The Awesome by Eva Darrows
Genre: Young adult horror/humor
Release date: May 26 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: A fast-paced and funny story told by a very mouthy narrator, which ultimately fell into the “too silly” category for me.
Have you ever tried running in anything with heels, or for that matter, anything squeezing your calves like sausage casings? When you fight monsters, you tend to do a lot of short distance sprinting, and if my life depends on my capacity to get out of Dodge, I want sneakers with a good tread and nothing else. You know those horror movies where the silicon-inflated babe totters down the street in stilettos while a werewolf lopes after her at six thousand miles an hour? All I have to say to that is, “Bitch would have gotten away if she’d picked better shoes.”
I was initially drawn to this book because of the graphic novel-like cover, and I was hoping the story would live up to it. But while The Awesome was very funny and had a great premise, in the end it left me with a “meh” feeling. I enjoyed it the same way I might enjoy a TV episode of The Bachelor: over-the-top, ridiculous at times, but hard to look away from. This book has been getting some pretty darn good reviews from fellow bloggers (here and here) so I may be the odd man out on this one, but I’ve never been a fan of potty-mouth humor, and this book is loaded with it, which is the main reason it just didn’t click for me (more on that later).
Margaret “Maggie” Cunningham is a seventeen-year-old monster hunter, following in her mother Janice’s footsteps. In Darrows’ world, things that go bump in the night—vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more—are public knowledge, and it’s up to hunters who work for the Department of Paranormal Relations, or DoPR, to keep the public safe from the worst of them. Maggie has been hunting with her mother for four years, but she still isn’t considered a full-fledged hunter, due to the embarrassing fact that she’s still, ah hem, a virgin. You see, vampires love virgin blood, and they pretty much go crazy around it. So until Maggie has rid herself of the burden of virginity, it isn’t safe for her to hunt vampires.
When the story begins, Maggie is determined to have The Sex (what she calls it!) once and for all, and she goes to a party, where she has a very uncomfortable encounter with a very drunk boy named Ian. Suffice it to say, things don’t go according to plan, and from here on out, the story is non-stop action, as Maggie and Janice find themselves in deep water with none other than a vampire prince out for revenge.
I’m going to start with the positive. Darrows is a solid writer and paces her story very well. I was never bored, and the pages flew by quickly. Her characters are well-developed, and while I wasn’t in love with all of them, I can see how many readers would be. Maggie and Janice have one of the most unusual mother-daughter relationships I’ve ever run across, so kudos to Darrows for bringing something new to the table. Janice is one of those mothers who holds nothing back. No topic of conversation is too gross, too mature, or too uncomfortable that she can’t discuss it with Maggie. And while Maggie often protests her mother’s sometimes shocking pronouncements, I could tell that she was secretly pleased to have one of those “cool” moms who is more of a best friend than a mother.
When Maggie and Ian walk in on Janice having sex with her vamp boyfriend—talk about awkward!—Janice more or less says “Hey, you should have knocked first.” She’s completely unapologetic about her actions, and for that I enjoyed her character.
I also really liked Lauren the zombie girl, who Maggie and Janice meet in a cemetery. Lauren’s personality is the complete opposite of Janet’s, which is probably why I loved her so much. She eventually becomes one of the family, and I liked the way she balanced out the over-the-top personalities of Maggie and Janice.
The other bright moment in the book for me was the growing relationship between Maggie and Ian, the boy she has chosen to lose her virginity to. He starts out as a means to an end, but Ian actually turned out to be a nice guy—way nicer than Maggie—and I loved their awkward first steps into becoming a couple.
Which brings me to: When does colorful language cross the line and become nothing more than annoying? For me, it happened very early on in The Awesome. Frankly, Maggie and Janice came off as trailer park trash, which is why I started to cringe every time either one opened her mouth. Janice is fond of saying things like this to Maggie:
“Don’t put this on me, kid. You’re seventeen. Most kids your age are getting their sex on. Not my fault you’re holding onto the almighty hymen.”
Yeah, it’s funny. But after a whole book full of gems like this, you can see where it might get old.
Even worse—and these were the times I felt as if I were reading a middle grade book—were the many variations of words for sexual organs. It’s as if Darrows didn’t want to use the same word twice, and so she tried to come up with as many words as she could. After a while, I started highlighting them on my Kindle, because there were so many: wang, junk, no-no parts, jiggling funbags, stiffy, wing-wang, flopping jangs, schlongs, and lady junk, to name a few. And then there were the euphemisms for having sex: “hide the pickle,” “bumping uglies,” “slip me the dong,” and my favorite, “Sir Humps-a-lot meets Lady Buck-N-Ride.” Oh. My. God. I don’t mean to come across as a prude, but honestly, it was just too much for me.
I was also disappointed in the overall plot, which was pretty thin and didn’t have nearly enough meat for my taste. The characters seem to be in a whole heap of trouble, and Janice is getting death threats because she killed the wrong vampire. But I was never convinced that any of the danger was real, and never for a moment was I worried about the outcome of the story.
For such a humorous and light novel, you wouldn’t expect the world building to be earth shaking—and it wasn’t. Darrows mentions things in passing, like the rules about when a hunter is allowed to kill a monster, but she never delves any deeper than what’s necessary to move the plot along. And that was OK. For this story, which is more about the humor and the crazy characters, the scant world building was just fine.
So yes, I had fun reading The Awesome, but it’s not a story that will stick with me. For younger readers, particularly in the thirteen-to-sixteen year old age range who may be interested in reading about a teen’s first sexual encounter, and who aren’t offended by the many slang words for “penis,” this book is sure to be a hit.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
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