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Modern vampire tale for teens is funny, edgy, and grisly.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

In alternating chapters, the author gives the reader a crash course in
real-life parasitology. In fact these real, scientific chapters (there's
even an author's note and bibliography) are, in many ways, more
horrifying than the story.

Positive messages

This is a fun fantasy book with a smart narrator who tries hard to do the right thing. Also, there is an important lesson here about sexual protection and it's flawlessly integrated into an original and very clever plot.

Positive role models

The plot hinges on the 19-year-old main character's loss of virginity and a sexually transmitted disease. But Cal is a relatable hero. He's a sardonic teen narrator who's a biology geek and an action hero.


Some fights, hitting, scratching. Chases with rats, a battle with a giant worm, references to cannibalism.


Lots referred to, though none described beyond kissing. The story hinges on Cal's loss of virginity and a sexually transmitted disease, which causes arousal as a side effect.


A few uses of "s--t."


Foods, fast-food restaurants, sodas, electronics.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking and drunkenness. Crack vials mentioned.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a book about sexually-transmitted vampirism -- but the author keeps a light
touch on the gore and sex. There are some fights, hitting, scratching, chases with rats, a battle with a giant worm, references to cannibalism -- but it's all gritty fantasy. Cal is a geeky and sardonic narrator. From his story, readers get a gentle message about safe sex, and will learn a lot from alternating chapters in which the author gives the reader a crash course in
real-life parasitology. 

What's the story?

Two days after arriving in New York for college, Cal loses his virginity to a girl who picks him up. From this encounter Cal picks up an STD, but this is an unusual one: it turns its victims into "peeps" -- parasite positives -- raving cannibalistic monsters with unusual strength, night vision, heightened senses, and an affinity with rats (you may know them as vampires). Cal himself turns out to be immune, but he's a carrier -- he gets the strength and senses without the nasty side effects. But before he knows it, he has infected others. Cal is recruited by the Night Watch, a secret government organization that has existed for centuries to contain the disease and its victims. His first assignment is to capture all the girls he's infected. But soon Cal realizes that there is more going on than he has been told: the disease is changing in response to mysterious forces from under the earth that are waking up after centuries of slumber.

Is it any good?


Hilariously gruesome and wittily revolting, this book is a sheer delight for anyone who isn't completely creeped out by it. Cal explains how he became infected with a virus that causes vampirism -- and becomes a vampire, or peep, hunter. In alternating chapters, he gives the reader a crash course in real-life parasitology, much like Melville did with whaling, but a lot more entertainingly. In fact these real, scientific chapters (there's even an author's note and bibliography) are, in many ways, more horrifying than the story. Together they provide an action-packed thrill ride that's highly educational, deeply creepy, and drolly disgusting.

What's even better, author Scott Westerfeld has found something utterly new and original to do with an old genre. He even has Cal explain how those old legends got started. And, oddly enough for a book about sexually-transmitted vampirism, the author keeps a light touch on the gore and sex -- there's quite a bit less than in most teen horror novels. He simply doesn't need them to keep the pages turning because he's got a sardonic teen narrator who's a biology geek and an action hero. It's a potent combination: hormones, humor, horror, science, superheroes, education, and romance.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about vampire novels. How does this one differ from other vampire stories that you know? Why do you think vampire stories are so popular right now? Why do they appeal to you?

  • What do you think about the chapters about parasites? Why do you think the author chose to include these lessons? Do they detract from the book -- or add another level of intrigue?

Book details

Author:Scott Westerfeld
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 24, 2006
Number of pages:312
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Teen, 15 years old Written byhangOn4Hope July 9, 2009

Very, very interesting and unique.

Yes, there is inappropriate language. There is also mention of sex. Scott Westerfeld wrote a vampire story that made sense. Instead of vampires being undead gothic people that bite others for fun, vampires are people who have been infected with a parasite that makes them into a vampire-like individual, a.k.a. a "peep." It would be dumb if the parasite spread by having one person cough on another. Scott Westerfeld did his research and based his story off of theories and facts about existing parasites. It makes sense for the parasite to want to spread itself and it makes sense for it to be transmitted sexually. Scott Westerfeld is not trying to be distasteful, he is being realistic. If you want your teenager to read about a world where everything is peachy, no one swears, and everyone is loving and kind then do that. I can't control how you raise your kid. My point is, this book is modeled after reality (except the vampire and evil worm part, of course), and in reality, tons of people swear and smoke and have sex. The book does not make a point to encourage pre-marital sex or smoking, therefore, it is not as harmful as a previous reviewer seemed to feel. I suggest this book for a mature 12 or 13 year old. If you shelter your teenager and they still believe in unicorns and gold at the ends of rainbows and you want to continue your poor treatment of them, then do not have them read this. YOU should know your kid best. Just be aware that it does discuss parasites. The book didn't make me queasy, but I'm not so much the queasy type. Also know, that while parasites are generally a topic that makes you're average Joe disinterested or bored, Scott Westerfeld makes them quite intriguing. I know that I loved this book. It is very worth reading. It is educational. It teaches people about parasites and their functions. It extrapolates from these facts and creates a believable (if you're good at suspending disbelief for the sake of a good movie or read) story... or at least more believable story than the "girl-falls-in-love-with-sexy-vampire" story. This book is enjoyable and truly, honestly unique, interesting, and amazing. I think you're depriving your kid if they're 13 and older and you won't let them read books like this. I hope that my review helped and happy reading!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Educational value
Teen, 15 years old Written bybradley4846 July 24, 2009

One of my better summer reading books

Excpected it to be alot like twilight, it wasn't. The Whole Book is basicly about sex. It also includes 1-fword, a couple s-words and a-words. Theres a lot of alchol talk at the begining, and some violence throughout.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bycheychy85 July 18, 2009
love it
What other families should know
Too much sex
Educational value