Title: Vampire Weekend
Author: Mike Chen
Publication date: January 31, 2023
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Louise has been a vampire for decades and has settled into her new existence, but everything is upended when some relatives show up on her doorstep.
I like Mike Chen’s books. He’s managed to make me enjoy reading about superheroes and aliens, so I had hoped to enjoy reading about vampires for the first time ever, because vampires are so far away from what I like reading. Vampire Weekend kind of felt like a love letter to vampires and music, and, reading his author’s note, I completely got it. But…vampires are still not for me. Sadly, this book was missing a lot of the heart I’ve come to expect from his books, but I still did find it fun and amusing. The predictability made this a little boring, though it did take some interesting turns towards the end, so here are three reasons to read this book.
Vampire Weekend is all about vampires. Many of the chapters even started with different vampire myths that we’re all probably aware of by this point. It was interesting to see Chen’s particular take on vampires as Louise commented on what was true and what wasn’t. I did like how some of the myths were true in this book, which directly led to some interesting precautions Louise had to take. It also contributed to the larger vampire story, which the reader isn’t privy to until it’s actually going down because other vampire characters were organizing it and Louise and a teen relative were pulled into it. I do wish the vampire revolution had been a bigger part of the story because I found it and the ideas behind it fascinating and perhaps even a bit applicable to life today.
What I wasn’t so keen on in Vampire Weekend was that it felt like it was trying to either debunk vampire myths or create its own mythology and history. Now, I don’t have a problem with that and even found it fascinating, but I felt like the story was sacrificed a bit for the sake of really going into what vampires were actually like. To me, it read like a book about vampires rather than a fictional story. It was fun, though, to see what these vampires decided to do with their long lives and everything they’ve had to go through. It definitely didn’t make becoming a vampire particularly appealing, but it plays a role in another story line that showed how it could actually do some good.
Music is just as big a part of Vampire Weekend as the vampire part. I mean, it’s all about a punk rocker vampire who’s just trying to find a band she can jam with. Even though Louise is a vampire, it’s just a part of her, even if she spends most of the book believing it’s the bigger part of her that she can’r quite access because, you know, she’s a vampire and vampires have very specific parameters they need to live within. She’s had to sacrifice her love of music a bit for her vampire lifestyle, but I liked how the book shows her how she can have both worlds. It was great to see her teach, and just hang out with Ian, a relative who drops unexpectedly on her doorstep. They’re connected by music just as much by blood, and it was fun to see them introduce music groups to each other. The family part wasn’t as big of a part of this book as I had expected, but I really loved how Louise and Ian connected through music and came to understand each other despite the years between them.
Vampire Weekend felt like it dropped in band names, musicians, and different types of music as much as it did vampire myths. I’ll be honest and say I recognized almost none of it, so I felt like I missed out on a layer in this story. Or maybe not. The music part was a key part in the second half, but I don’t think what kind of music was particularly important. Maybe there was something it added, but, for me, it was just kind of a decoration on a cake. My favorite thing about this part was just how it helped tie a family back together.
Dysfunctional Asian American Family
This is where the heart came in. Chen’s books tend to have a family component, and this one didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, this felt like the smallest part of the story, but I latched onto it and loved every bit of it. I liked that it features Louise as a first generation Chinese American, so it goes into her childhood and adolescence several decades ago with very Chinese parents. There’s not a lot of acceptance or forgiveness; just a lot of expectations and disappointment at any kind of failure. Fortunately, Louise isn’t the only outcast in the family, so she manages to find a home. My favorite part was when Louise would remember her youth, putting herself and her found relatives in context. There’s definitely some dysfunction from the very beginning, and I really felt for her, wanting something different from what her parents expected. It’s complicated and messy, but, unlike in previous books, Vampire Weekend didn’t spend a lot of time picking apart the threads. Instead, it seemed to resolve itself fairly quickly when it did manage to become the focus, which was disappointing because this is usually where the heart comes in and I was just disappointed it was largely missing and shoved to the end after the big vampire events.
The best part of this family component was definitely the relationship between Louise and Ian. There’s a vast difference in their ages, but she becomes something of an anchor to him, especially as his mother lies dying and his grandfather seems absolutely lost, and she seems to need their new relationship just as much as he does. Their relationship goes a long way in helping their family heal and find solutions. It was cute, and I especially enjoyed Louise’s dog, Lola. Ian and Lola were cute together and I definitely smiled at those parts.
Vampire Weekend is an interesting book that takes vampires, music, and an Asian American family and whirls it all together. It did feel like some pieces were flown out of that whirlwind, but it did come together and the components did rely on each other, so I liked the cohesion, even if the music references flew over my head. I do wish it had been a little less focused on the vampires, but I did appreciate Chen’s hand at developing his own vampire mythology. While this wasn’t what I was expecting and it wasn’t for me, it does have some really good parts, especially towards the end, and there are great strides made in the vampire community, which was really a lot of fun to get to see.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups of tea
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Thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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