In a desperate gambit to save her terminally ill father, a girl goes looking for a vampire.
Victoria’s parents, believing she needs a break from the strain of coping with her father’s imminent death, send her on a graduation trip to New Orleans. She’d always planned on going with her father, as they share a vampire obsession, both believing that a man who briefly publicly claimed this identity a decade prior was the real deal. Rather than a vacation, though, Victoria treats the trip as a quest for vampiric immortality to save her father. Accompanying Victoria is Henry, her childhood best friend–turned–subject of a messy love triangle that left them estranged for some time. He doesn’t believe in vampires but believes emotion-suppressing Victoria will need him. Following the few clues she has, Victoria’s led to charming, enigmatic Nicholas, who promises her what she wants if she can keep up with his challenges and prove that she really desires eternal life. The game takes them to many tourist hot spots, though Victoria’s moments of fun are complicated by grief spirals. Her emotional arc is all the more powerful for how much she fights against her feelings. Her other emotional complications come from her long history with Henry and an exciting love triangle with Nicholas. In the end, though, she must tackle hard truths head-on. Victoria’s White; Henry’s biracial (Japanese/White) and brown-skinned Nicholas has curly black hair.
Charmingly eclectic; becomes cohesive through its emotional resonance.
– Kirkus Reviews, STARRED, July 1, 2021
Fuston’s emotionally charged debut mingles popular culture with the pain of grief, diving deep into the well of vampire mythos and New Orleans mystique. While preparing for art school, Victoria, who is 18 and white, is watching her father run out of treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer. When her mother insists that she take a few days away from the family, Victoria latches on to a last-ditch effort: finding a vampire to turn her father before he can die. Though she’s estranged from longtime friend and neighbor Henry, who’s of Japanese descent, he travels with her to New Orleans, where a vampire revealed himself—then disappeared—several years back. There, Victoria embarks on the quest in earnest, armed with the research that she and her father, longtime “vampire connoisseurs,” have done over the years. When she meets brown-skinned Nicholas, a purported vampire who’s willing to entertain the thought of turning her, he assigns her a series of tasks to push her out of her comfort zone. Told in Victoria’s first-person voice and studded with quotations from vampire films, this desperate journey takes its emotionally raw characters across the Big Easy’s most well-known sites, along the way dipping into faith and spirituality, romance, and the concept of surviving vs. really living. Ages 12–up. Agent: Rebecca Podos, Rees Literary. (Aug.)
– Publishers Weekly, June 21, 2021
Fuston, Margie. Vampires, Hearts & Other Dead Things. 352p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Sept. 2021. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534474574.
Gr 8 Up–Senior year is a time for friends and celebrations, but Victoria is consumed with thoughts of her dad. They share a special bond over their appreciation of vampires, but he is sick with untreatable pancreatic cancer. The two were supposed to go on a trip to New Orleans, but instead, her father encourages her to go with Henry, her estranged neighbor and childhood crush. Going without her dad means accepting the fact that his death is imminent. However, Victoria has an ulterior motive for going. She’s hoping to find a vampire who will turn her into one, so she can then turn her dad into a vampire, too. That way, he can live forever. Instead, she meets Nicholas, a supposed vampire, who says he’ll give her what she wants if she first proves her worth. Every day he presents her a challenge that pushes her out of her comfort zone and encourages her to experience life. Fuston takes readers on a trip through muggy New Orleans in this debut novel. It is equal parts heartbreaking and joyful, highlighting the lengths that one will go in the name of love. Fuston takes the traditional view of vampires and turns it on its head, associating them not with death, but with life and positivity. Even readers who don’t have interest in vampires and paranormal fantasy will find themselves drawn into this story that’s really about embracing life at its core. VERDICT For fans of Buffy, What We Do in the Shadows, and light romantic tension.–Alicia Kalan, The Northwest Sch., Seattle
– School Library Journal, August 2021