In Fat Vampire, our protagonist Doug is a nerdy, overweight teenager,who is made into a vampire and has to cope with the changes in his life that the transformation brings. There’s a lot of vampire lit out there, and I tend to stay away, since I’ve gotten more than a little tired of it. Then I found myself on a plane flying home from BEA with a backpack full to bursting of books, and Fat Vampire was the one on the top. So I picked it up.
And surprisingly enough, it was really good – at first. So many marketing campaigns tout the newest paranormal teen novel as a fresh take on the trend, but for the vast majority, it’s nothing new. Fat Vampire, though, was actually pretty fresh. In the world Rex has created, becoming a vampire doesn’t automatically make you a hottie. Instead, Doug is going to be stuck as an overweight, acne-riddled teen – forever. Cue the normal amount of teen angst times a hundred, but done in a very funny away.
The beginning of Fat Vampire is hilarious. Doug, being a generally good guy, doesn’t believe in attacking live people for their blood. So instead, he gets it from somewhere else – a blood drive van at a ComicCon he attended, for instance. And animals at the zoo. He’s told his best friend about his condition, and the two of them wreak hilarity throughout the first portions of the book attempting to deal with Doug’s vampirism. There’s also plenty of moments that make any nerd-inclined reader (such as myself) grin.
And then, a good ways into the story, many, many things happen in rapid succession: Doug is spotted by a security camera drinking an animal’s blood, and a vampire-hunting show picks it up, seeing it as their first chance to catch a real vampire. An exchange student named Sejal arrives in town from India with a whole host of her own problems, and she eventually runs into Doug. Doug is invited into a local vampire mentoring program and is introduced to a shady vampire character who is meant to initiate him into the vampire life. Doug begins hearing rumors from other vampires (including the one that made him) that killing your maker will turn you human again.
All of these elements (tv show, mentoring program, weird new vampire mythology, the exchange student) are just too much for one book. None of it gels together into a cohesive whole or really goes anywhere. It meanders on to a bizarre ending that left me scratching my head. I think Rex was trying for something new with the way the story ends, but like the rest of the book, it didn’t work for me.
That was my first objection with the story. The second is that Doug undergoes an abrupt transformation into mega-jerk (and that is an understatement – he’s pretty abusive) about halfway through the book, and we’re not really given a reason why. It’s understandable that he may grow power-hungry, but it’s not done subtly, and it’s not really expected given his previous characterization. This made Doug so unlikable I almost didn’t finish. I’m not a reader who can enjoy a book with such a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist.
I do think Fat Vampire, which will be published on the 27th, has some good things going for it. For one thing, I like the cover and think it matches the story perfectly. Beyond that superficiality, Rex has a really engaging style and great dialogue. I flew through the book in a couple of days. It’s also clear that he can be very, very funny. I think the book needed a little more work for it to succeed. It might be good for more forgiving readers who, like me, have grown tired of the vampire trend but still remember what they enjoyed about it in the first place. While I can’t really say that I thought the book was good, I found enough things to like about Rex’s writing style that I picked up The True Meaning of Smekday, his previous novel that has received positive reviews. I have high hopes for it.
ARC provided by the publisher.