Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fang Face – review

Author: Norm Cowie

First published: 2009

Contains spoilers

Norm Cowie’s fang face is a young adult book and it is one the firmly wields comedy as a weapon of choice.

In this vampires have come to town and the master vampire is looking to get a foothold by taking key areas – for instance the hospital and doing this via the kids of the employees. For this reason teenager Erin is targeted by the master’s rotund minion – though he has his own agenda running also. Why Erin? Because her mother, Beth, works in the local hospital. The family, which also includes dad Bill and younger sister Alex, have to deal with her turning into a vampire. She has to cope with school and the rather unfortunate taunting nickname, fang face.

The lore in this is interesting. Vampires cast no reflections and have no shadows, they must be invited into a home but they each gain a bat familiar (which is where the myth of turning into a bat came from) and they can fly. To turn another they must resist feasting on all their blood and inject their saliva into the bite as they drink. There must be three bites (on seperate occasions) to fully turn a vampire – vampirism can cure blindness. Holy water and items seem to have no effect on them but garlic certainly does. Stakes are mentioned, but we are unsure as to the effectiveness – however electrocution and decapitation seem to be effective in despatching the living dead.

I said this was a young adult book and it certainly would seem to appeal to the age group it is aimed at, tackling various peer group issues in a comedic way. For an adult reader it perhaps lacks a certain mature nuance that some young adult authors are injecting into their works but the humour works regardless of age and ensures it is readable, with the pace bobbing along at a rate of knots.

Also, from an adult’s point of view, and as a parent, I liked the way that Cowie insidiously planted an educational element as he played with English, in a comedy way. So, for instance we get ‘"I don't want to suffer," the younger vampire wined. No, he didn't wine, he whined.’ Moments that play around with multiple meaning/spelling words, like this, pepper the book and enables it to casually tutor the reader in the nuances of English.

It is, for an adult, quite difficult to score. It certainly hits the mark for the target audience I think, it takes vampires to the kids and these ones certainly don’t sparkle and do maintain evil agendas. It is genuinely funny and the score I am offering is what I feel it deserves as a young adult book. I’ll add the caveat that adults may pronounce it just a little lacking for more mature tastes (though you could buy it for the kids, then secretly read it and no one would be the wiser). 6.5 out of 10.

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