(review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com)
I picked up this book because back in 2008 I read one of Block's novellas (I really don't consider them novels -- they're really short), Psyche in a Dress, and I ended up really liking it. Since then, I've read Block's famous Weetzie Bat books and Waters and the Wild, both of which were fantastic little gems, despite their short lengths. Block is really good at making little books pack a big punch. When I saw Pretty Dead at the bookstore for a mere $4.99 (for the hardcover!), I just had to have it. However, while this book is definitely written in Block's distinctive style, it didn't quite hit the mark with me. It has some charm to it, but it didn't win me over like the other stuff from Block that I've read thus far.
I do have to give points for the book's writing though. Block has a very lyrical (I know that adjective is overused when commenting on writing style, but for Block's case, it really is -- it reads like free-verse poetry a lot of the time) that has some kind of magical quality to it. At times, I think she tries a little too hard to be hip and whimsy (ie. mentioning really obscure bands), it's still very enjoyable to read and has a nice rhythm to it, if that makes sense.
Her main character, Charlotte, is also very sympathetic. The 'tormented vampire' isn't exactly a new concept, but I did actually feel kind of sorry for the girl. She also really did seem to love her friend Emily, and I do love strong female friendships. Because of the length of this book, we don't get to delve deep into the relationship between the two, but I did really buy that Charlotte loved her, even though she does end up sleeping with Emily's boyfriend (which DID bother me, but more on that later.)
The other characters didn't do much for me. I relate to Emily a little bit, because what girl doesn't feel plain and wants to achieve the beauty and wealth that Charlotte seems to represent for Emily? Jared bored me, as well as the 'villain'.
While I really enjoyed the writing of the novel, and found myself liking the two female leads enough, what really made this book 'meh' for me was the plot. I'm sorry, but I can't root for a couple like Jared and Charlotte -- I do NOT think it's cool to sleep with your best friend's boyfriend, even if she is dead. I also got the impression that Jared and Charlotte didn't really talk, even when Emily was alive, so their sudden romance just didn't ring true to me, at all. Also, the 'Forrest Gump' sequence of the novel, where Charlotte goes over all the historic moments that her and the dude who changed her (can't remember his name) experience together, was really boring. Oh, I also didn't buy that Charlotte doesn't recall killing Emily. Just.. what? I get that you might want to forget killing your best friend, but that whole aspect of the novel seemed forced and tacked on for the sake of the plot; it just didn't make sense. And how was Charlotte transformed back into a human? Maybe I just read too fast, but that also didn't make much sense to me.
Final Verdict: This novel (novella?) has Block's signature writing style, which is really lyrical and whimsical and fun to read (though I find it a bit too 'hipster' at times), which is always a plus, but almost everything else felt lacking for me. The main protagonist was sympathetic, but everyone else was quite boring and just didn't do anything for me. Also, the plot felt really... lacking. I didn't buy into the major plot twists of the story. Now, usually with Block's novels, it's all about the characters. But because they fell so flat for me, I turned to the plot for redemption, so it's unfortunate it didn't deliver on that front either.
Overall, this novel was a miss for me, which is too bad, because I really do like the other stuff by Block that I've read. Because I love her so much, I'm still glad I read this, but I wouldn't recommend this for Block newbies; read the Weetzie Bat books instead.