by Mike Chen
Mike Chen's VAMPIRE WEEKEND is unlike any vampire novel I have ever read. It is a grounded, humorous and deliciously original take on the genre’s tropes and norms.
Louise Chao, who dons a punk-rock style right out of the ’70s, lives alone in her deceased aunt’s house with her adorable corgi companion, Lola. She is trying to find a band to join that can accommodate her nocturnal schedule and not raise alarm when she seems to sneeze out blood. Sometimes she volunteers at the hospital, helping herself to an underused blood bag supply. Louise is mainly craving music and connection; she is jaded and always has been, even before turning into a vampire.
"VAMPIRE WEEKEND is unlike any vampire novel I have ever read. It is a grounded, humorous and deliciously original take on the genre’s tropes and norms."
In this book, being a vampire is far from glamorous. Vampires are not especially speedy or powerful, they aren’t killing machines, and their teeth can’t easily tear through skin. They don’t need to be invited into one’s home. They don’t live dangerous, alluring or sexy lives. They can’t bend people to their will. They have no super hearing or heightened eyesight.
Vampires are just people, and it feels like a sheet being pulled off from a genre where these “monsters” are often romanticized to reveal something so normal in their place that it creates an original complexity to the premise of vampirism. They still need blood, are harmed by the sun and live long lives. Chen’s portrayal of vampires toys with common concepts born of a teenager’s romanticization of goth culture and death, acknowledging how at the end it is just “lonely, empty, unfair.”
For Louise, she is at the point of that long life where she is completely alone. Along with her aunt passing away, her best friend was killed in a car accident suspiciously close to when he found out about her being a vampire. But Louise keeps on going, living by patterns that threaten to be upset with news of an influx of attacks, a nosy vampire community leader, and a stranger appearing on her doorstep with a moody teenage boy named Ian — tied more closely to her past than she can initially predict.
It is through music that Louise will begin to form bonds again, and it is these bonds that will make a dead girl feel alive. But she needs to be careful not to break the one rule of the vampire world: Never reveal your true nature to humans.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND is about families — how they break and what it takes to come back together. Music is tied to memory and communication; it fills the gaps of what people are not strong enough to say in a scene and escalates passing moments into memorable ones. I really enjoyed these characters. They are well-crafted and experience growth throughout the book. Louise is selfish, flawed and always relatable. I appreciated that she had to face consequences for her actions and learned from them.
By the end, you will reminisce about the rush that music brings. It will make you yearn for a concert, where you fall under a mix of euphoria and hypnosis and end up screaming to what you’re hearing without being aware of the space you take up in the world. You will want to make a playlist of your life and let the music speak for you.
Reviewed by Eleni Karavoussianis on February 11, 2023
- Publication Date: January 31, 2023
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Mira
- ISBN-10: 0778386961
- ISBN-13: 9780778386964