Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block
Reading Francesca Lia Block is like standing in front of your grandma's jewelry box and putting on every necklace and all her rings. Mmm, charm bracelets! And what are these green beads! And yes, please, the big pearls, whether they are real or fake. In fact, I get the distinct impression that writing Francesca Lia Block is a lot like standing in front of grandma's jewelry box and loading it all on. The clothes! The houses! The beautiful boys and the beautiful girls!
Only thing is, unlike many other authors that revel in the aesthetic, Francesca Lia Block doesn't make it seem shallow. She hangs a mirror above the jewelry box and shows us the girl. Sometimes the girl is having fun, trying on the baubles, sometimes she's sad, thinking about grandma and wondering where each piece of precious junk might have come from. But always the girl is looking in the mirror.
Pretty Dead is Francesca Lia Block's take on the vampire novel. The girl this time is Charlotte Emerson, undead a hundred years, rich and beautiful and lonely as a cloud. The vampire thing is kind of a perfect setup for Miss Block - when Charlotte meets a boy that she cares about, and he wants to know about her past, she has an excuse to revisit a century of fashion moments. A Chanel cardigan, an Elsa Schiaparelli frock, velvet bell bottoms, and shoes of every shape and height. Also the bombing of Hiroshima.
Largely skipping past most of the tropes that usually shape the plot of vampire stories (blood consumption, sunlight avoidance), the story revolves around Charlotte's humanity. She remembers it, she mourns it, she seems to be regaining it. She has amazing sex, and she wishes for a child. This is the flip side of Francesca Lia Block's love of adornment - she loves the thing being adorned as well, revels in the heat and aroma of her beautiful people.
I routinely recommend Francesca Lia Block for adult fans of Twilight. I think everybody could use a little dose of the freedom and tenderness found in her books. They always make me want to hang up another wind chime, put on another scarf.