This week's Reading Rain-bow book is Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block. It was recommended by @cassieclare on twitter. Okay, really she just asked someone if they had read it, but if the writer of the Mortal Instruments series tweets about a book, I'm interested. Cassandra Clare is also quoted on the book's cover, which made me even more curious about this little book: "An opulent, surreal world of strange beauty, sudden horror, and lush romance."
The first thing I loved about Pretty Dead is the actual book. I know this sounds strange, but I love the feel of a book in my hands, and this one is, in fact, little. It has a demure quality to it, even with the overly seductive cover art.
What I loved about actually reading this book is that it takes a step away from the current trend to glamorize the life of a vampire. It is a much darker book than any other YA vamp book I've read. (I even went back to check and see if I was, in fact, reading a book from the YA genre.)
The book's protaganist, Charlotte, has been a vampire for almost a century, but instead of it being "every girl's dream," she is haunted by loneliness and a longing for what was lost when her humanity was taken from her. One of my favorite passages occurs when she is newly turned (in 1925). William, her "maker" asks if she is all right, and she thinks, "But I feel so different now. I feel strangely light in a lovely way, but also empty. Too empty, perhaps." It is this quality of "emptiness" which prompts Charlotte, many years later, to escape William and turn back towards humanity in search of herself.
The story is beautifully told, with vivid descriptions of the time periods witnessed by Charlotte and William. I love the way the author uses fashion within these descriptions. We always know what Charlotte is wearing and the time is marked by her choices in apparel. It is done amazingly well, with references to her, "kid-gloved hand," in 1925 and her, "floppy suede hats," in 1972. In addition to the fashion, time is marked by dramatic events in human history. From the perspective of both Charlotte, a newly made vampire, and William, a centuries old vampire, these events take on an entirely different meaning. The passage of time is likely my favorite thing in this book.
The other quality I found fascinating was Charlotte's detachment from her self after she was turned. As a human she was extremely creative and was dreamed of becoming an artist. As a vampire, she loses that part of herself which defined her. And not only that, but she no longer feels things with the same emphasis as when she was human. She remembers events, and may remember that they made her sad, but the sadness is only a memory, not a tangible grief. This of course raises the question, Is it worth it? Is it worth losing the essence of your self to have immortality and all the things that come along with that? Namely, the most amazing clothing and shoe collection ever amassed. What is that worth, in the end, especially if there will be no end?
I definitely recommend reading Pretty Dead. It's a quick read, but it will leave an impression. The end was completely satisfying in that I was not wanting for more in any way, and I thought about it for days after reading. It truly is a lovely little book.