Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block

by Francesca Lia Block

People pity me, but mostly they feel envy. I have all the luxury and freedom a girl my age could want.

Something is happening to Charlotte Emerson. Like the fires that are ravaging the hills of Los Angeles, it consumes her from the inside out. But whether it is her eternal loneliness, the memory of her brother, the return of ger first love, or the brooding, magnetic Jared - she cannot say. What if it's something more . . .

Something to do with the sudden tear in her perfect nails. The heat she feels when she's with Jared. The blood rushing once again to her cheeks and throughout her veins.

For Charlotte is a vampire, witness to almost a century's worth of death and destruction. But not since she was a human girl has mortality touched her.

Until now.

My Review
Charlotte Emerson is a vampire. Has been for almost a century, in fact. She's not close to anyone, except Emily. But when Emily dies, Charlotte doesn't know what to do with herself. Charlotte spends more and more time with Emily's boyfriend, Jared, and confides in him the stories of her life, both as a human and a vampire.

Francesca Lia Block is a critically acclaimed writer, and I can't deny that her prose has a certain lyrical quality to it, almost liquid. However, it seems as though the focus of Pretty Dead is on the beauty of the words rather than the story itself. The novel is almost the bookish equivalent of modern art - the beauty is in its simplicity, and it can be difficult for the everyday observer to appreciate. Personally, I had a hard time following this story. The narrator jumps around constantly, one minute focusing on the present day and the next minute recalling a moment a hundred years back. I also couldn't get over how Charlotte was cavorting with her supposed best friend's boyfriend when Emily had only been dead for a couple of weeks at most and she and Jared had been dating for quite a while. I just couldn't buy that Jared could flip from one girl to the next so coldly.

One thing I did love about this story, though, is that it brought me back to one of my favorite vampire stories of all time: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. I studied this in a class on vampires back in college (seriously), and it was a real eye-opener. Carmilla is filled with hints of lesbian eroticism, something for which the populace of the Victorian era was apparently clamoring. The flashbacks in Pretty Dead of Charlotte and Emily's friendship are reminiscent of this theme. This similarity is, to me, Pretty Dead's saving grace.

This is a lovely story, but it needs the right audience. I don't think it's something everyone will like, but if you lean towards artsy novels, films, etc., then this could be the book for you.

Francesca Lia Block is the author of numerous books. My personal favorite is I Was a Teenage Fairy. Her latest novel, Frenzy, was released September 28th.

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