I read Thirsty for the first time when I was 18. This was before the YA boom (yes, I realize this dates me). I came across a copy in the school library one day, and was shocked to discover that a YA novel existed where the characters actually sounded like people I knew.
They had the interests and problems of people who populated my day-to-day life. Smart kids, who could have easily made Honors or destroyed the verbal on the SATs. But didn’t. Kids who derided the tone of the community they lived in, mocked and scorned and disdained it, and the whole time, were totally buying into it. Kids who were jaded and self-destructive and irresponsible, but in a real way and not in some melodramatic cautionary mold that resembled a Christopher Pike novel (don’t get me wrong—I have an enduring soft spot for Christopher Pike, though I must admit that when I was ten, I came away from his books with some very skewed ideas about what being a teenager was like. Mostly involving vendetta killings and drug rings).
Thirsty was the first example I’d ever seen of the literary “problem” YA crossbred with fantasy or horror, and I was extremely pleased with the characters, because they weren’t type-cast or idealized, but real and selfish and conflicted, and kind of charming. They inhabited a world that freely acknowledged the supernatural, but despite the central motif of vampires, the story never really seemed like it was about that.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a vampire person. I think you either are or you aren’t. I am not, and I think that’s part of what captivated me when I read Thirsty. I was very taken with the story of an ordinary kid in the process of navigating adolescence, with all of its attendant problems. One of which just happens to be the fact that he’s turning into a vampire.