Margie Fuston’s debut Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things brings back vampires from the YA trope grave with a trip down to New Orleans. This personal, heartfelt paranormal contemporary does not hesitate to sink its fangs into the heart of grief.
The story follows vampire aficionado Victoria. After a genuine vampire announced their existence to the world on live television, Victoria and her father have been obsessed with finding these creatures of the night. Together they watched every vampire movie and TV show, listened to documentaries, and even made vampire pancakes with strawberries as fangs. They also dreamed of going to New Orleans, the city of the last known sighting of a real vampire.
However, when Victoria’s father is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Victoria is sent into a tailspin of grief. Her family life is in shambles, and her father is now a shell of himself. Yet one idea keeps Victoria from completely unraveling. If she can find a vampire to turn her, she can turn her father to make him live forever.
Armed with fierce desperation and determination, Victoria and her estranged friend Henry travel to New Orleans searching for a miracle. She meets a mysterious man named Nicholas who promises to give her what she’s looking for. But in order to receive it, Victoria must prove she loves life enough to live forever. Soon Victoria is running through a gauntlet of scavenger hunts and dares, trying to prove she has what it takes.
Will the fangs of grief bleed her dry, or will she be able to show true happiness amidst this time of immense pain?
First of all, contemporaries with a bit of magic or the supernatural are some of my favorite reads. For this reason, I was already hooked by the mere premise of this novel.
Second, just wow! I was blown away by the emotional depth of Fuston’s characters. I appreciated that she was not afraid to have an unlikable main character in Victoria, who really screwed up and made selfish decisions. Yes, she was determined and loved her father. That is admirable, but the way she lied and treated Henry as a mere tool rather than a human being really brought home the fact that Victoria was drowning in grief.
This visceral, realistic portrayal of how grief brings someone to the end of their rope made the fantastical premise feel plausible. In a universe where vampires do exist, a desperate person would 100% go searching for any way to save a loved one’s life, even if it meant living it out as a blood drinking immortal.
Also, the side plot of estranged friends coming together again also felt equally as distressing and real. The interactions between Henry and Victoria have such high highs and low lows. It was genuinely distressing to watch these two humans continually hurt each other despite caring for each other so much.
Besides excellent emotional mastery in her writing, Fuston also manages to transport the reader to New Orleans. I could taste the beignets and feel the eclectic streets. The atmosphere was both haunting and lively at the same time, giving it that perfect otherworldly feel.
My one qualm with this novel is that I felt that the ending twist didn’t impact the story in the slightest. It felt tacked on, as if only for the sake of tying up some loose ends. I feel some of the weight of the story’s main theme is impeded by this event.
With that said, Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things is FANGtastic (I’m really not sorry for that). The magical realism and emotional depth make this contemporary stand out amongst the masses. Contemporary lovers, vampire fanatics, people that just want to feel something, this book will take you for an adventure and a good cry. I cannot wait to see what future stories Margie Fuston has for us.
Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston was published on August 24, 2021. Read our interview with Margie here.