I 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
Sound good? Find it on Amazon: Peeps