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Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2010
Genre: Horror
Sub-genre: Paranormal, YA



Basically, I picked this up because my friendly neighbourhood crackdealer bookseller told me to. Honestly, I walked into the bookstore and the conversation went like this:

Him: "Anna, I found this book you have to read. It's about this awkward, overweight fifteen-year-old who gets turned into a vampire and STAYS an awkward, overweight fifteen-year-old."
Me: "Wait, so he isn't instantly beautiful and awesome? He gets to be horribly fifteen forever?"
Him: "Yup."
Me: "Huh."

Follow this finely-crafted link to the full review. Thrills and chills for all!

One of the things this book does that's interesting is introduce us to a very sympathetic character and then proceed to slowly transform him into something that isn't. While Doug doesn't instantly transform into hot, hot awesomeness, it does affect him. When he starts to think "hey, vampire = awesome, Doug = vampire, therefore Doug = awesome," he finds his self-confidence, but in a bad way. This isn't the standard YA novel where the outcast bonds with other outcasts and discovers he's not so bad in his own way.

Fat Vampire is very self-aware, and while that doesn't always work for me, it did here. In a lot of ways, the book is a subversion of every other YA fantasy/horror novel out there. It explores a variety of vampire myths and how they might co-exist, references other books in the genre (everything from Stoker's Dracula to Gaiman's Sandman) and pokes a bit at the expectation that the protagonist of the YA novel will always get the girl/guy. After having established itself as a novel that embraces variety, with teens of different races and sexual orientations presented, it has this to say:

Doug, for his part, didn't think he really had much of an opinion about gay people. He didn't know any. Except maybe Ophelia, now. If anything, he was possibly a little sick of them. They were always popping up in shows and movies and in the books he read. They used to be comic relief, but at some point it was like you weren't allowed to laugh anymore, and the gay characters were Very Serious. Their whole character would be about them being gay, and how serious and unfunny and also completely normal it was. In each new book, especially, there seemed to be one or two. Like the author wanted to prove what an open-minded, big-tent guy he was.

This paragraph is loaded with so very many things, it's hard to know where to start. First, it's a pretty honest dissection of the depictions of LGBT characters in popular fiction. It's also very much the author poking fun at himself. And it's an interesting look at the main character, who is growing steadily less sympathetic and likeable. A few chapters earlier, when faced with evidence that Ophelia was likely gay or bisexual, Doug and the rest of the teens in his social group were pretty non-reactive. "Oh, her hot date's a chick? That's cool." It's not until later in the book, when Doug makes his transition into jerkland, that he starts analyzing things and decides he's sick of gay people. There's actually a lot of that sort of thing going on in the book, where there's a lot more going on than would appear on the surface. The reference to Sandman, for example, is far more of an ingenius insertion than a mere throwaway mention.

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March 2011

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