Fat Vampire


Douglas Lee is 15, out-of-shape, pasty and essentially ignored. He'd be completely invisible if it weren't for his mom's cooking. Her garlic has given him bruschetta-like body odor, emitted in PE class, and an unappealing nickname.

Doug is also "Fat Vampire," the unexpected undead unhero of Adam Rex's hilarious new twist on the genre.

Obviously Doug has no problem being around garlic. Bibles, crosses and daylight aren't too much of a vexation either. Here, in a suburban Philadelphia high school, the conventions don't apply -- including Stephenie Meyer's idea that vampires are irresistible, confident, hot.

It's just Doug's luck to be bitten by a boy in the Poconos instead of a hot vampiress with a French accent. Thus, he starts "life" among the undead just as he left off in human existence: lame.

Doug scrapes by, raiding a bloodmobile and feeding on docile creatures like dairy cows. One particularly desperate attempt goes awry in the panda enclosure at the zoo. Closed-circuit footage of that debacle reaches the producers of "Vampire Hunters," a basic-cable reality show. They're soon on Doug's tail.

Meanwhile, an insatiable thirst for blood has done nothing to blunt teenage awkwardness. Doug falls for the unattainable Sejal, an exchange student from India with her own troubled past. The night before school starts, Doug attempts to transmogrify into a bat. He makes it only halfway, and is stuck, half nocturnal flying mammal, half doughboy, with only Jay, his best friend and fellow geek, to help:

"We should get out of the open," said Jay. They were standing far from the road, but were still pretty exposed.

"And go where?" asked Doug. "I can't go home. My mom noticed that time I trimmed my eyebrows. She's going to notice this."

Rex injects as much humor as is Gothically possible, making this easily the funniest vampire book in print. He also has a knack for revealing all the selfishness, confusion and aching of adolescence. He uses rough language and loads of sex talk, some of it startling.

While "Fat Vampire" will be marketed as a parody -- the anti-"Twilight," a laugh, again, at the expense of the dweebs -- there needs to be some steak (and, in this case, stake) to go with the sizzle. Otherwise, the premise falls apart on Page 2.  Thankfully, the Tucson, Ariz., author, found it. Rex reveals Doug's tale in drips, filling the transfusion bag slowly and hooking the reader on the strange dance between teenage life and horror movie.

The book's subtitle, "A Never Coming of Age Story," feels at first like a one-off pun, but it's more. Doug isn't getting any older or thinner, true -- "I was trying to lose weight when I was bitten. Now I'm screwed," he says -- but it doesn't mean he isn't growing up, and not always in the best of ways.

There are reasons Sejal is not interested, and they have nothing to do with Doug's fangs. She knows what teenagers are capable of. The question is whether Doug will figure it out in time -- or just keep seeing red.

Review by John Campanelli

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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