Hey guys! As you may know, I recently launched my new feature, Once Upon a Time. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the intro post, you can read it here! To sum it up: Once Upon a Time is a backlist feature that not only helps me showcase some really amazing authors and their backlist titles, but also allows me to share with you some of the books that I read when I was younger and that are still favorites now. These are the books that shaped me as a reader and made me feel less alone as a teen.
Before we begin, Please Note: Due to the location of my Vlad Tod books on my shelf, I wasn’t able to reach them to take original photos. The photos you’ll find in this post are close-ups of Fang from the covers of each book. I do not own this image nor the rights to it.
So, originally, I was going to wait and feature Zac Brewer in May when his new book, The Blood Between Us, came out. But something happened the other day. A man who claimed to be a member of Uncle Zac’s Minion Horde insulted Uncle Zac for being transgender.
I want to start by saying that Uncle Zac is amazing. He has done SO MUCH for teens and readers who feel alone and are bullied. And that anyone could claim to be a Minion and yet insult him in the same message? Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. No true, loyal Minion would EVER insult Uncle Zac. Not after everything Uncle Zac has done for all of us. His honesty and openness in discussing his depression, anxiety, health issues and transition have made so many people feel safe, loved and accepted. Loyal Minions are thankful for everything Uncle Zac has done. They have always and will always love and support him for being epic personified.
So.. Like I said, I was going to wait until May and the release of The Blood Between Us to feature Uncle Zac. But I feel like this incident needs to be addressed and Uncle Zac needs to know he’s loved and supported, as he has always loved and supported his Minions. And I figured featuring him in my March ‘Once Upon a Time’ would do just that – or help, at least.
For those who don’t know, Uncle Zac first entered our bookish lives in 2007 with the publication of Eighth Grade Bites, a series that has resonated with many readers across the world – myself included. I can remember the exact situation under which I first discovered this book. I was on vacation with my family in Vermont. I was exploring the YA section of the beloved indie bookstore there and my eyes caught on Eight Grade Bites. At first, I was hesitant. Though I’ve always been a HUGE vampire fan, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel reading a book from the point of view of an eighth grade boy. At that point in my life, I found I had a difficult time relating to books with male main characters – I know, I know, this was very stupid of me! But I was a younger reader then and, except for Harry Potter, I had never had success reading male main character books. But all that changed when I decided to give Eight Grade Bites and Vlad a chance.
I remember being so intrigued by the plot that I didn’t want to put the book back on the shelf, despite my doubts. I remember taking it back to my hotel that night and starting it right away. I remember finishing it before the weekend was over. And I remember I didn’t want it to ever end. I was so touched by these characters and their stories. Vlad was such a relatable character, despite being a vampire! He was bullied and alone, just trying to survive junior high. Vlad has to deal with the ups and downs of growing up, of juggling friends and relationships, of dodging bullies and standing tall in the face of his struggles.
I remember when the second book, Ninth Grade Slays, came out and I was ecstatic! Mind you, this was before I knew about the existence of Goodreads, so I couldn’t look the series up to discover if book two was even going to be a thing. I didn’t know when it would come out or even IF it would come out. Back then, I didn’t know what I know now about searching out release dates and author news. I was very much alone in my fangirling, as none of my friends in real life were big readers and I hadn’t discovered the book community online yet. So my level of excitement when this much-anticipated sequel released can’t be described in words.
These books made me feel less alone. These characters felt like friends and family, like confidants. They were around at a time in my life when I really needed them. And when the final book, Twelfth Grade Kills, came out, I remember being overjoyed at how satisfying the ending was, but also devastated that it was ending.
But it wasn’t until later, when I became more involved with social media, Goodreads and the book community that I realized that Uncle Zac was such an amazing person. He wasn’t a typical adult who looked down on kids and teens, who sneered at them or dismissed them. He truly cared. Sure, that was pretty obvious – or should have been – from the books he wrote and the topics addressed. But learning more about the person behind the books made me love them even more. When I first learned about Uncle Zac’s Minion Horde and what it meant to be a Minion, I latched onto the idea and have tried to embrace what it means to be a Minion. And I’ve discovered that once a Minion, always a Minion. Being a Minion means being a Minion for life. It means helping and supporting your fellow Minions, accepting them for who they are – accepting yourself for who you are.
This is more than just a book series. Uncle Zac is more than just an author. The take-away is this: Treat others as you would treat yourself. Accept others as you wish to be accepted. Support your fellow Minions and be there for them, as you want them to be there for you when you need them. Band together and be strong. Fight the bullies. Fight the hate. Fight the stigma of mental illness. Fight against discrimination. You be you. You do you. Own your weird, as Uncle Zac would say. Together, we can create a more tolerant world.
“People fear what they can’t understand and harm what they fear.”
― Heather Brewer, Eighth Grade Bites
So what I’m trying to say is this: That man who claimed to be a Minion, who insulted Uncle Zac? He’s not a Minion. If you’ve ever felt alone and you can relate to the above post, then YOU are a Minion. And if you’re kind to others and accept them for who they are, then you’re a Minion for life.
“A label doesn’t make something so. A label is just a word. It’s what a person does that makes them who they are”
― Heather Brewer, Twelfth Grade Kills
I want to leave you with this message from Uncle Zac. I encourage you to read it. It’s important.
So, are you a Zac Brewer fan? Which of his books have you read? What did they mean to you? Do you still re-read them? Are you a Minion? Will you become a Minion? Discuss in the comments!!
Zac Brewer grew up on a diet of Twilight Zone and books by Stephen King. He chased them down with every drop of horror he could find—in books, movie theaters, on television. The most delicious parts of his banquet, however, he found lurking in the shadowed corners of his dark imagination. When he’s not writing books, he’s skittering down your wall and lurking underneath your bed. Zac doesn’t believe in happy endings . . . unless they involve blood. He lives in Missouri with his husband and two children.
Zac is represented by Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
He also sometimes makes a fool of himself on his YouTube channel.
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