Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fat Vampire

I am a big fan of Adam Rex's work. If you are not familiar with it you are missing out. He is an amazing illustrator, as evidenced by "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich," "Frankenstein Takes the Cake," "Pssst!, "Tree-Ring Circus" and many other picture books. His creativity also comes through in his imaginative story telling, evidenced by "The True Meaning of Smekday." So I was excited to dive into "Fat Vampire." I know the vampire thing is overdone, and that is exactly why thought Rex's take would bring something new and different to the genre. Was I right?

"Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story"
By Adam Rex
For Ages 15 and Older
If you think all vampires are dark, sexy and brooding, you'll be surprised to find that only brooding seems to be a constant. This coming of age teen dramedy throws a wrench into things by changing the protagonist into a vampire -- a 15-year-old, overweight, nerdy vampire with glasses and acne. Vampire or not, teens will relate to the well-developed characters and their search for acceptance among peers and within themselves. Rated 3.75 (violence, language, teen drama)

Doug Lee is a dorky, overweight 15-year-old guy who is attacked and turned into a vampire by another newly-turned panicky teenage vampire. her is nothing sexy about it.T With no manual at his disposal Doug is at a loss with how to handle his new-found situation. And unfortunately it doesn't appear to be as simple as watching Dracula or studying other vampire myths. Doug hopes to find a goth chic with a vampire fetish, but when that doesn't happen he settles for feeding on cattle. It provides sustenance but little else. When the local vampires of note decide to mentor the newer ones, Doug begins to come to terms with his new life. As this transformation takes place he also finds himself fitting in with a group of friends at school. Of course life is never easy, so Doug tries too hard to win love, discovers how to feed on humans, develops special powers and begins to lose the humanity that made him special. You don't have to be a vampire to relate to this teen's angst. His struggles to find himself and be comfortable in his own skin are universal.

Adam Rex turns vampire lore on it's head. His vision is one with limited sexiness. This is not what we have all come to expect from vampire stories. He develops the characters well, focusing on Doug, his best friend, his female infatuation, and a few others smaller characters. Rex pokes fun at paranormal reality shows with his Vampire Hunters, a crew of bumbling idiots. Watch Vampire Hunters videos here and here. Rex keeps the tale from becoming to brooding with liberally sprinkled humor. I was hooked on "Fat Vampire" from the opening chapter at Comicon. The story held my attention all the way through until the end. The ending, however, was lazy and made me angry. I felt as though I had wasted my time reading the book, which is one of the reasons I had to wait several weeks to actually complete my review. I'm not going to tell you the ending. You'll have to read "Fat Vampire" and decide whether you like it or not for yourself.

So I'll leave Fat Vampire with this... if the ending had been as good as the rest of the book I could easily have given it a rating of 5. As it is now it barely gets a 3.75.

Visit Adam Rex's blog here.

We'll Miss You

This year, on Valentines Day, the world of children's literature said goodbye to a true force in the publishing industry. Margaret K. McElderry died at the age of 98, leaving behind a legacy of tales that will inspire generations to come. Click here to read more. For those of you trying to place who Margaret McEderry is, you may be familiar with "The Borrowers," "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," "The Dark is Rising," or even Margaret K. McElderry Books, a children's book imprint from Simon & Schuster. It was the first such imprint to carry an editor's name and is still in operation today.