Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
4Q 4P S*
What this book is not:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - no quipping hero/heroine trying to hunt down all the nasty vampires and stake 'em to death
- Twilight: No girl passionately in love with a vampire and praying he'll bite her
- Dracula: No evil vampire seducing lovely young women, no humans trying desperately to kill him
What this book is:
- a whole new take on vampires
- a bit of a mind game (for the reader and the main character)
- told from the vampire's point of view (well, he's not exactly a vampire...) for a change
In the typical vampire story, vampire sees beautiful girl, vampire seduces her, and vampire bites her, generally sucking her dry. She either dies or becomes a vampire herself as a result of the bite. Well...that's not the way it works in the Peeps world, as Cal finds out on his very first night in New York. Cal's a hick from Texas about to start his freshman year of college in NYC. Naturally, he wants to see a bit of the city, so he starts exploring, having absolutely no idea where he's been or where he's going. He eventually winds up in a bar. He eventually winds up getting very drunk in that bar. And he eventually winds up going home with a girl he meets at the bar. Bad move. But he doesn't find that out for a few days, until he starts noticing that he's craving meat and that he's thinking about sex constantly. (Not like "every seventeen seconds" constantly... constantly.) In the meantime, he doesn't exactly try to resist all those urges. He sleeps with several girls before he finds out the truth about that girl in the bar that first night. It seems that she was a vampire, and she passed on the vampire parasite to him. Yup, you read that right. Vampirism is an STD, a sexually transmitted disease, passed on via a parasite. (Can't you just imagine what Abstinence Only programs would do with that news?)
The good thing, as far as Cal's situation is concerned, is that the parasite just turns him into a carrier, not a full-blown vampire. The bad thing is that it does turn everyone he's slept with into a vampire. Eventually, Cal finds himself working for the Night Watch, tracking down all those girls so they can be treated (though not cured). But the one girl he can't find is the girl he must find...the girl who started it all. His search will bring him in touch with rats (lots and lots of rats), mysterious cats, a secret bureaucracy hundreds of years old, and Lace, a journalist who gets a lot more than she bargained for when she lets Cal into her apartment.
- Every other chapter is about a different kind of parasite. It's interesting stuff. But...
- I read this on my lunch/dinner breaks. This is not necessarily a good idea. Those chapters on the parasites can make you a little queasy. You definitely don't want to be eating Schezuan noodles when you're reading about how hookworms attach to your intestines and start feeding. Trust me on this one!/em>
- Interesting concept: vampirism is caused by a parasite!
- *That S for "senior high" at the top of the page is because sex is a fairly predominant theme in the book, given that the premise is that vampirism is caused by an STD and that one of the side effects of being a carrier is a preoccupation with sex. But the sex is basically off screen, and many junior high school students and their parents wouldn't be uncomfortable with the book. I'm being conservative with the S, but I do think it's a book that many junior high school students will like very much.