Title: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Summary: Cal has been infected with a parasite. Most people know it as Vampirism, but people in his line of work like to refer to it as Parasite Positive, or Peeps. While trying to find the woman who infected him, Cal meets Lacey, a girl on a mission to keep her inexpensive but luxury apartment. Together they find out not only who infected Cal but so much they didn't expect about Peeps.
Review: Peeps is easily one of my favorite books. This is the third time I've read it and I still adore it. I've always been a fan of well-written vampire books but this book is the vampire novel for people who can't stand vampire novels.
I loved that Westerfeld steers clear of your typical vampire stereotypes. In Peeps, vampirism is a parasite that preys on the human race. It has all the biological traits and side effects of a common parasite. The person gets super strength and senses, is constantly hungry (and horny), cannibalistic and, in the beginning, goes raving mad. Cal got lucky: he's a carrier. He has all of the pros of being a Parasite Positive (or Peep) but none of the craziness. Unfortunately, all the women he has slept with or kissed have gone crazy. He is recruited by the Night-watch, a centuries old organization that has kept the disease hidden, to capture all of his previous liaisons.
Cal is a great character that's so easy to relate to. At nineteen, he still has a lot of the quirks of a nineteen year old. He speaks like a nineteen year old, gets annoyed when people at the Night Watch give him the nickname of "kid" and is self-conscious around girls (even with the parasite putting his hormones in overdrive.) One of his first meetings with Lacey, he thinks that she might be "too old" for him (even though he knows he can't date her because that would be spreading the disease.) Watching combat his constant horniness is hilarious. It seems at least once every page or so he's reminding himself of all the reasons he can't date Lacey or he can't look at a women or can't kiss one. It's done so well that the frequent mention of it actually is just humorous, not annoying.
Throughout the story, Cal is trying to hunt down whoever gave him the disease and meets Lacey, the girl who lives on the same floor as Morgan, the woman who infected Cal. Lacey is not your usual female lead. She's smart and stubborn and is always trying to figure out what's going on. Westerfeld wrote her to be Cal's antagonist in some ways. He was always trying to hide things from her and she was always trying to find out what he was hiding. I like that she's not the typical love interest, sitting back and just letting things happen. She takes action herself.
One of the most interesting parts was how Westerfeld worked in the common myths about vampires. Most people think that vampires are afraid of crosses. We're told that new Peeps have anathema. Basically, they hate everything that they once loved. In the middle ages, most people were Christians, therefore would then be repelled by crosses because they would now hate they thing they loved. Westerfeld also attributes the plague, zombies and werewolves all to the parasite.
Westerfeld draws parallels between known parasites and the one he created. Every other chapter is about parasites that appear in the world, how they work and their effect on the ecosystem. It's easy to see the relations between those parasites and the story and his self-made parasite.
The story doesn't unfold quite as you expect it, which is what I always like. You think that Cal is part of an organization that prevents the spread of the disease when, in reality, they're actually trying to spread the correct strain of it. Inevitably, Peeps are meant to fight to keep the human race alive. They are the immune system for the human race, thus tying even the Peeps back into the parasite/immune system metaphor that Westerfeld creates throughout the book.
The end is a perfect balance between a resolution and the unknown. You find out all the information about Peeps that had been plaguing Cal throughout the story but you still aren't reassured that it's all going to end wonderfully. The story ends with the start of an apocalyptic fight between Peeps and the enemy with Peeps being in the minority. Cal may have his answers but that doesn't deter from the fact that they are on the precipice of chaos.
I think everyone should read this book (and just about everything else Westerfeld has written.) Usually I would only recommend vampire books to those who enjoy them but this is SO different than any of the other vampire novels I've read (which is quite a few.) Westerfeld steers clear of the word "Vampire" throughout almost the entire novel. It's well written with great characters and an interesting plot. Go read it. Right now. Why are you still reading this review?
You can read this book and all others at my Goodreads account.
Books read this year: 45
Currently Reading: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll