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Review: Sweetblood by Pete Hautman

Friday, January 16, 2015


Sweetblood
Pete Hautman

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 242 Pages
Publication: August 10, 2004
by Simon Pulse



Lucy Szabo thinks she knows where the myth of vampires came from. She's sure that that the first vampires ever were dying diabetics. And she should know. She's diabetic herself. When she gets involved with Draco, a self-proclaimed "real" vampire she meets in a Transylvania chat room, her world starts to crash down around her. Soon, her whole life--grades, relationships and health--are spiralling dangerously out of control. Lucy needs to make some important choices to take back control of her life--but is it already too late?  

Review

I know we're two weeks in already, but happy 2015, readers! I was away in Mexico visiting family, hence why I haven't posted in the last few weeks. But while I was gone, I did some reading and took notes to be ready for this new post! Now on to the review.

Interesting story about this book: when I was a sophomore in high school, I was usually the first of my friends to get to the cafeteria and save a table for the rest of us. One day I felt my foot nudge something under the table and, lo and behold, I found this book by my shoe. No one came looking for it, so I decided to take it home and read it; it's now been a resident of my bookshelves for more than seven years. The book held well when I read it as a teenager, and it continues to do so even when reading it as an adult.

I really liked Lucy as a character. She has really clear cut convictions, isn't afraid to be herself, and is pretty mature for your average sixteen-year-old. This, along with the fact that she's dealing with pressure from parents and teachers and a crush on a new student, made her easy to relate to. That being said, there were times when I felt it was hard to connect with her because of how "surly and mouthy" she is, to borrow her own words. She was a bit rough around the edges and an outsider at school, and I'm not entirely sure why she feels she has to be this way. She's asked if it's because of her diabetes, but she doesn't exactly answer the question.

For the most part, I liked the potential love interests in the book. Lucy's best friend Mark serves as a great contrast to her, a goofball jock who's known her since they were kids, and their relationship is portrayed well despite the fact that Mark doesn't turn up often in the book. However, when he does pop up, we get the feeling that though their relationship is platonic, Lucy starts to consider the possibility of it becoming something more. The new boy in school, Dylan, immediately catches Lucy's attention when he first arrives, and Hautman captures those crush feelings beautifully. Since she's so tough, it was actually kind of cute to see how easily she melted over Dylan when she meets him, and even more so when they spend more time together. However, towards the end we get to see Dylan in a new light, and I felt like this change happened too abruptly and would've liked a more gradual transition into it.

There are plenty of adults featured in this book, but I wanted more of a focus on two in particular: Lucy's endocrinologist, Dr. Harlan "Fish" Fisher, and her tattoo artist friend, Antoinette. We get snippets of conversations Lucy has had with Fish and some scenes with him in the present, but I would've liked to have seen something from when she first became his patient and how she comes to trust him so much. The case was the same for Antoinette, owner of Antoinette's Body Art in Harker Village, an area Lucy regularly visits. Antoinette, like Fish, is one of the few adults Lucy seems to really respect and is able to talk to, and I wanted to know why. Lucy mentions that she's had many conversations with Antoinette in the past but we don't get any flashbacks to them, which I think would've been great development to their relationship. I especially wanted to see the beginning of said relationship, as I was curious as to how a teenage girl would become friends with a tattoo artist Antoinette's age.

There is one adult in the book whom I have very mixed feelings for: Wayne Smith, the butterfly rancher who throws crazy Goth parties and poses as the "vampire" Draco online. His physical appearance makes him seem really unassuming, but his manner of speaking reveals him to be eloquent and intelligent, a contrast that I really liked. But I did find myself wanting to know more about him. For someone who frequently surrounds himself with Goths, Wayne doesn't actually mention a lot about Goth culture, other than a few jokes. When asked about his past or his online persona as Draco, he dodges the questions almost entirely. Being surrounded by so much mystery and the lack of more personal info actually made him more unsettling the further I read into the book. Like Fish and Antoinette, I thought Wayne could've been fleshed out a little more, but through information given to the reader instead of more time with him. Seriously, I never thought someone so normal-sounding could come across as so creepy.

While there aren't actually any vampires in the book, there are a lot of talks about them. I really liked Lucy's theory about vampire legends springing up as an explanation for uncured diabetes, and how she explains it sounds kind of reasonable. This may just be personal curiosity, but I wanted to know how Lucy became so interested in vampires, more specifically Anne Rice's vampires. She's reading Queen of the Damned (which I happen to be currently reading) at the beginning of the book, but beyond that, she doesn't really mention any more vampire literature, despite her claims of being well read on the subject, nor does she bring up vampire films or TV shows. Again, it could just be me wanting to know more, but I thought seeing Lucy as she develops an interest in vampires could've added to her current outlook and shown how she pieced together her theory about vampires and diabetes.

I also had a bit of an issue with the portrayal of Goths in this book. Lucy blows them off as a fashion-obsessed dorks who aspire to be super pale and able to wilt flowers with a single glance. As was the case with her knowledge about vampires, I wanted to know how Lucy knows what she does about Goths and Goth culture, little and inaccurate as this knowledge may be. While I am by no means an encyclopedia of Goth, I can admit that there aren't really any major Goth references, other than maybe a handful sprinkled throughout the book and, to an extent, Lucy's interest in vampires (a common cliche among Goths is that we're obsessed with vampires). Even the Goths Lucy encounters don't really add anything to the reader's knowledge of Goth and only give off the impression of being the partying type. As a Goth myself, this disappointed me.

I think the biggest question of the book is that of personal identity. At the beginning, Lucy reveals that she was once an honors student but her grades have been slipping as of late. As someone who was an honors student during all her grade school years, I could relate to the desire Lucy feels to take it easy and not have everyone freak out about the sudden change. Some moments showing her during those times would've been a good contrast to the present Lucy, so we could see why she decided that taking time for herself was more important than keeping up something others want for her. There are also numerous times when Lucy says "I am [insert name/nickname/character]," and these tied back to the notion of trying on different identities until a suitable one comes around. Antoinette gives her a talk about how identity changes, which seems to unlock a few doors for Lucy and made me want more moments with Antoinette. Overall, I thought this was a great thing to contemplate, even as an adult: your identity doesn't have to be set in stone and can change a lot, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

On the whole, this book was pretty interesting. The feelings of being a misfit in high school came rushing back to me, and the nods to pop culture and literature references worked well. I still think there could've been so much more done with some of the characters, and there could've been more nods to vampires in books and TV, as well as to Goths. What really gives this book its appeal is the notion of the outsider figuring out where she belongs and who she wants to be. I think that's something anyone can relate to, obsessed with vampires or not.

Rating: 4 stars


Series

N/A

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Content
  • Mild language
  • Drinking
  • Brief touching

1 comment on "Review: Sweetblood by Pete Hautman"
  1. I remember this novel from high school, it used to be one of my favorites back then - today, not so much although, I still like it xD Great review <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

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