Last year as college freshman, narrator Cal was infected by exotic goth Morgan with a parasite that caused following girlfriends to become vampire-like ghouls he calls parasite-positives "Peeps". A carrier without symptoms, he hunts his progeny for the centuries old bureaucratic Night Watch. But victims are showing more sanity, pretty human Lacey is pushing his buttons, and her apartment building basement houses fierce hordes of ravening rats, red-eyed cats, and monstrous worms that threaten all. Morgan has the secret to a centuries-old conspiracy and upcoming battle to save the human race.Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy is one of the best of the early YA dystopia books that’s come out in the past 20 years. It was because I loved that series so much that I decided to try out Westerfeld’s other books!
Peeps is about a guy named Cal who’s been infected with a parasite which causes vampirism. Unfortunately, he’s also infected some of his girlfriends. Now he’s gotta hunt them down and bring them back to the Night Watch– a secret organization dedicated to keeping the lid on this nasty Peep problem– for rehabilitation.
But there’s something else going in New York besides vampires. There’s something living deep underground, beneath the subway and the sewers, and it’s waking up.
Weird vampire stories are totally my jam, but I did NOT connect with this book as much as I wanted to. Considering how much I loved almost all the characters in the Uglies books, and how well-written and deep their personalities and storylines were, it’s somewhat ironic that I really hated almost all the characters in Peeps.
They’re not likable. Book characters don’t HAVE to be likable, but if they’re unlikable they need something else to catch the reader’s interest. Cal’s weirdly unsympathetic as a character and towards OTHER characters. His vampire girlfriends are seen through his viewpoint which means they’re unlikable, too, and that sucks. I am a character-driven reader, and without at least one likable character I struggle to enjoy a book.
Beyond the characters, the plot was all over the place. Like, the thing living underground was NOT as huge of a deal as I expected it to be– maybe it’s expanded more in the sequel? But it means this book feels incomplete.
Peeps could have actually used a few more chapters. I feel like it a bit more room to grow the narrative. Then again, would spending any longer with these characters do me any good? Probably not.
So I wasn’t overly wowed with Peeps. However, it IS a unique take on vampires, and despite my misgivings about the characters and the plot points, Westerfeld’s writing voice is pretty great. You could check it out, but only if you really like vampire books.
Read: December 2008
So the nice thing about Peeps is that there’s several directions you could go in for turning it into a resources for students and teens.
For instance, you could go the science route. Peeps has a strong science element in it (the parasites) and you could tie in some factual info about real-life parasites. Or you could work the empathy/emotional angle instead, and tie in some creative writing. Perhaps you might even do a literature unit where you read different vampire books from the last 100 years and compare how they’re treated.
- Science: Speciation Lab, where students use skittles to simulate how species separate.
- Speciation: An Illustrated Introduction by Cornell Lab of Ornithology (VIDEO)
- Literature: Compare the vampires in Peeps to the vampires in other vampire stories, such as Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twilight.
- Literature: Do a creative writing prompt! What would it feel like if YOU turned into a vampire? A friend or family member?
Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps page, which talks about the influences behind the story.
Monster Librarian’s Vampire Fiction for Young Adults page has a list of reviews of other YA vampire books.