Sex, Blood, and Control: The Allure and Warning of the Vampire
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Vampires, as creatures, have haunted our minds and have had their place in the darkness for centuries. From terrifying to alluring, they seem to symbolize a certain realistic and human issue. Nearly everyone has inevitably experienced a toxic vampire-like relationship or has had a friend who has experienced it. While the real-life vampires don’t take blood from you, they can take other aspects of your life, such as money and freedom. Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe is a fictional horror-drama book that takes vampirism into a more realistic sphere, all the while retaining some of its supernatural quantity.
Parasite Life follows a teenage girl named Jane, a girl seemingly trapped in a vicious and lonely cycle. She has no friends, no loves, and her only family is her invalid mother, who has held a disdain for Jane for as long as she could remember in a small rural town in New Hampshire. Things begin to change when she meets a new girl named Sabrina, who begins to take a liking to Jane. After a night of whiskey and music, Jane loses control, and Sabrina ends up with a bite in her neck. This sets forth a chain of events as they try to get to the bottom of Jane’s true nature and her history.
Where Parasite Life excels most is the fact that it does not give up on the rules it makes in the beginning just for the sake of romance or drama. Each of the parts of the book feel as if they would logically happen within the book's universe. While there are some real, tender moments between the two characters, we are also not allowed to forget that the threat of Jane and her parasitic nature looms over Sabrina. Jane is forced to confront her nature and natural instincts versus the morality that she was born with, and the conclusions that are brought from that are understandable. There are even glimmers of hope and humanity within the bleakness of the text. It was also refreshing to see that the lesbian relationship in the story was not necessarily front and center. You never get the feeling that Jane is a predator by the sheer virtue that she is also lesbian (or bisexual—it is made a little unclear), and while I won’t reveal where the relationship goes, the book treats the relationship and its stages with enough good care where I could appreciate it. The lesbian vampire subgenre can be rife with problematic representation. Parasite Life does feature a predatory lesbian relationship, but it takes enough care and awareness to make it not feel creepy or homophobic.
While I did enjoy the book as a whole, I had only a couple complaints, and they were mostly in regard to keeping up my suspension of disbelief in regard to the book's universe. There is always a sort of problem with trying to argue in a book that vampires somehow exist yet the world is exactly the same as our own--the normal world but with vampires. The book is aware of this and does mention how there are some doctors who have discretely helped vampires, and there is a sort of fear about what would happen if researchers got ahold of a vampire to study. If vampires were real, how could none of us in this day and age know about them, given how deadly they are?
The book is absolutely not for everyone. If you do not like horror or get freaked out by the sheer idea of bloodsucking, this book is not for you. The very final act of the book is also not for the faint of heart. Some of the implications that get brought up in regard to the relationship between vampires and their victims may not sit well with some, because of how it can mirror a real-life abusive relationship.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Parasite Life. It held a good emotional narrative that kept me sucked in. Watching Jane evolve and struggle internally with the beast inside her was interesting to watch. Even the relationships felt natural and refreshing. Aside from some realism problems (I’m abundantly picky about these things), I would definitely recommend this book to any horror or emotional drama fan.
Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe
Photo Source: GoodReads
If you are interested in reading Parasite Life, you can find it on Amazon in paper back and kindle forms. You can find it here.