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Peeps
by
Scott Westerfeld

Publishing Information: Razorbill: New York, 2005
ISBN: 159514031X / 1595140832 (PB)
Pages
: 320 p.
Ages: 14 & Up

Summary:
One year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying in New York City than in attending his biology classes. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has become, literally, Cal’s life.
Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the girlfriends he’s had since Morgan - and all have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. And it’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create even more of their kind....

Book Talk:
My name is Cal. I am going to college in New York City. I have also been making sure to enjoy all aspects of college life from the clubs to the girls. I met this one really mysterious girl named Morgan. We had a great night together, and she changed my life ... literally. You see I caught a disease from her and while I am just a carrier and don't exhibit the symptoms, it is still a pretty nasty thing to have. I have joined up with a group call the Night Watch, which was set up to deal with this disease. Night Watch calls those people "parasite-positives," or peeps for short." Most people call them vampires. They are accompanied by rats, are sensitve to sunlight, live for hundreds of years, and kill humans. My new job is to hunt them down ... and Buffy Summers has nothing on me.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

College Students
New York City
Parasites
Secret Societies
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Vampires

Awards & Reviews:
School Library Journal Best Books, 2005
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2006

Gr. 9-12. In Westerfelds latest smart, urbane fantasy, parasite positives, or peeps, are maniacal cannibals that cause illness. College freshman Cal was lucky: he contracted the sexually transmitted disease during a one-night stand, but it never developed into its full-blown form. Now he works for an underground bureau in Manhattan that tracks down peeps. Apart from the cravings for rare meat and enforced celibacy (turning lovers into monsters is not an uplifting thing), life is okay--until a hip, cute journalism student intensifies Cal's yearnings for companionship. Complicating matters are indications that peeps have an urgent evolutionary purpose. Breezy essays on parasitology feel a bit intrusive, and the plot ultimately spirals into B-movie absurdity. But a great many YAs, particularly those who relished M. T. Anderson's Thirsty and Annette Curtis Klause' Blood and Chocolate (both 1997) will marvel at Westerfeld's plausible integration of science and legend. Westerfeld's concluding, passionate defense of evolutionary theory will raise some hackles, but the fact that the whole thing is premised on an STD probably preselects an audience that won't take offense. --Jennifer Mattson
Booklist, August 1, 2005, p2019

Both medical thriller and science fiction, this fast-paced, captivating modern vampire story is enriched with biology and history. Nineteen-year-old Cal is a hunter. He works for the Night Watch, New York City's clandestine organization to capture "peeps," "parasite positive" people infected with an ancient disease that causes vampirism. They're cannibalistic, violent and wildly strong. Cal tracks his line of contagion: an ex-girlfriend, whom he unwittingly infected, and then his progenitor, the girl who gave it to him. Yes, Cal has the parasite, but he's a carrier rather than a full-blown peep. Forced into secrecy and celibacy but possessing peep-like superhuman senses and strength, Cal simmers with adrenaline. He succeeds at his job in the dank, oppressive urban undergrounds, but he discloses secrets to an unauthorized, uninfected girl his age who becomes inextricably involved. Conspiracy issues arise; the parasite's centuries-long history holds a profound revelation. Westerfeld intersperses relevant chapters on how various real-life parasites operate in nature. Entrancing throughout -- but squeamish readers beware.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2005 (Starred Review)

As with So Yesterday, Westerfeld creates an engaging conspiracy set in New York City, filling his novel with provocative facts, this time about parasites. Right after Cal Thompson moves from Texas to New York for college, he loses his virginity and become infected with the parasite that causes vampirism. Fortunately, Cal is "partly immune," so while he is parasite-positive, or a peep, he only experiences some effects, such as night vision. The 19-year-old works for Night Watch, the city's ancient peep-hunting organization. As Cal begins to track Morgan, the woman who infected him after a drunken one-night stand, he stumbles upon a mystery that eventually makes him question the very organization for which he works. He also finds a love interest in the strong-willed journalism student now living in Morgan's old building, but because of the disease he cannot act on his feelings. While they may have trouble making sense of all the pieces, readers will enjoy the scientific reasoning behind vampirism, and will likely get sucked into the conspiracy with Cal. The book brims with great details (Cal can make himself fake I.D. cards and, like other government workers, spends a lot of his time filling in forms), and he faces off against other victims and encounters plenty of rats. Alternate chapters about parasites provide compelling (and appropriately disgusting) details about their small but powerful world. This is definitely a story to get the brain working. Ages 14-up.
Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2005, p71

Gr 9 Up: Vampire stories are a staple of the publishing industry. They are usually romantic and sexy, steeped in a dreamy magic. Peeps is none of those -- well, maybe a little sexy. Nineteen-year-old Cal, a Texas transplant, lost his virginity -- and a lot more -- when he first arrived in New York City. He became a parasite-positive, or "peep" -- he prefers not to use the "v-word." Now he works for the Night Watch, a secret branch of city government dedicated to tracking others of his kind. Unlike the rare natural carriers like Cal, who has acquired night vision, superhuman strength, and a craving for lots of protein, most peeps are insane cannibals lurking in darkness. But now the teen has found the young woman who infected him -- and learns that something worse than peeps is threatening the city, and he is on the front lines. Cal's voice is genuine -- he's a little geeky, as evidenced by the intermittent discussions on parasites, and he laces a dry humor through this immensely reasonable biological vampire story. The evocation of NYC is exactly right, so that even the most fantastic elements of the plot feel believable. Much of the story is concerned with Cal's detective work and growing relationship with Lace, his "Major Revelation Incident" (he tells her his secret); toward the end, the action picks up in a race to reveal the horrors to come. This innovative and original vampire story, full of engaging characters and just enough horror without any gore, will appeal to a wide audience. --Karyn N. Silverman, Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City
School Library Journal, October 2005, p178 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. How do you think it would feel to move from a smaller community to the big city like New York for college?
  2. Why do you think Cal took so many risks with dating girls? Obviously, he was not thinking about vampirism, but what about other sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy?
  3. What do you think about Night Watch? Do you think it is a purely good organization or do you questions some of its tactics or decisions? How do you feel about the different members of the organization?
  4. How did the chapters discussing all sorts of disease and parasites make you feel?
  5. Did you like the idea of explaining the cause for vampirism with scient? Did you know that Anne Rice also explains the existance of her own vampires with parasites?
  6. Where you suprised with how Lace reacted to what happened to her? He did to her what Morgan did to him. How do you think you would feel in her shoes? How do you feel about what Cal did?
  7. What is it that makes the rats like the peeps so much? Why do cats dislike them so much?
  8. Do you think parasites can make us have an urge to eat? How about to eat certain things?
  9. Do you think the peeps are victims? Should they be destroyed or saved?
  10. What did you think about the end of the book? How do you think the next book, The Last Days, will continue the story? Did you like this book enough to want to read the next book?

Related Websites:
Author's Website - http://www.scottwesterfeld.com

AIDS
The AIDS Quilt - http://www.aidsquilt.org
The National Institute of Health on AIDS - http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov
UNAIDS (A Division of the United Nations) - http://www.unaids.org/en/GetStarted/YoungPeople.asp

Influenza
A Comparison Between the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the Emerging Bird Flu Problem - http://ninthday.com/spanish_flu.htm
A PBS American Experience - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza/

Plague
Eyewitness Accounts - http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/plague.htm
Comprehensive Overview - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/society_culture/welfare/black_01.shtml
Informative Site - http://www.britainexpress.com/History/medieval/black-death.htm

Polio
Polio information from the Directors of Health Promotion and Education - http://www.dhpe.org/infect/polio.html
Smithsonian Museum Look at Polio - http://americanhistory.si.edu/polio/

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov

Vampire Folklore Entry at Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire

Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever information from the Directors of Health Promotion and Education - http://www.dhpe.org/infect/yellow.html
Yellow Fever information from the World Health Organization - http://www.who.int/csr/disease/yellowfev/en/

Read-a-Likes:
Vampires

Blood and Chocolate
by Annette Curtis Klause, 1997
Blood Curse
by Janice Harrell, 1995
Bloodline by Kate Cary
Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz, 2006
Boys That Bite by Marianne Mancusi, 2006
Cathy's Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233 by Sean Stewart, 2006
The Cirque du Freak: Saga of Darren Shan series by Drarren Shan, 2001-2006
Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, 1995
Dangerous Girls by R.L. Stine, 2003
Dangerous Girls:The Taste of Night by R.L. Stine, 2004
The Darkangel series by Meredith Ann Pierce, 1982-1990
Demon in My View by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, 2000
Got Fangs: Confessions of a Vampire's Girlfriend by Katie Maxwell, 2005
In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, 1999
Look for Me by Moonligh by Mary Downing Hahn, 1995
Midnight Predator by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, 2002
The Morganiville Vampires series by Rachel Caine, 2006-
The Nightworld series by L.J. Smith, 1996-1998
Red Rider's Hood by Neal Shusterman, 2005
Shattered Mirror by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, 2001
The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, 1990
Song of the Vampire by Carmen Adams, 1996
Sweetblood by Pete Hautman, 2003
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith, 2007
Thirsty by M.T. Anderson, 1997
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, 2005 (2007 RITBA Winner)
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, 2006
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyere, 2007
Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper, 2005
Vampire High by Douglas Rees, 2003
The Vampire Twins series by Janice Harrell, 1994-1995
Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber, 2003
Vampire Kisses 2: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber, 2003
Vampire Kisses 3: Campireville by Ellen Schreiber, 2003

The Vampire's Love series by Janice Harrell, 1995

Disease
All the Way Home by Patricia Reilly Giff, 2001
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper, 2003
The Beat Goes On by Adele Minchin, 2004
Beyond the Dark River by Monica Hughes, 1979
The Big Empty series by J.B. Stephens, 2004-2005
Briar's Book by Tamora Pierce, 1999
Chanda's Secret by Allan Stratton, 2004
Close to Home: A Story of the Polio Epidemic by Lydia Weaver, 1993
Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney, 2005
The Countdown series by Daniel Parker, 1998-1999
The Empty Mirror by James Lincoln Collier, 2004
Fade to Black by Alex Flinn, 2005 (A 2007 RITBA Nominee)
Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2000
The Fire-Us Trilogy by Jennifer Armstrong &Nancy Butcher, 2002-2003
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins, 2005
Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins, 2006

Groogleman by Debra Doyle, 1996
The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis, 2004
Hero of Lesser Causes by Julie Johnston, 1992
Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman, 2001
The House on Hound Hill by Maggie Prince, 1996
I, Corianderby Sally Gardner, 2005
The Last Dog on Earth
by Daniel Ehrenhaft, 2003
Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan (A 2007 RITBA Nominee)
Petals in the Ashes
by Mary Hooper, 2004
The Plague by Philip Wooderson, 2006
Plague by Jean Ure, 1991
The Subird by Elizabeth Wein, 2004
A Time of Angels by Karen Hesse, 1995
To Feel Stuff by Andrea Seigel, 2006

Disease (Non-Fiction)
The Battle Against Polio by Stephanie True Peters, 2005
The Black Death
by James Day, 1989
Ebola
by Allison Draper, 2002
Everything You Need to Know about AIDS and HIV by Katherine White, 2001
Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives by Jeanette Farrell, 2005
Invisible Enemies: Stories of Infectious Diseases by Jeanette Farrell, 2005
The 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Stephanie True Peters, 2005
Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk about AIDS by Deborah Ellis, 2005
Outbreak!: Plagues That Changed History by Bryn Barnard, 2005
Polio by Allison Draper, 2001
Purple Death: The Mysterious Flu of 1918 by David Getz, 2000
Ryan White, My Own Story by Ryan White & Ann Marie Cunningham, 1991
When Plague Strikes: The Black Death, Smallpox, AIDS by James Cross Giblin, 1995

Other Books by the Author:
Polymorph, 1997
Fine Prey, 1998
Evolution's Darling, 1999
The Killing of Worlds, 2003
The Risen Empire, 2003
The Secret Hour, 2004
So Yesterday, 2004 (A 2006 RITBA Nominee)
Uglies, 2005 (A 2006 RITBA Nominee)
Pretties, 2005
Touching Darkness, 2005
Blue Noon, 2006
The Last Days, 2006 (sequel to Peeps)
Specials, 2006

About the Author:
Scott Westerfeld is a software designer. He has created educational software for Scholastic, McGraw-Hill and Encyclopedia Britannica. He is also a composer. His musical works for dance have been performed in theaters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Berkeley and London. His books for teens include Peeps, So Yesterday, the Uglies trilogy, and the Midnighters trilogy. He divides his time between a home in New York, New York, and another in Sydney, Australia.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair