Author: Heather Brewer
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “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.”
Thoughts: Middle grade novels can be rather scary for adults; sometimes, they allow for no crossover among readership. Thankfully, Eighth Grade Bites is not one of those novels. In Vlad Tod, Ms. Brewer has created a hero with whom readers of all ages can relate. The end result is a thoroughly enjoyable, completely adorable new vampire series that is worthy of reading.
Eighth Grade Bites also has the welcome advantage of not only being from a male point-of-view, but it also eliminates the “romance” from “paranormal romance”. It does contain the standard coming-of-age fare: the main character is an orphan with an understanding best friend who is just trying to fit in with his peers and survive. Yet, Vlad himself is just adorable. He is self-deprecating in a way that is utterly endearing. He is surrounded by loving, supportive and yet hilarious supporting characters that each pop in their own right. Nelly is practical but loving and quite inventive on her ability to incorporate blood into each of Vlad’s meals. Henry is an awesome best friend, completely cool with Vlad’s “special needs”; their banter alone is worth reading.
What makes Eighth Grade Bites so successful as a novel is the writing. Ms. Brewer makes Vlad come alive, making it easy for the reader to feel the pain of his loss with which he continues to struggle. Sympathy becomes empathy as the reader truly understands Vlad’s struggles to fit in and to discover himself. The reader knows what it is to struggle with a thirst for blood, to discover new powers, and to fear shadows.
With mysterious vampires and entire unknown vampire society about which Vlad has no idea, Eighth Grade Bites ends with a satisfactory note while leaving much of the story open for future additions to the series. This is definitely a good thing because Ms. Brewer’s series is quite addicting!