- Craig Graziano
“I think sometimes you think you’re the hero of the story, and sometimes you think you’re the victim…but you’re not either.”
Douglas Lee is rightfully confused in Adam Rex’s new novel Fat Vampire. He is the title character, doomed to remain a chubby fifteen-year-old for all time. He was trying to lose weight before he was attacked at his family’s cabin, but the curse of a vampire means that he will never change. Eternally hefty, eternally hungry for blood.
At first, he gets by biting cattle and stealing from a bloodmobile (aided by his partner in nerd-crime Jay). But an incident at the San Diego Zoo while trying to suck a panda has blown Doug’s cover, and the host of the basic cable show Vampire Hunters is now close behind and frantic for high ratings.
As you might suspect, this is all a tad absurd. The subject matter is the next logical step for Rex, who blazed onto the picture book scene several years ago writing and illustrating the monumental poetry book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. Monsters dealing with daily problems are Rex’s forte, and Fat Vampire elevates him to the next level.
Rex’s dedication to following and finding loopholes around vampire folklore is so much more satisfying in comparison to Stephanie Meyer’s glittery heartthrob pretty boys. Early in the book, Doug is at a party that is miles above his social status. When asked by a partygoer how he was allowed to come, he shows the invitation he found on the ground. Vampires must be invited into a house before they can enter, so Rex manages to combine the exclusivity of teen parties with the rules of vampirism. Doug is simply not cool enough to suck on the necks of any hot girls.
Preying on young women is a huge issue in this book, and it effectively transports the novel’s tone from humorous to unsettling. Doug pines after the Indian foreign exchange student Sejal, who is polite to him at first but eventually finds his behavior sad and desperate. She quickly figures out the reasons behind his monstrous behavior, which is less based on his fangs and bloodlust but rather the fact that Doug really just treats everyone, Jay included, terribly. Doug is the anti-hero more than anything else, and Rex’s portrayal of this social outcast is bitingly (no pun intended) witty and simultaneously tragic. Recommended for older teens, Fat Vampire is a twenty-first century horror story.