Thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod really hates junior high. 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.
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Eighth Grade Bites is a promising start to this series. When the story opens, a teacher is running for his life. He is caught and then shown a picture of the debate team he coaches before being asked, “Where’s the boy? Where’s Vlad?” We then fade to black just as fangs are sunk into his neck. Ok, it looks like we’ll be getting some action and horror in this series, but then it turns out to be a whole lot more.
Aimed squarely at the middle school set, Vlad is a teenager you can relate to. He is smart, fun, likes to hang out with his best friend Henry, and pines for the prettiest girl in school, Meredith. Oh, yeah, and he also craves blood. Vlad is living with his Aunt Nelly after the death of his parents in a house fire. He still mourns them deeply, but he is also trying to get on with his life. Unfortunately, it looks like someone is out to end it prematurely. When a strange new substitute teacher named Mr. Otis appears, he seems to be a bit too interested in mythological creatures for Vlad’s piece of mind – and a little too focused on Vlad. What is Mr. Otis really up to? And what happened to the regular teacher, Mr. Craig? Vlad is going to find out.
I really liked Brewer’s twist on the vampire genre. Vlad was actually born a vampire and is being raised by a human. Thankfully, Aunt Nelly is a nurse and has access to blood for Vlad, which they disguise mostly as ketchup and in blood capsules stuffed in lunch items (such as Twinkies). He is allergic to garlic, which the school has properly recorded in his files in the office. One of the most normal vampires you will ever know. I thought the way blood was hidden in his food was well thought out. His best friend, Henry, is the only one besides his aunt who knows what Vlad really is, and he’s cool with it (although he is a little disgusted by Vlad’s diet). Henry is an outgoing young man who relates easily to others and can actually talk with girls, which Vlad would love to be able to do – especially with Meredith.
The mystery in this book does not end with Mr. Otis. Vlad also comes across a diary of his father’s which details some of his life as a vampire, and gives some indication that the fire that killed Vlad’s parents was not an accident. It also points the way to a whole world outside of ours where vampires live and in which his father, Tomas, was a wanted man. An extremely dangerous vampire named D’Ablo is hunting for Tomas and thinks Vlad will lead him to him. Turns out all of Vlad’s training in surviving school bullies is about to be put to good use.
For such a short book there is actually quite a lot going on, so it is no surprise that I breezed through it. It is also intriguing enough that I will check out the rest of the series. Eighth Grade Bites has relatable characters, a bit of mystery, a hint of romance, and a dastardly villain – everything I like in a book. Brewer’s style is breezy and natural, so the book is a quick and easy read (it doesn’t hurt that the paperback is under 200 pages either). I know it’s shallow, but I also think the title of each book in the series is a fun play on the vampire genre, and the vampire smiley faces on each cover are cute. I definitely want to know what happens to Vlad next, so I’ll report back when I finish the second book in the series, Ninth Grade Slays.more
Normally shelved in the young adult section, you will find that the writing is better suited for young teens and tweens, and that the plot is pretty standard and easy to follow. Perfect for a young ones just becoming interested in vampire fiction. With that said, the book is highly enjoyable for people of all ages and once you finish it, you’ll be eager to check out the rest in the series (Ninth Grade Slays, Tenth Grade Bleeds, and Eleventh Grade Burns).
The first part of the story deals mostly with usual teen angst, yet it ushers you smoothly into Vlad’s unusual world. What can be worse that being in Junior High and having a crush on a girl who has a crush on your best friend? Being a half vampire in Junior High and trying to drink blood while looking normal. You soon learn that Vlad’s parents (a father who was a vampire and a mother who was human) were killed while he was still young and a friend of his mother’s took over raising him as they wished: like a human. Now that Vlad is getting older though, his vampire side begins to show its fangs and he has more questions than answers about his life and who he is.
In addition to an entertaining read, author Heather Brewer has created a great supporting web page where you can find all things Vlad; even free Minion Bling!