by Richard J. Atwood
Do you ever wonder whether teenage fictional characters with bleeding disorders can foreshadow the future of our community? I pondered this question because some recent novels caught my attention. These novels include young protagonists with bleeding disorders who may represent the next generation of leaders. Decide for yourself if the following novels provide any insights.
The Friendship Experiment
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
In this young adult novel (also appropriate for adults), Madeline Avery Little, or “Maddie,” aspires to become a microbiologist, just like her deceased grandfather. Now in the sixth grade, Maddie conducts experiments. And her father conducts research on von Willebrand disease (VWD) at the local university, partly because it’s personal: VWD runs in the family. Both Maddie and her older sister have VWD. Maddie keeps a medical diary (logbook), wears a medical bracelet, treats herself with a nasal spray, and worries that laughing could cause a nosebleed. She creates a crisis in her father’s lab due to her negligence, and then she loses the friendship of her classmates after they read her personal notebook with its nasty comments about them. Maddie’s sister self-medicates with Maddie’s medicine, causing a medical crisis requiring hospitalization. Overwhelmed, Maddie realizes she needs to fix her messes with “I’m sorry.” She also learns that there is no such thing as a “friendship experiment,” because life is too complicated and too unpredictable. The author received expert advice to accurately portray VWD.
Usborne Publishing, 2017
Budi, who lives in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is almost 12 and small for his age. He no longer attends school, and now works in a factory sewing together football boots—shoes for exportation that he can’t afford to buy. Budi loves football (“soccer” in America) and dreams of becoming a professional footballer. Yet he shares a family curse. Along with his grandfather, his father, and his dad’s twin brother, Budi has a bleeding disorder—his blood doesn’t clot properly. Budi’s mother treats his skin cuts with coconut butter. Budi fears internal bleeds. He gets in trouble with the local slumlord, who wants to steal a shipment of football boots and use the shipping container for human trafficking. During the botched crime, and in the aftermath of an earthquake, both the slumlord and Budi’s uncle are killed. Yet Budi ends up with all the trafficking money, which he unselfishly gives to a friend. Budi’s bleeding disorder is never identified, but a poorly educated boy in a developing country who can’t afford healthcare may not be correctly diagnosed and treated.
The Curse of the Cobalt Moon
Austin Macauley Publishers, 2019
Rodolfo Josue Puig, who goes by “Joshua” to fit in, is a high school junior living in South Miami. Born in Cuba, Joshua was only nine when he was specially airlifted with other Cuban children to America in 1960. With no family members to help him, Joshua lives in a foster home. He loves playing on the varsity baseball team. Like his grandfather, Joshua has hemophilia that he treats with a daily injection of fibrinogen. After a fight with a teammate, Joshua is suspended from the school baseball team for his hemophilia, not because of the altercation. From a classmate, also from Cuba, Joshua learns that he is a docile half-vampire because his human mother married a vampire. On the hunt night of the cobalt moon, hostile half-vampires (having a human father and vampire mother) drain the blood from docile half-vampires to become full vampires. Joshua and his classmates (some are also docile half-vampires) make many fatal errors of judgment while fleeing for their lives, but they eventually escape. Apparently, being a docile half-vampire improves baseball skills and reduces the bleeding due to hemophilia. The treatment of hemophilia seems inappropriate for the 1960s, and the genetics of vampires is never fully explained.
Based on these fictional characters, the future of our community seems promising. All the young protagonists with bleeding disorders who are depicted in these novels share a trait: they have a passion for what they do, whether it’s sports or science. And there is tension or conflict that the fictional characters overcome. That explains each story’s drama. Explaining vampirism is more difficult.
Source: PEN, ©LA Kelley Communications, Inc.