Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston (352 pages)
Victoria Finds Herself on a Mission to Save Her Dad’s Life and Avoid Feeling the Worst Pain of Her Life: Losing Him
In Vampires, Hearts, & Other Dead Things, Victoria is a high school senior faced with life-altering news: her dad has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. On the cusp of adulthood and with plans to attend art school in the fall, she now finds herself in an impossible situation; unable to accept her dad’s diagnosis and the idea of life without him.
The two share a bond like no other – one only strengthened by his encouragement of her art and their mutual love of the undead. Without him, who will share her quirky interests and possess an unwavering belief in not only vampires, but her? Since the first vampire revealed its existence on live TV, the two have shared a dream of finding one together, but now Victoria must do so on her own if she hopes to save him.
Refusing to give up the hope of a life with her dad, Victoria sets out to New Orleans with plans to track down a vampire who can give her – and her dad – immortality. With the help of past research and Henry – her estranged best friend – Victoria meets Nicholas, a mysterious young man who might be willing to help her. However, he has one condition if he is to grant her immortality: proof that she loves life enough to live forever.
Over the course of a week, Victoria completes tasks given to her by Nicholas – ones designed to help her fully experience life, but truly living while her dad is dying is almost more than she can stand. While Victoria fights to save her dad, she fights just as hard to save herself from feeling both the joy and pain that comes with living.
A Journey of Finding and Feeling
The real pain of loss and the fantastical solution of immortality is an unlikely pairing that I thought might crumble beneath the weight of such a heavy storyline. However, Fuston helps readers buy into the plot by giving us both sides of the coin – a determined main character who believes in vampires and a loyal sidekick who doesn’t but is willing to play along for the sake of his best friend. While immortality and the undead form the foundation of this novel’s plot, they take a backseat to Victoria’s internal struggle which is one any reader can relate to: accepting life’s complicated and inseparable makeup of both unbearable pain and impossible joy.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
From the beginning chapters, I had a real sense of Victoria’s pain about her father’s diagnosis. So much so, that by the time she hatched her improbable solution to save his life through immortality, I was fully on board with a vampire hunt. Fuston took me on a rollercoaster of emotions from sad conversations between father and daughter to lusty encounters with strangers to frustrating conversations between people who know each other too well to say what they mean. It’s not lost on me that a book all about feeling one’s way through life forces you to feel your way through its pages too.
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Taylor Stawecki is a 20-something Michigander with a love for the great outdoors and written word. She spends her weekdays working for a digital marketing company and as a freelance copywriter. In her free time, you can find her reading, writing poetry, running, watching a Grey’s Anatomy rerun, or spending time with her family and friends. As an old soul, she enjoys collecting salt and pepper shakers and cuddling up in oversized sweaters.