Peeps: A review

Peeps by Scott WesterfeldI was going to say Peeps (2005) (find it on Bookshop) is one of Scott Westerfeld’s earlier novels, but they all seem to have come onto the scene around 2005. Instead I’ll say this, it’s one that’s set in New York City. So, here’s a reason to advocate abstinence only sex education: You can turn into a vampire if you exchange saliva with the wrong person. Cal, unfortunately, misses out on this lesson–so after a drunken one night stand he ends up as a vampire. As you might have guessed, these are not your grandmother’s vampires. Sure, the legends are the same, but that’s about it. Because in Westerfeld’s story, vampirism is a disease spread by a little parasite called Toxoplasma. So, instead of being called vampires, Cal and others who have been infected (or are carriers) are called “Parasite Positives” or “Peeps” for short.

The upshot is that Cal is recruited by a secret government organization to hunt peeps and especially to capture those that he infected. Then he has to find the girl who made him a carrier. Sounds simple, right? Think again. As Cal gets closer to tracking down his progenitor things keep getting more complicated until everything Cal thought he knew to be true is thrown into question.

Let me also say that you will never look at rats, or cats, the same way after reading this novel. There is something about a cat with a vampiric parasite that is just so much more appealing than a normal one.

The even numbered chapters of this book don’t directly relate to the action-packed plot described above. Instead, chapter by chapter, Cal acquaints us with the world of parasitology (you might want to keep the Purel handy for certain segments). Some readers might find these narrative “interruptions” to be a bit annoying and unecessary, I’d politely disagree saying that the information is interesting and, well, cool. Even if you skip all the others, read chapter four. It’s relevant (I also saw Scott Westerfeld at a reading where he read this section of the book and it was ah-may-zing).

So, while the parasite information might be icky, the book is awesome. The story is really fast-paced and has a lot of action and suspense. Lots of chapters end on cliff hangers that make you want to read that much faster. Even more exciting, the book is just as enjoyable for male and female readers (not too gory, not too mushy–a happy medium). Cal is a likable narrator as well as a reliable one–readers know everything that he does.

My only issue with the novel comes at the last thirty some odd pages because it got confusing. At this point, Call learns a lot of new information which, of course, the readers also have to digest. Combined with the fast pace, it got a little hard to follow everything. In fact, I had to reread the last couple of chapters to be sure I knew what was going on.

Confusion aside, the story was awesome. I love Scott Westerfeld unconditionally, but this book was lots of fun to read. The set up and early chapters prepare you for one kind of book, but by the end it’s something entirely different. If you want a new take on an old monster, Peeps is your book.

Possible Pairings: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, New York: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Elvis music
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Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Peeps

Pfft

You’re jealous of my creative titles, right?

Have you ever had this experience? You find out something in totally the wrong way only to wish you’d never heard anything about it. Even though you know that, eventually, you would have had to deal with it and it might as well be sooner rather than later.

Such was my Sunday.

I sort of feel like I’m in shock, which is funny given that I did not suffer a physical injury or anything terribly traumatic. But that’s how it goes I suppose. As such, you can expect a lot of book reviews in the future because I find it’s a good distraction.

No wallowing though and no requests for pats on the back. I just felt like going for full disclosure and explaining the abundance of reviews. If you feel a need to offer pity of some sort, don’t. I don’t deserve it or need it. Instead make your way to my Live & Learn page or my Claiming Quotations page and leave your mark. Moving to a point where these pages might be self-sustaining is the end–your continued contributions are the means.

A Mango-Shaped Space: The difference between a teen narrator and a tween one

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy MassHere’s what I like about A Mango-Shaped Space (2003) by Wendy Mass: The plot is extremely interesting and really, for lack of a better word, new. Mass talks about a condition that most people have never even heard of and she just runs with it.

Here’s what I don’t like: Mass is at pains throughout the novel to make sure everyone knows her narrator is young. I also have mixed feelings about it winning an award (the Kaplan award I believe) for artistically representing life with a disability.

Here’s some information so you can actually understand what I’m going on about: Okay, so the book follows thirteen-year-old Mia. Mia has synesthesia, a neurological condition that allows her to see letters and numbers in color. As the blurb on the back of the book states, Mia named her cat Mango because that is the color of his breathing. That is, you will agree, pretty cool. The action of the story starts when Mia realizes she can no longer keep her condition a secret from her friends and family because it’s starting to interfere with her schoolwork. So Mia starts going to doctors and she finally meets people just like her.

So, on one level, this story is about dealing with synesthesia. But it also has a lot more going on. Mia’s grandfather has recently died and, as readers will learn, Mango’s place in the story is intricately tied to that of Mia’s grandfather. At the end of the day, more than being about dealing with a disability (I’m not even sure I like calling synesthesia a disability) A Mango-Shaped Space is about accepting who you are and coping with the harder parts of life.

I read this book back-to-back with Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so comparisons are inevitable. What I found really interesting is that Alexie’s narrator is only a year older than Mia, but the story is clearly appropriate for teens–I’d never give it to a ten year old for instance. Mass’ novel, on the other hand, could just as easily be cataloged as a Children’s book rather than Young Adult (left to my own devices I think I would do just that). Why? Well, like I said, Mass makes sure we know how young Mia is. Revelations like Mia never previously sitting with a boy at lunch or attending a boy-girl party abound in the narrative–sometimes unnecessarily.

At the same time, the material is just less heavy. The tone is lighter and the characters are a little less developed so that their hurts never quite hit home. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing though–it just makes it clear, while reading, that the book could be appropriate for a younger audience.

I’d definitely give this book a look though. The prose is easy to digest and the story is really interesting. And, surprisingly, the story features a lot of characters who are just as interesting to meet as Mia (with her synesthesia)–Mia’s little brother Zach is a particular favorite for this reviewer.

Possible Pairings: Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life by Barbara Dee, The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer, Jungle Crossing by Sydney Salter