My most recent College Fashion post factored in an interesting novel for me: a re-read, a book I hadn't picked off of a library shelf since the years I spent at the hallowed halls of Meeker Middle School, over seven years ago. It got me thinking that maybe there was more to be gained from revisiting some old favorites than I had originally thought.
It isn't the first time I've had to make this proclamation, nor do I believe it will be the last: I loved vampire books before they were cool... back when everyone saw you slugging around a hefty hardcover tome with a black cover and a red apple splashed across the front, and immediately pegged you as some kind of library-dwelling deviant weirdo.... obviously a couple years before the remaining teenage civilization of America managed to catch up with us early adopters, who would eventually find more interesting imagination fodder in other genres long before such earlier inclinations became popular (no, I'm not bitter).
Hence, how I wound up reading Peeps, by Scott Westerfield, by the dying light of the sunset on a six-hour car ride to Sun River, Oregon, during the summer after my seventh grade year... and why I figured that the long-forgotten, much-enjoyed novel was worth a revisit shortly before making the same journey this year.
The novel follows parasite-positive "peep" hunter, Cal, as he attempts to track down everyone he's kissed since goth girl Morgan infected him with the creepy-crawler a year earlier. Stalking the progeny of his parasite at the behest of the Night Watch, a bureaucratic, top-secret government organization specializing in the containment and control of the peeps, Cal starts to get feelings for pretty, normal Lacey at around the same time he starts to get the feeling there might be more going on in New York City than the Watch is letting on...
I honestly forgot about it. I really did. Until I grabbed the well-worn hardback off of the library shelf, I forgot that it was kind of thick. But a quick glance down at the bottom - "from the author of So Yesterday," another one of my middle school faves, and one of the reasons why fashion and trend-forecasting have always been so interesting to me - and it all came rushing back. I had to pick it up. Besides, isn't that cover enough to grab you?
The novel intermixes the narrative of Cal - a snarky smartass perfect for catering to the snarky smartass-ness idolized by the YA set - with gruesome and gut-chewing stories of real-life parasitic problems, utilizing their presence within the narrative to lend realism to what is, essentially, an amped-up action-y version of the typical vampire hunter tale. Micheal Crichton-lite with its attempts at using real-life science to back up one crazy storyline, this book even warranted its own sequel (The Last Days), back in 2007, when this kind of stuff was called "horror" instead of the teenybopper title of "paranormal," and books didn't automatically come backed with a full trilogy and at least three novella companions.
With the narrator's voice and the science-y fun facts scattered intermittently and the vamp-heavy content, there's little reason why I wouldn't have read this book in middle school. But what did I like about it now? Had things changed between me and Peeps since I had last read the novel?
Fear not, the love is still there. However, upon re-reading, I thank my lucky stars that my parents never tried to reign in my reading material, because here, for certain, is a tale with which my mother would not have approved (my father, on the other hand...). Language, sexual references, underage drinking... it's a veritable minefield of inappropriate material for a middle schooler. Heck, the main character is even in his sophomore year of college... wouldn't this kind of thing classify itself as New Adult in the current literary climate?
Final Verdict: This novel stands the test of time, and I loved it as much as I did when I was still wearing headgear at night. With interesting mythology, snappy narration, and plenty of action, Peeps stands out from its genre as one of many vamp-books produced during the mid-'00s.