jay that this is happening and then proceeds to do what Jay complained about.
Doug is also pretty horrible at relationships. He’s smitten with Sejal, and when she tells him that she’s not interested in a relationship he freaks out at her, and then proceeds to be mean to her afterwards.
There is a good relationship in the book. Jay and Cat (one of the students in the drama club, and also the host family for Sejal) get together and they seem to genuinely care for each other and are interested in each other more than just on a physical level.
Every single family is weird in this book. Only Sejal’s parents seem to be functioning at a normal level, and they only think about sending her away on exchange because their daughter has a particularly devastating problem. Cat’s family is incredibly odd, and not in a good way. Her parents are rather controlling—a reason why Sejal’s parents sent her to live with Cat’s family was that they didn’t have anything better than dial-up for safety reasons. Her older sister is constantly getting in the way with blackmail and demands for money in order to do anything. The characters are constantly working around family to try to do anything.
It’s a vampire book, so things die. Cat’s dog gets slaughtered on her front step. Doug dies at the end of the book, which was startling for me (which again may be related to my feelings about Smekday so take that as you will).
This book is a difficult recommendation. If your tween liked The True Meaning of Smekday, there’s a good chance they may not like this book. The book is funny at times, but it’s very disjointed and nowhere near the same tone and quality as Smekday which might be a disappointment to your tween reader if they really liked Smekday.
If they’re big fans of Vampire Stuff or ridiculous things, then they might really enjoy Fat Vampire. But even if they like the subject matter, they may get frustrated with the way the book kind of meanders at times. It might be worth giving this one a pass unless your tween really likes vampire stories.
Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex
Published in 2010 by Harper Collins
Read the hard cover version