Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pretty Dead

A slightly different version of the following review was first posted in a "Writing Children's Literature" online course I recently took from Western New Mexico University. There are no major spoilers in this review.

Pretty Dead is a short young adult novel by Francesca Lia Block, the popular (and, to some, controversial) writer of the “Weetzie Bat” books. Pretty Dead is narrated by Charlotte, a vampire who regrets her decision to become one because she feels so alone, having elected to leave William, the male vampire who created her. Out of boredom, Charlotte has returned to high school as a teenage girl, and has befriended a young couple named Emily and Jared. Charlotte is devastated when Emily apparently commits suicide, and is so distracted by Emily’s death that she barely notices when she herself begins to exhibit symptoms of becoming a mortal human once again.

I read this book because I have enjoyed much of Block’s writing in the past, and I was curious to see her take on the vampire fad. I usually find her writing to be sensual, free-spirited, and compelling. I was curious as to whether Block had anything new to say about vampires, but I’m afraid I found this story to be very clich├ęd. I couldn’t help but think of Pretty Dead as a cross between one of Christopher Pike’s less successful books and you-know-who’s angst-ridden Twilight series. In particular, I was annoyed that Charlotte and William had experienced so many historical events first hand. I felt it was wildly unrealistic, for instance, that they were present at the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Block later offers a weak explanation as to why William seemed drawn to troubled spots, but I really don’t think two European/Caucasians could have passed as tourists in Japan at the height of World War II, no matter how attractive they were.

I also didn’t buy that even though Charlotte’s narration reveals her age, her outlook remains primarily that of a teenage girl, with the same sort of “end of the world” intensity that we often see portrayed in teenage love stories. Overall, this book felt to me like a cursory treatment of the vampire trend by an author who doesn’t really care.

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