Friday, January 22, 2010

My Take On Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

Junior high really sucks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod. Bullies harass him, the principal is dogging him, and the girl he likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has a secret: his mother was human, but his father was a vampire. With no idea of the extent of his powers, Vlad struggles daily with his blood cravings and his enlarged fangs. When a substitute teacher begins to question him a little too closely, Vlad worries that his cover is about to be blown. But then he faces a much bigger problem: he's being hunted by a vampire killer.

My first thought after reading this book was, "Jeez, this kid cries a lot!"1 But it's not as though Vlad had nothing to cry about. His parents died four years ago and the wounds are still strikingly fresh. What's worse is that he thinks it's his fault. This isn't the main point of the story, as you can see from the synopsis above, but it had such a heavy impact on the story, and on Vlad himself, that "teary" was the overall impression I was left with. Not that this was a "sad" book. It was actually quite funny.
Firsly, I loved that Heather made no beans about Vlad's darker nature. This is not a story about a boy discovering what he is, it's about a boy discovering who he is. The first scene, as I remember, featured Vlad's "breakfast of champions": blood. And he's a growing boy. Growing boys gotta eat. Or in this case drink. It was creepy, funny, and just a mite surreal. He and his aunt would sit down to have cookies and hash out how their day went, she with a cup of tea, he with a steaming mug of nuked O possitive. Very sweet. Sorta creepy. Also hilarious.
And being a young vampire would be a lot less bearable if he didn't have his best friend Henry to talk to about it. Of course Henry doesn't really understand how tough it can be some times; mostly he just thinks it's really cool that Vlad can hover and sprout fangs to scare small children. And Vlad's aunt is really great and always there for him, but she doesn't always understand either. It's tough.
The resident bullies don't make his life any easier either. Vlad's pale, sensitive, always brings a bag lunch2, wears black, and only really has one friend. The local Neanderthals interprit this as "goth", a detestable state of being in their book, and lock their missiles on him in a relentless series of beatings and humiliation. I'm not sure when the last time I read a book with schoolyard style bullying was, but it must have been some time because it made gut clench. I hate bullying5.
And to make thing a little more complicated, as if it wasn't bad enough for dear, young Vlad, the new sub for his favorite teacher3 is radiating hinky waves with such force that you can practically see them with the naked eye. Ooh, mystery4!
This was a fun, light book with lovable characters and interesting monsterage. I'd rate it PG because the characters were true to age and innocent, which was really nice to see. I'm hoping the story will get a little darker as the series progresses and Vlad ages, because this was almost too light for me6.
I give Eighth Grade Bites...

...Three and a half zombies!
I've already read the second book in the series, and the crying has decreased a great deal. Hurray! So I'm looking forward to reading the third book, Tenth Grade Bleeds.

Happy Reading,
Zombie Girrrl

1  Crying really was a big thing in this book, so much so that I chose the song "Tonight I Wanna Cry" by Keith Urban for Soundtrack Saturday.
2  Usually PB&J with a little somethin' extra added for a vampire's particular nutritional needs. Wink-wink.
3  This much loved teacher has gone missing under mysterious circumstanes, in case you're wondering. Although, aren't all disappearances mysteious? Can you vanish under normal circumstnaces? I guess if no one much cared where you were it wouldn't be a mystery; like if nobody wanted to find you enough to bother asking, "Well, where'd they go?!" it wouldn't be a mystery. I think someone has to try to solve it in order for to be a "mystery". Anywhoo!
4  *wiggles fingers and uses spooky, ghosty voice*
See paragraph 2, subparagraph 3.
6  I'm going through a gritty phase right now. I've been through many phases throughtout my life; my early teens were devoted to fantasy, I was heavy on chick lit for a time, and once I even gave up fiction! For about a year during my teens I just didn't read anything that wasn't real. It wasn't as bleak as you'd think, either. I look back on those days fondly because that's just where I was at the time, and I enjoyed those books. Still do, actually. A few much loved (and still read) examples from that particular phase are an assortment of books on the 1918 flu pandemic, three large and mind boggling works by the famous scientist Stephen Hawking, a rather thick biography on my favorite president Theodore Roosevelt (it's thicker than the Bible), and a book devoted entirely to the history of salt. Yes, salt. Like the stuff you sprinkle on fries. It wasn't boring, though. It was more about the impact of salt on human history. Very cool. Reading it made me hungry. Okay, deja voo! I think I've talked about that book in footnotes before... Ah, yes! The An Abundance of Katherines review! "'Among many, many others, the following things were definitely not interesting: the pupillary sphincter, mitosis, baroque architecture, jokes that have physics equations as the punch lines, the British monarchy, Russian grammar, and the significant role that salt has played in human history.' I actually think that salts role in human history is very interesting. I even have a book on it, Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky. Reading it makes me hungry." That was the first time I used footnoes! Good times, good times...


Taschima Cullen said...

Hahahaha I like ur footnotes, they make me lol

Good review, although I don't know if I would actually pick it up because it just sounds too light for me.

Amber Skye said...

I just recently discovered this book, and I've been wanting to read it. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I'll check it out :) Thanks for the review

hmsgofita said...

I've been wondering about his looks like a lite fun read with some teeth...but I'll probably wait for a bit, maybe once all the books are out. And I just love your footnotes!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

Great review! Jake and Gregory read this and enjoyed them too.

Yes, your footnotes are entertaining!

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