Sunday Afternoon Visits: August 12
Spud: John van de Ruit

Eighth Grade Bites: Heather Brewer

Book: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites
Author: Heather Brewer (see also a character blog featuring Vladimir Tod)
Pages: 182
Age Range: 10-14

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites is the first of a planned series by Heather Brewer. Vladimir Tod is your typically eighth grade boy, a bit geekier than most, reluctant to do his homework and occasionally annoyed by his best friend, Henry. Except that Vlad requires blood to fill his nutrition needs, has to keep strict control of his fangs, and is deathly allergic to garlic. That's right: Vladimir Tod is a teenage vampire. He lives with his Aunt Nelly, his parents having been killed in a mysterious fire three years earlier, and he knows no other vampires. Only Nelly and Henry know Vlad's secret. Nelly, a nurse, sees to Vlad's nutrition by sneaking nearly-expired blood bags out of the hospital and making them into "snack packs."

It's a funny thing. I'm not particularly revolted by reading about vampires sucking blood from people or animals. And I'm perfectly willing to eat rare steak. But Vlad's little frozen blood snack packs? Those really grossed me out. Something about the juxtaposition of day-to-day "teen getting a snack out of the refrigerator", and the consumption of human blood with a spoon. It turns my stomach just thinking about it.

That aside, I found Eighth Grade Bites entertaining, and clearly targeted towards a middle school audience. Brewer includes a number of throwaway lines, sure to appeal to eighth grade boys, like:

"And why did Mr. Otis seem so insistent, so anxious that Vlad tackle the very topic he wanted most to avoid?

The answer was easy.

Because teachers, no matter how kind, no matter how friendly, are sadistic and evil to the core." (Chapter 6)

Or this:

"Nothing could convince Aunt Nelly to let Vlad stay home for the duration of the school year, which just goes to prove that parents and guardians don't care if they're sending you to face bloodthirsty monsters, so long as you get a B in English." (Chapter 13)

Nelly goes out of her way to make sure that Vlad's life seems normal. I found it a bit implausible that she would take his vampirism so much for granted, but it's an interesting perspective. She makes him cups of "tea", which are really cups of warm blood (!), and nags his to do his homework and go to sleep earlier.

But of course, Vlad's life isn't normal. As he hits his teens, he starts to develop new talents (including mind-reading), to which he has to adjust. He also seeks more information about his parents, especially his vampire father. As the story begins, a beloved teacher of Vlad's disappears, and his teacher's replacement, Mr. Otis, shows signs of suspecting Vlad's secret. Mr. Otis's inquiries lead Vlad into a dangerous adventure, and a quest for information about who he is, and what it means to be a vampire.

It's not quite my thing, but I think that middle school readers, especially vampire story fans, will enjoy The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: August 2007
Source of Book: ARC from the author (quotes included above are from the ARC, and may differ from those in the final books)
Author Interviews: Bildungsroman

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.