Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life Sucks: A Dissenting Opinion

Written in response to a blog posted at

I just signed up for Wordpress to express my opinion of how horribly biased your review is and to tell everyone else out there in the Ether how wonderful I think Life Sucks is.

Let me first give everyone else an accurate description of this book- Life Sucks is what you'd get if Kevin Smith (of Jay and Silent Bob fame) wrote a vampire movie. I say this not only because the book centers around a man with a crummy job and a lousy love life at a Quick-Stop style business but because of the general tone Vis-à-vis the use of adult language and themes and dark comedy.

Based on your review, you don't seem like the sort of person who appreciates this kind of humor so I can understand you not being the target audience for this book. That's fine. But I can't understand why you're calling this "Twilight for boys".

Twilight for boys? Nothing could be further from the truth. The only things the two books have in common are that they are written in English and they both feature creatures named as vampires.

Life Sucks is about as anti-Twilight as you can get. Yes, there are - as you point out - a lot of messed-up relationships at play. Yes, there is quite a bit of misogyny depicted. You have multiple instances of male vampires mind-controlling young mortal women into obeying their whims (with a "Yes, Master" no less) and an old boy vampire network that chuckles at a newbie vampire claiming his first "bride".

This is, as you say, disgusting.

What you fail to mention is that none of these relationships (such as those between surfer dude vampire Wes and his harem of surfer girls) are presented as being desirable in any fashion. You fail to mention that all of the misogynistic characters are depicted as being very bad people. You fail to mention that the protagonist Dave is actually horrified when he accidentally hypnotizes the woman he loves into becoming a mindless drone and that Dave - an avowed vegetarian before he became a vampire - is trying his damnedest NOT to become a blood sucking parasite, living off of plasma donation bags.

In fact, the whole basic theme of the book - that (un)life (as a vampire) sucks - seems to have passed you by completely. There is a lot of unpleasant content in this book and a lot of bad people, but none of it is glorified. Vampirism is depicted as being very much a curse - not a blessing. That's very much the opposite of Twilight, which glorifies not only the abusive relationships between Bella and Edward AND Bella and Edward's Stepford family but also completely mitigates and ignores the subtle horrors of being a vampire and growing old without aging as the world ages around you.

Case in point: Rosa the goth girl and romantic interest has all these Twilight-inspired visions of pale pretty boys in poet shirts with artistic souls who cry tears of blood after feeding as they wait for the one woman they are destined to bring with the into eternity with their loving and supportive family of Mormon vampires.

The irony is that while Rosa dreams of meeting a real vampire and becoming one, she spends most of the book being completely ignorant of the reality around her. She doesn’t know that half the people she knows are vampires and that most of them are tanned surfer boys or losers with crappy jobs, who were blood-bound into working minimum wage by older vampires who realized it was easier to create literal wage slaves than to hire good help.

I am faintly amused that you complain that the book is saturated with "immature teen boy banter" and feel that the book "will have tremendous appeal to teen boys" and then wonder how it wound up on the ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels For Teens" list.

Sounds to me like you just answered your own question. :)

Yes, there is a lot of "guy humor" in this book. But as a guy myself and a teen services librarian, I don't automatically think the use of modern vernacular or adult situations dismisses it as being a “great book for teens”. We can’t force them to read “A Separate Peace” and “The Outsiders” all the time.

What I really have to take issue with is this statement: "In the end, it wasn’t a coming of age story, it had no redemption for the main character, and it bore no resemblance to literature in any way." My issue is that – and your review seems to confirm this – is that you don’t like this book because it wasn’t what you expected it to be.

You wanted a coming of age tale. This book is not a coming of age tale, so therefore it sucks.

You wanted the hero to redeem himself. The problem is that Dave is more anti-hero than hero – he tries to be a good person but lacks the moral courage and strength for true heroism. He fails in his struggle, so therefore this book sucks.

You wanted literature. I think this book is literature but it’s not the kind of fluffy happy-ending fairy tale you seemed to want. This book is a tragedy on all fronts. Dave falls victim to his own weakness of character and embraces the darkness, becoming the very monster he hates. Rosa has all of her illusions shattered and is condemned to a half-life for her rashness. The villains are not punished for their crimes. And life, in a word, sucks.

You’re free not to like the book, of course. But to dislike this book for being a dark comedy set in an amoral world full of evil people is akin to disliking a fish simply because it is a wet scaly thing that breathes through gills.


  1. You pretty well nailed my problems with the person's review. And I only read the book while sitting in the book store...

  2. *nods* I was allowed to purchase everything on the ALA Great Graphic Novels For Teens Top Ten list (I frankly would have preferred to get some of the books lower down on the list since I know none of my kids will give a damn about Umbrella Academy) and Life Sucks is the only thing that has checked out more than once in the last few weeks since we got the books in.
    Not even Sand Chronicles or Uzimaki (the two most traditional Manga in the top ten) have done as well as Life Sucks has at my library.

  3. NONE of the teens you deal with are MCR fans? Thats surprising...

  4. Keep in mind I work in one of the more conservative Texas suburbs. One that was founded by a Baptist preacher and named after another Baptist preacher which just dropped it's prohibition on selling alcohol in the city three years ago. :P
    Besides, I like MCR and even I didn't find Umbrella Academy to be all that good. It wasn't bad... but the crazy high-concept SCIENCE! stuff has been done before and done better.

  5. Mind if I link over to your review from the group which talks about vampires in culture?

  6. By all means, so long as the link isn't headlined with "Hey, look what this jackass said!" :)

  7. haha, no I wont be doing that. Our 'mascot' is the Dreaded Tire Vampire running around slashing tires in Oshkosh. We have better senses of humor than that.
    And thanks for allowing the link over. :)

  8. I've been in this business too long NOT to be paranoid about some people going all knee-jerk on me when I point out that someone else's review made it sound like they didn't read the book.