When people learn that I’ve written a young adult novel in which the main character bathes in blood because she believes it will keep her eternally young, it’s impossible to gauge what their reaction will be. Sometimes, I get questions like this: “What’s the moral of the story? What lesson are you trying to teach with this story?”
The subject matter of The Blood Confession is creepy, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But I also feel that teenagers shouldn’t be forced to learn a lesson every time they pick up a book–especially a novel. Why can’t it be enough to explore a different character, a different life, a person whose actions you don’t condone, but fascinate you regardless? I find, in history, that people who do the “wrong” thing can be utterly captivating. Why not tell those stories, those weird and frightening and wonderful stories? Why not tell the stories that depict not only how high a human being can soar, but also how low they can slither, showing both extremes of the human spectrum? Why not tell all of those stories and let teenagers figure out for themselves how they feel about the character?
I knew from the very beginning that Erzebet, the main character in my book, would do terrible things. But I didn’t want her to get away with it, entirely. In the end, when facing her own ghosts and her own judgment, she will pay a price that only she can pay. Some people may say that’s not enough, and that we need to “teach kids a lesson.” I think the lesson is there, but we don’t need to preach it, or use it as a punishment.
There are other issues that the book addresses that shouldn’t be overlooked in light of Erzebet’s murderess tendencies: her secret, painful envy of her best friend, her obsession with her own looks and the value that is put on appearances. I empathize with her in many ways, but that doesn’t mean I agree with her, or that I think she shouldn’t suffer for what she did. But that only makes her multi-faceted to me, and all the more intriguing. When I wrote about her I felt empathy and horror, combined.