Ah, vampires. Sexy, powerful, immortal vampires. What if you achieved immortality at your dorkiest? Would you be stuck an awkward high school boy forever?
While we’re asking questions, what if you were sick to death of vampires, but the author of The True Meaning of Smekday, one of the most brilliant pieces of children’s fiction in recent years, wrote a vampire novel? You’d read it. And the bar would be set way too high, and you’d be disappointed.
Adam Rex is a funny guy, no doubt. He captures the sweaty awkwardness of the high school male perfectly, and if I taught at a school with boys in it, I would buy this right away and make them all read it. (As it is, there are a few too many boner jokes for my clientele.)
It did not, however, transcend my expectations for “high school boy vampire.” There are touches of metaphoric theme: “vampirism = unhealthy relationship” and “immortality is static; growing up means changing.” There are intriguing ideas: one character posits that what it means to be a vampire shifts based on societal expectations; another character has “the google,” a mental illness that comes of too much self-referential internet use. None of these are explored nearly enough; the story is a mishmash of dropped threads that aren’t integral to the conclusion.
Oh, and can we talk about the title? The fact that Doug is fat really has nothing to do with anything. The point is that he’s dorky and unpopular; the title uses “fat” as lazy and offensive shorthand for that. The first chapter is called “My Dork Embrace,” which is the cleverest thing in the whole book and would have made an excellent title.
Obvious read-alikes: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl has the same sort of dorky anti-hero; the graphic novel Life Sucks has a virtually identical premise.
Thanks again to the fabulous Laura at HarperCollins for sending me a copy! Coming to a library or independent bookstore near you in July.
Also reviewed by: Steve Is Not an Octopus and… pretty much nobody else. Whee, I’m ahead of the curve!
Edit: Oops! Also reviewed by the fantastic Paula of Pink Me.