Title: Uncle Vampire
Author: Cynthia D. Grant
Genre: Realistic YA Fiction
Number of Pages: 173
TW: Child Sexual Abuse, Incest, Gaslighting
This book was a nice surprise. I expected it to be just another YA ‘issues’ book but it actually did a great job of portraying the main character’s sense of shame and disassociation while struggling with the fact that her uncle is sexually abusing her.
Carolyn’s gets no help from her parents- her mom is mentally ill and negligent and her dad is an all-around asshole with a short fuse. Her brother has become withdrawn and angry and her older sister has distanced herself from the family, leaving her with her twin Honey and Honey’s blank smiles and deep sense of denial that anything’s wrong.
Her uncle Toddy lives with the family and is a superficially charming slacker who can’t seem to hold down a job. He comes into her and Honey’s room at night and Carolyn convinces herself that he’s actually a vampire who is sucking their blood in order to hide from the truth.
When Carolyn speaks up about her fear and discomfort her family gaslights her and Honey threatens to hate her forever if she tells ‘lies’ about their uncle. Carolyn must decide how to best get help despite the lack of support she gets from her family.
This is a sad book about an issue that unfortunately affects a lot of families. The reader will hate most of Carolyn’s parents and uncle and root for her to find a way out of her situation. Some of the family interactions felt a little exaggerated, especially when it came to the parents’ mistreatment of Carolyn.
The strongest element of this book isn’t the storyline or the characters (though the author does a pretty good job on both) but the how Grant evokes the feeling of Carolyn’s mental health deteriorating. You’re left wondering what’s real and what isn’t and that can be hard to convey well but I thought Grant did an unusually good job with it.
She leaves the line between reality and delusion thin as Carolyn questions herself and her own perceptions of what is happening to her. Even though it’s pretty clear what her uncle’s doing right away, the book shields the reader from the full impact of his actions until the end. The twist wasn’t terribly original but it still surprised me and made more and more sense the more I thought about it. This is an older book that a lot of people don’t know about but I think it should have more popularity.
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