Life Sucks Review

Life Sucks cover art

Life Sucks cover art

 Abel, Jessica, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece.  Life Sucks.  First Second Books.  2008.

192 Pages

3Q – 4P – S – G

Grades 9-12

There are two types of people in this world: Goths and people who make fun of Goths.  This book appeals to both groups.  A subculture of real vampires rules the southern california nights.  They murder, steal and help run a 24 hour convenience store during the night shift?!  Yep, even the immortal undead need to make some cash to keep up appearances.  And for the novels main protagonist, Dave, “working for the man” has a whole new meaning.  He is a “wage slave” working to keep the vampire who “made” him in the bucks.  When he falls in love with a goth, but lovely Latina human named Rosa, the story takes all the relationship twists of a teen romance, but being a vampire only complicates things for Dave and eventually Rosa.  Dave meets her night after night and vies for her affection with another vampire named Wes.  Wes, a self-obsessed “rich-boy” surfer type, is a vampire with a mean streak.  Wes’ infatuation with vampiric powers and outright cruelty lead to his eventual reprimand by his (and Dave’s) own master, Radu, but only after a violent encounter with Dave where all of Dave’s friends come to Dave’s aid; including a mysterious Harley Davidson riding loner vampire who has befriended Dave and pops up occasionally to offer Dave “life” lessons.

In the end Rosa makes the classic teen mistake of wanting to be something your not; she thinks becoming a vampire will, “fix everything”, giving her, “power…money, and community”.  She thinks she’s knows everything about them and their culture (she’s read all the lore) but her conceptions of what vampires do and the lives they lead is highly romanticized and unrealistic.  Page 139 shows a great series of panels contrasting Rosa’s imagined vampire life with Dave’s real life as a vampire; she’s dancing at a ball in a fancy castle while he makes nachos with angst behind the counter at the convenience store.  It’s far more capitalist than she thinks.  When she finds out Dave is a vampire she begs him to make her one too but he refuses to ruin her life, only to have her show up at Wes’s party and get him to do the deed.  She gets a wake up call when Dave shows up to save her and she can’t leave her master, Wes, who proceeds to beat the crap out of Dave.  The community where vampires take care of their own kind that she once believed in in smashed along with all the rest of her romantic ideals as Dave is scraped off the concrete and carried home without her.  She deals with other problems that teens will relate to as well, like how to explain to her parents why she’s sleeping all day and getting a job in order to become more independent and support herself.  Teens will be happy to see that she does break free for Wes at the command of Radu.  Still, it’s not the happiest of ending as we see Dave walk away from her without reconciliation and bite a new hire.

This graphic novel will definitely appeal to teens that claim goth status.  Teens that don’t subscribe to this lifestyle might be less inclined pick this up, but if they’re willing to give it a chance and liked the movie Clerks, they’ll find at least a few laughs in the story, especially the parts where the real vampires rip on the goth kids.  And as vampires are an extremely popular subject with teens right now, this book will appeal more widely than it might have at a different time in teen literature.  Much of the “sexual” content is geared toward young men, despite the fact that there are many strong female characters. But girls will definitely commiserate with Rosa, Dave’s human love interest.  Rosa’s interest in clothing design will be a big hit with young goth girls who often craft their own clothing to conform to their cultural group norms.

Quasi-graphic depictions of decapitation, blood consumption and running from the cops make this novel exciting, but definitely for older teens.  Teens will definitely understand the feelings that Dave has for Rosa and the odd social conundrums that arise in relationships.  They will understand the jealousy and the self-loathing that eventually breaks into strong willed individualism.

The cover art of the book illustrates precisely the theme and plot.  A cadre of Goth humans hang about outside of Dave’s convenience store late at night as he sits bored and longing behind the counter, gazing at Rosa as she gets macked on by d-bag goth boy Alistair.  Teens will like guessing the dynamic and relationships between the characters on the cover.  The art work on the cover and through out is crisp and bright but not overly detailed or too well drawn, giving it the effect of a budget B vampire flick meets Clerks.  Counter culture of all kinds will enjoy it and the story it tells.  

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