Sweetblood is a fantastic young adult vampire book. I read it when I was a teenager, and felt really connected to the main character, Lucy Szabo. She’s a girl who feels like she is different from others, and thinks that no one can really understand her. Unique, right? But in that common experience, this book appeals to teenagers who may feel that they are different from everyone else.
Lucy really reminds me of myself when I was a teenager. She’s isolated, clever, and spends an extraordinary amount of her time frequenting an online vampire forum. Lucy has type 1 diabetes (as does the author, Pete Hautman) and is dependent on insulin, and this is the reason for her fascination with vampires.
See, Lucy has a theory that diabetes is the origin of the vampire legend. Before 1922, there was no treatment for diabetes. And so diabetics would develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition which would waste them away to their death. And look at all the symptoms: severe weight loss, pale cold clammy skin, elongation of the teeth, bloody teeth, ravenous hunger, extreme thirst, a sweet rotten odor, hair loss, visual disturbances, painful sensitivity to bright light and to strong odors, confused and sometimes angry or aggressive behavior, deathlike coma, and death. Sound familiar?
And so Lucy writes a paper on this theory, describing how someone suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis would appear to be a vampire in the times before modern medicine.
This person would be extremely thirsty and never be satiated, would appear pale and thin. Their teeth were elongated (because of receding gums), and their teeth could also be bloody. They were sensitive to sunlight, and aversive to strong smells, like that of garlic. If they fell into a deathlike coma, think of the shock that villagers would experience when they came out of this coma. It would appear that they had risen from the grave. And this would give rise to the stake through the heart method, and probably also exhumation, and decapitation.
It’s a really wonderful book. Lucy’s a character I think a lot of teenagers can relate to. And the theory part of this story is really awesome. Vampires are diabetics!