Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Vampire Book For Teens Who Want To Think

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex is not a perfect book. But, then, I don't read a lot of those.

Fat Vampire is an ambitious book. It starts out as a novel version of one of those unpopular/outsider teen boy movies, complete with a trip to Comic-Con. Doug, our main character, is a recently turned vampire trying to stay under the radar. Becoming a vampire was a major surprise for old Doug, and when our story starts, he's really just trying to function. That's all a lot of fun because Doug is no Edward Whatshisname from Twilight. He's no sparkly beauty, he's not rich, and he doesn't even have his driver's license at the beginning of the story so forget about a hot car. Oh, and yes, he's pudgy. (Though we're not talking anything like Jules Duchon in Fat White Vampire Blues.) So the clash between vampire story and outcast teen boy story generates laughs.

The problem is that Rex wants to do more than just be funny. He wants to do some deep, thinking stuff here, and I give him credit for that. An older vampire explains to Doug how he changed from something loathsome to a more palatable type of vampire because the "world changed its mind" about what vampires were after Dracula was published. When he says, "How often do we find ourselves pulled to other people, becoming a different kind of person whilst inside their aura? How often do we remake ourselves to suit the expectations of society?" I thought, Damn, he's not talking about vampires! He's talking about life! And later when Doug starts thinking about how he had been using humor--that was a theory of humor I'd never heard before. I was impressed.

The problem, though, is that the more ambitious parts of the book aren't integrated into the teen boy comedy parts all that well. The plot is probably a little clunky, too, with people being brought in here and there to serve certain purposes in the plot. Which, in reality, is what always happens in books--you bring in characters to do certain things. But I think they're something else that's not that well integrated.

The ending is odd for a YA novel, which is not a complaint as far as I'm concerned. I just reread it, and I think I get it, but I'm not sure.

Fat Vampire is an example of a book that deserves to be read and discussed, in spite of its flaws, because of what it tries to do. Some readers at goodreads appear to be disappointed because it isn't a straight American Pie vampire story. But I think others who are attracted to it for it's just-plain-fun elements will be surprised to find themselves enjoying the thinking bits, too.

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