Pretty Dead is a young adult fiction novel written by Francesca Lia Block. Block writes in a style that she has termed “pop magic realism.” Generally her books appeal to adolescent girls, but the stories always contain magic and supernatural elements. She has written about mermaids, changelings, witches, genies, and many other magical beings. In Pretty Dead, she writes about vampires.
The vampire who is the narrator for most of the story is Charlotte. Charlotte is a lot like most vampires. She’s old but appears to be young, stunningly beautiful, and tragically haunted. It’s Block’s writing that makes the story unique. She has a magical way of telling the story that’s almost elusive. It’s full of pretty similes. “She was white, white light, but at the very edges a rim of darkness like the blood-red trimming a pale rose.”
Charlotte lives in Los Angeles, a city that features in every one of Block’s books. It’s where this author lives, and the city she loves. It also traces the story of Charlotte’s past in distant lands, always at the scene of disaster. Hiroshima, the London blitz, the Twin Towers. Her vampire sire, William, is in love with massacres and destruction. Charlotte wants to be human again.
Charlotte was gifted when she was human; she shared a psychic link with her twin brother, Charles. Unfortunately this didn’t save him from his untimely death. Shortly after this, Charlotte became a vampire. William dragged her from city to city, with disaster always coincidentally following them. Eventually Charlotte escapes from him and lives alone.
She begins to attend high school. Honestly, that’s where all centuries-old vampires seem to end up; high schools. There she meets a girl named Emily Rosedale, and her boyfriend Jared Pierce. Everything’s wonderful except for one thing: Charlotte wants to be Emily and Emily wants to be Charlotte.
The story has some twists, but the most interesting one is that Charlotte becomes human. It never explains exactly how, but in some magical way, her vampire maker is able to take back the “dark gift.”
It isn’t one of my favorites by this author, but as far as vampire books for teenagers go, this one is more interesting than others I’ve read. It talks a little about some of the history of the vampire myth, and history in general. It’s always more fascinating to read about what history the vampire has seen its life. That the vampires in this book have mostly seen catastrophe simply seems to reflect that these are destructive creatures.