I'm not sure how to best start this review, but my very first reaction, even after reading the first PAGE of Pretty Dead, was "wow. Really? Wow".
Francesca Lia Block's writing astonished me. I was almost unprepared to read this book. I'm going to copy out the first paragraph because after I read it my mind shifted gears, knowing I was about to read something totally different:
Teenage girls are powerful creatures. I remember; I was once one of them. They are relentless and underutilized. They want what they want, and they will do what they must to get it. Love, possessions, beauty, food, sweets, friends. Unless they are crushed so hard as to give up. But then they are just as relentless, only seeking different things. Detruction, annihilation. Unless they can find a way to birth something beautiful out of themselves. In this way teenage girls and Night's children are not that much different, are we?
Pretty Dead is a book about vampires unlike any other teen vampire novel published now. It has a classic Anne Rice sensibility; old world vampires and the weight of the universe. But it's also about true love, it's magic, and centuries-old boredom, brother to destruction. Sadly, the cover is misleading. This story has real weight to it, and the cover is too light; it has this cute candy-sweetheart look, where the story has this deep passion and intensity. The story is also surprisingly erotic, definately for an older reader. It's a powerful read.
Pretty Dead is about an old beautiful, lonely, bored Vampire named Charlotte who goes to highschool on a lark and loves a girl named Emily because she is innocent and alive. They are best friends, although Charlotte is in love with Em's boyfriend Jared. Charlotte is also being stalked by her maker, an even older vampire named William, who seduced her after the death of her twin brother. When Emily dies and Jared can't cope, Jared and Charlotte find a mutual solace. And Char realizes that it will be the biggest transforming power in her whole unlife.
As for sexy and dangerous vampires, William is one of the best written fiends I've come across. The scenes in the book with him were my favourite, tantalizing and scary. I felt like Charlotte, overwhelmed and intrigued by this person who dressed like the Devil the first time they met at a Hallowe'en party. He is completely how he seems; destruction follows him through the many years Char is with him, until she realizes the true horror of living such a long life.
F. Block is an infinitley quotable book. You can open it at random and find a passage so sensual and alive that it will catch you off-guard. F. Block doesn't write so much as she crafts a living animal with her words. Very very powerful stuff. Here are a few lines in particular:
"That doesn't sound so bad in my opinion," she laughed. "I'd like to be immortal. In this house. With you. We could dance and dance and never stop."
I smelled the rich red wine of her blood again then. Like tiny grapes. Plums. Berries. A bit of cocoa. A hint of cinnamon. A tang of iron.
We were in Rome when we finally succumbed. I say "we" because it seems to me that it was something we did together in Rome in the dark. Something both of us wanted at that time. I had figured out what William was and I wanted to join him. How can you not succumb to such a desire in Rome, in the dark with a fountain spurting outside your window, the shadows long from the white moon?
I was like that moon to William's demon sun.
Pretty Dead was a quick read, more of a novella, but it packs a lot in. F. Block has a gritty urban magic-realism sensibilty which I think runs through most of her books, the Weetzie Bat books in particular. I don't know why it took me so long to actually read her stuff. The cover of Pretty Dead drew me in, although it sets a different tone than the actual story. I would have gone with cover art more like this Tara McPherson print, which is edgy-cute, dark and older than it seems (pictured above).
And because I loved this book so much, I want to give it away. So I'm hosting a Pretty Dead book giveaway. Just leave your name and e-mail address and consider yourself in this draw. My copy is not a galley, it is the real hardcover deal. How much do you want this book?
Giveaway ends October 18th.