Author: M.T. Anderson (site)
Published: 1997 by Candlewick
Price: $8.99 Amazon (Unavailable from)
Series: N/A, but set in same world as story from Gothic!
Synopsis: All Chris really wants is to be a normal kid, to hang out with his friends, avoid his parents, and get a date with Rebecca Schwartz. Unfortunately, Chris appears to be turning into a vampire. So while his hometown performs an ancient ritual that keeps Tch’muchgar, the Vampire Lord, locked in another world, Chris desperately tries to save himself from his own vampiric fate. He needs help, but whom can he trust? (Anderson's site)
Initial Thoughts: I sought this book out after reading Anderson's amazing short story, "Watch and Wake" in the Gothic! anthology. I was looking for something in the same world, and alternate modern America where old superstitions are still a major part of everyday life, as are the monsters that inspired those superstitions. This appears to be the only one of his books written in the same world, but I'll probably move on to the others after this. I love his writing style.
Review: I usually wait a few days (at least) to start on a review for a book, giving myself some time to stew in my thoughts. However, after I put this book down last night, I was dying to start writing about how good it is. It's the kind of book that makes me want to call my friends immediately, gushing about its awesomeness. I'm not sure that I can put my finger on exactly what I loved, although there are several things, it just left me with such a sense of satisfaction. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on Thirsty.
Christopher is a very normal, believable teenage boy. His friends aren't unwaveringly loyal or understanding, they're just self-absorbed teenage guys who happen to have grown up nearby. I'm not saying that there aren't friends like that, I'm just saying that I get tired of every main character having amazing friends. You have to sort through a lot of fairweather friends before you find someone who would follow you through a magic mirror into Goblin Land to rescue your brother. It annoys me that the main characters in books always seem to have friends like that. It was nice to see someone struggling with friends of convenience. The plot behind this book wasn't really anything overly complicated. A teenage boy thinks that he may be turning into a vampire. What really makes this book amazing is the fantasic writing and the very original, dark world that it's set in. Anderson has a beautiful way with words. His descriptions are sometimes darkly gorgeous, sometimes disturbing and original, and sometimes he's just having a little laugh at his character's expense. You want an example? Here ya go:
"And then I lift my eyes above the houses, above the comfortable roofs, and see the woods on the hills. And I sense then, in the way the moon drapes itself easily, obscenely over them all, that there is something wicked all around us, something staining the aluminum siding and the four-door sedans." (p. 46)
closely followed by:
"My father looks at me over his glasses. He chews three times like the Swamp Thing learning how to use crutches." (p. 60)
His writing is such an odd mix of dark humor, off-the-wall jokes and comparisons, and beautiful descriptions that it kept me absorbed the entire time, even when nothing much was happening. This is a slow, agonizing story about a boy who is gradually becoming a monster. In this world, vampires can't just sip here and there, feeding from their girlfriends or random strangers at clubs. Once they start to drink, they have to kill. If they don't drink, they die. Therefore, any vampire found is stakes. After all, if the're still alive, they must have murdered someone. Christopher doesn't know any vampires, his family doesn't know that he might be one. He has no way to get information about his condition, no idea where he contracted the disease. It's a very dark, confusing time for him. I read a few other reviews of this book after I read it, mostly because I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard of it before. I read two things that I would like to comment on. The first is this: one person said that the whole book is a metaphor for a boy who starts to realize that he is gay. I can see where this person would get this idea, but I haven't been able to find any mention of this by the author, so I'm thinking that it may mirror the struggle of someone coming to terms with their sexuality, but I don't think that the book should be taken as only a metaphor. I feel that a book is cheapened by ulterior motives like that. It's kind of like those Sci-Fi movies that end with the main character waking up, the whole thing having been a dream. I enjoyed this book while taking it at face-value, so read what you will into it, but it is (at heart) a great story first, social commentary comes second. The second thing that I kept seeing pop up was, "I love vampire books and this was such a disappointment. Nothing happened!" If by nothing happened you mean that he didn't fall in love with a girl whom he fed off of in a romantic way, expose a tortured poet's soul, or fight off a group or truly evil vampires on principle, then you're right. This was the story of a boy who realizes that he's becoming a monster. Vampires in this book aren't romantic, misunderstood lonly creatures. They kill everyone they feed from. He's having to come to terms with becoming a murderer, for Pete's sake! It may be a bit slow, but it's not by any means dull!
Quick Review: Okay, I'm done ranting now. Bottom line? Great book; writing that really made me feel a part of the story, a struggle that was agonizing and painful, and a very original world that was only briefly explored. Go out and give this one a chance, I honestly can't believe how deeply it got under my skin. If you just want a taste, to see if the writing is for you, read "Watch and Wake" in the Gothic! anthology.