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Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block
Cover Artist: Karen Pearson/MergeLeft Reps
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
HarperTeen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061547850
Date: 01 October 2009 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Charlotte Emerson is a vampire that is trapped for eternity in the body of a beautiful teenager. Everyone she loved when she was human died a long time ago. Charlotte will forever mourn them. Now, after the suicide of her only friend Emily, she feels more alone then ever. Her Porsche, Holly Wood mansion, and designer clothes provide her little comfort. Soon Charlotte finds herself falling in love with Emily's boyfriend, Jared, who reminds her of her dead twin brother, Charles. As her love grows, Charlotte discovers she is reverting back to a human. For the first time in over one-hundred years, she is able to cry. Unfortunately, Jared is not content with being a human; he begs Charlotte to make him a vampire.

Pretty Dead is the latest in a long line of bizarre, provocative novels written by Francesca Lia Block. Once again, the theme is loneliness. Loneliness that is endured by teenagers who yearn for a love that will last forever. The teenager in Pretty Dead is Charlotte Emerson who happens to be a one-hundred-year-old vampire. For her, vampirism is a living hell on earth. The wealthy, exotic lifestyle she has shared with her creator, William Stone Eliot, has provided little compensation. A life without true love is meaningless.

Think An Interview With The Vampire for teenage girls. Anne Rice would be pleased by the similarities. Charlotte resembles Louis de Pointe du Lac who forever mourns the deaths of his wife and child. Like Charlotte, he detests killing humans for food and finds comfort by pretending that one of the undead (in this case, Claudia, a vampire child) represents the human child he lost. William resembles Lestat de Lioncourt who enjoyed killing. However, in Pretty Dead, the reader learns that William, who is obsessed with mass destruction, is much more diabolical and evil than Lestat.

Charlotte is a teenage girl's fantasy. She has everything the world can offer, supplied by an older, handsome William who is the ultimate Sugar Daddy. However, she is not happy and probably never will be as long as her happiness is based on material possessions and relationships that can end at any moment. While walking through Sears, I once saw a young girl's T-shirt that read: "Only A Vampire Can Love You Forever." Not true. Even vampires can be destroyed. What is Francesca Lia Block trying to tell us in Pretty Dead? Love is a precious commodity that should be treasured in the here and now because it can be so easily taken away? Perhaps we should look for love in an eternal being, such as God or Allah, that truly lasts forever?

It is quite evident from the literal explosion of vampire novels and films in recent years that millions of teenagers around the world, especially females, are searching for a love that will last forever. No longer finding this love at home, at school, or at church, they search for it in the occult world of vampirism. How sad and disheartening.

Once again, Francesca Lia Block has provided not only an entertaining novel of fantasy and horror on the surface but also a deeper social commentary about the struggles of today's youth. Beautifully written, Pretty Dead reads like poetry as does her other novels which deal with teenagers searching for friendship, love, and acceptance. In her previous novel, The Waters & the Wild, a young girl, Bee, suspects herself of being a changeling - a faerie who was exchanged with a human baby; Bee and her friends are all social outcasts who fantasize that they are actually supernatural creatures. Together, they find strength and acceptance.

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