I just finished a great book. Sweet Blood by Pete Hautman. Lucy Szabo is sixteen, and has Type 1 diabetes. She dresses goth (though denies it vehemently), discovers the wonders of the word “angst,” and is going through a generally tough time. She meets a cute boy named Dylan (though there is the long-time friend Mark down the street), gets involved in a series of parties at the mysterious Wayne’s apartment, and drifts through a turbulent period of her life. As a result of all the personal issues she is facing, her control over her diabetes suffers providing a dramatic climax to a well-written teen slice-of-life story.
Lucy is a fantastic narrator. Like Melinda of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, she has a wry and often dark sense of humor, with a unique view of the world. She also has a deep intellect that is starkly contrasted with a realistic naivete about the world. She is above all else a very real character.
The title comes from her online screen name, Sweet Blood, which she uses in vampire enthusiast chat rooms, referring to the high blood glucose level she deals with as a result of her diabetes. Her theories on the origin of vampirism in diabetes and how anyone that has been kept alive by modern technology is “Undead” are both astute and amusing, and another of the many facets of this novel that make it a must read.
Now, perhaps I’m biased having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes this past April, but I found Lucy’s story to be moving and powerfully executed. Sure, it’s at times a bit easy to predict, but Sweet Blood delves into her life wholeheartedly and covers a disease that affects millions of people in a very interesting way. Due to dealing with the disease myself, I really felt for Lucy as her diabetes affected her body. At times I found myself cursing her for not taking proper care of herself, but I was also able to see where I was headed if I had not gotten my own diabetes under control. One of the most enjoyable passages of the novel, for me, was one in which she discusses her blood glucose testing meter, and it’s judgmental attitude. As someone who has been testing regularly for the past six months and dreading those higher numbers, I can sympathize and only imagine what it will be like after another 11 years of such criticism by an inanimate object.