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Blood Roses

Blood Roses

3.8 11
by Francesca Lia Block

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What shall we do, all of us?

All of us passionate girls who fear crushing the boys we love with our mouths like caverns of teeth, our mushrooming brains, our watermelon hearts?

What's real is what's imagined in nine tales of transformation by Francesca Lia Block.


What shall we do, all of us?

All of us passionate girls who fear crushing the boys we love with our mouths like caverns of teeth, our mushrooming brains, our watermelon hearts?

What's real is what's imagined in nine tales of transformation by Francesca Lia Block.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This imaginative but uneven short story collection blends fantasy and reality in Block's (Weetzie Bat) characteristic style. A schizophrenic girl explains that her boyfriend is an alien and that she wants to have his "alien babies with big eyes," while another girl-this one obsessed with an older tattoo artist-begins to find his pictures spontaneously appearing on her skin. These stories work best when readers can decide for themselves how literally to take the fantastical elements. In perhaps the best of the bunch, "Giant," Rachel Sorrow, full of passion, wakes up to find that she has grown enormous, her heart "the size of a watermelon." Block leaves the audience considerably less room in "Horses Are a Girl's Best Friend," about horse-mad Berry (a friend of Rachel's), who falls in love with a centaur she meets in L.A.'s Griffith Park. However, the prose is lush as ever, and even when readers do not connect emotionally, they will appreciate the author's willingness to explore ideas. Ages 14-up. (June)

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KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Block is known for magical realism, for intertwining the experiences of young people with fantasy and myth. This collection of short stories follows in that tradition; it begins with a story of two girls who put themselves into danger and sets the stage for the remaining tales. There is a series of female YA characters who reappear in different stories with a variety of mythic creatures and fantastic occurrences. Rachel Sorrow has a crush on John Mandolin, but when she comes home from school and contemplates working with John on a project, she grows. Rachel becomes a giant, fearing that in this heightened state she will crush poor John. Berry Rodriguez rides her horse along the California coast and comes upon a strange young man who is half human and half horse. Elodie Sweet meets a tattoo artist and is smitten. He is older than she is and so resists her flirtation, but in the morning, Elodie finds a tattoo on her skin, with his name on it. Over the next few days her skin fills itself with tattoos, until she goes back to him and they consummate their relationship. This is a strangely haunting collection of whimsy with adult situations and language. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
Pam B. Cole
Francesca Lia Block, winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contributions to young adult literature, serves up yet another collection of thought-provoking magical realism stories. A genre-defying writer, Block delivers nine stories told from the female perspective; some are connected, and most include or describe a transformation: a girl becomes a giant (giantess); a boy, a centaur, and a mother, a vampire. Themes include dangerous first encounters, first kisses, teen sex, sexual abuse, friendship, death, identity and maturation. As thought-provoking as her earlier works, this collection is characterized by Block's signature style: her sentence structure is sparse; yet her writing is poetic and metaphoric. Literary motifs abound: blood roses, dollhouses, and tattoos speak to pain, fear, and loss. The brief vignettes are excellent models for creative writing. The stories are short, but complex. For mature readers, grades 10 and up. Reviewer: Pam B. Cole
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up

Block is known for her fantastical, edgy, and highly feminized stories of young women, and this book fits neatly into that mold. Blood Roses consists of nine loosely connected short selections focusing on elemental and magical changes in each character. In "Skin Art," straitlaced Elodie Sweet finds tattoos mysteriously appearing on her body as romantic tension-and obsession-builds between herself and an older tattoo artist. With each new tattoo, her perception of herself grows and changes, but she ultimately finds that the tattoos are only superficial and disappear as she realizes that she is not in love with the man. In "Wounds and Wings," Audrey finds a fairy whose wings have been cruelly torn off. She takes him home to nurse him to health and learns to see the similarity between his injuries and insecurities and her own. The characters walk a fine line between the mundane and magical. It is impossible to decide if they are sane or not, or if it even matters. Blood Roses , like Block's other books, brims with sexual suggestion that is meant for more mature teens. This short book will appeal to reluctant readers, though Block's fans will find it on their own.-Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD

Kirkus Reviews
These partially interconnected short stories treat magic as metaphor rather than as reality, in a watered-down version of Block's trademark magical realism. Rachel Sorrow, who believes she is less beautiful and more intense than her rich friends, grows into a giant after she is kissed by a boy. Berry falls for a gang member from the barrio whom she can't invite to her wealthy suburb-because he's not just poor, but a centaur. Elodie sprouts magical tattoos as she falls in love with an older man; they fade just as inexplicably when she falls out of love. A nameless boy who has experienced too much death gets seduced by a dangerous fairy who calls him "Panda Bear"and "Creamsicle." With overwrought passages such as "smoke-scented flowers with sharp thorns that traced poetry onto your flesh" and "that moment when you cut yourself with a knife and squeeze the skin and no blood oozes out," these brief tales of sexual and psychological abuse, adolescence and twisted first love have plenty of mood but little depth. (Fiction. 14-15)
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Individual stories that are riveting and memorable…an overall collection that invites rereading.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Individual stories that are riveting and memorable…an overall collection that invites rereading.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Individual stories that are riveting and memorable…an overall collection that invites rereading.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Individual stories that are riveting and memorable…an overall collection that invites rereading."
“Dark, fantastical dreams…will startle, provoke and fascinate.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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612 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Blood Roses

Chapter One

Blood Roses

Every day, Lucy and Rosie searched for the blood roses in their canyon. They found eucalyptus and poison oak, evening primrose and oleander but never the glow-in-the-dark red, smoke-scented flowers with sharp thorns that traced poetry onto your flesh.

"You only see them if you die," Lucy said, but Rosie just smiled so that the small row of pearls in her mouth showed.

Still, the hairs stood up on both their forearms and napes that evening, turning them to furry faunesses for a moment as they sat watching the sunset from their secret grotto in the heart of the canyon. The air smelled of exhaust fumes and decaying leaves. The sky was streaked with smog and you could hear the sound of cars and one siren but that world felt very far away.

Here, the girls turned doll-size, wove nests out of twigs to sleep in the eucalyptus branches, collected morning dew in leaves and dined on dark purple berries that stained their mouths and hands.

"We'd better get home," Lucy said, brushing the dirt off her jeans.

They would have stayed here all night in spite of the dangers—snakes, coyote, rapists, goblins. It was better than the apartment made of tears where their mother had taken them when she left their father.

Their mother said their father was an alcoholic and a sex addict but all Lucy remembered was the sandpaper roughness of his chin, like the father in her baby book Pat the Bunny, when he hugged her and Rosie in his arms at the same time. He had hair of blackbird feathers and his eyes were green semiprecious stones.

Lucy and Rosie lovedEmerson Solo because like their father he was beautiful, dangerous and unattainable. Especially now. Emerson Solo, twenty-seven, had stabbed himself to death in the heart last month.

You really had to want to die to be successful at that, their mother said before she confiscated all their Solo CDs and posters. Lucy understood why she'd done it. But still she wanted to look at his face and hear his voice again. For some reason he comforted her, even now. Was it because he had escaped?

Lucy and Rosie were in the music store looking through the Emerson Solo discs. There was the one with the black bird on the cover called For Sorrow and the one called The White Room. There was a rumor that the white room was supposed to be death. The store was all out of Collected with the photo of Emerson Solo holding a bouquet of wildflowers with their dirty roots dragging down out of his hands. A man was standing across the aisle from them and when Lucy looked up he smiled. He was young and handsome with fair hair, a strong chin.

"You like him?" he asked.

Rosie said, "Oh, yes! Our mom threw out all his CDs. We just come and look at him."

The man smiled. The light was hitting his thick glasses in such a way that Lucy couldn't see his eyes. Dust motes sizzled in a beam of sunlight from the window. Some music was playing, loud and anxious-sounding. Lucy didn't recognize it.

"My uncle's a photographer. He has some photos he took of him a week before he killed himself."

Lucy felt her sinuses prickling with tears the way they did when she told Rosie scary stories. Her mouth felt dry.

"You can come see if you want," he said. He handed Lucy a card.

She put it in her pocket and crumpled it up there, so he couldn't see.

One of Emerson Solo's CDs was called Imago. The title song was about a phantom limb.

She wondered if when you died it was like that. If you still believed your body was there and couldn't quite accept that it was gone. Or if someone you loved died, someone you were really close to, would they be like a phantom limb, still attached to you? Sometimes Rosie was like another of Lucy's limbs.

Rosie was the one who went—not Lucy. Lucy was aware enough of her own desire to escape so she did not let herself succumb to it. But Rosie still believed she was just looking for ways to be happier.

When Lucy got home from school and saw her sister's note she started to run. She ran out the door of thick, gray glass, down the cul-de-sac, across the big, busy street, against the light, dodging cars. She ran into the canyon. There was the place where the rattlesnake had blocked the girls' path, the turn in the road where they had seen the baby coyote, the grotto by the creek where the old tire swing used to be, where the high school kids went to smoke pot and drink beer. There was the rock garden that had been made by aliens from outer space and the big tree where Lucy had seen a man and a woman having sex in the branches early one Sunday morning. Lucy skidded down a slope causing an avalanche of pebbles. She took the fire road back down to the steep, quiet street. She got to the house just as Rosie knocked on the tall, narrow door.

Rosie was wearing a pink knit cap, a white frilly party dress that was too small, jeans, ruby slippers, purple ankle socks and a blue rhinestone pin in the shape of a large butterfly. No wonder people teased her at school, Lucy thought. She wanted to put her arms around Rosie, grab her hand and run but it was too late to leave because the man from the music store opened the door right away as if he had been waiting for them all that time.

He didn't ask them in but stood staring at them and twisting his mouth like he wanted to say something. But then another older man was standing at the top of the steep staircase. The girls couldn't see his face. He was whited-out with light.

Blood Roses. Copyright © by Francesca Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Francesca Lia Block, winner of the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, is the author of many acclaimed and bestselling books, including Weetzie Bat; the book collections Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books and Roses and Bones: Myths, Tales, and Secrets; the illustrated novella House of Dolls; the vampire romance novel Pretty Dead; and the gothic werewolf novel The Frenzy. Her work is published around the world.

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3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Feel free to h&upsilon<_>nt anywhere in the rest of the results. <p> Mntlight
BookSakeBlogspot More than 1 year ago
This collection of nine short tales is great for any Francesca Lia Block fan. Most of the stories have overlapping characters, so you get a little more from learning about the characters this way, than in other short story collections. Block has a whimsical way of writing which comes across like poetry in story form and even in the short format of the book it still shines through. I found many of the characters charming and wanted more of them, but often they were the ones that weren't repeated throughout the story.the boys these girls are so passionate about. It's a shame that the boys were the more interesting of the characters since the tales are based on the girls and their thoughts and feelings. I don't think the collection is as wonderful as her full books though, but it does offer a taste of what her writing style is about. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
On Francesca Lia Block's website, there are a bunch of words lumped together, reminding me of magnetic poetry that has been used to describe her work. I couldn't agree more with the words reviewers have used. The one word that kept jumping out at me while reading this was lyrical. I was looking for a word to describe what I thought about her newest literary novella, BLOOD ROSES, and that describes it perfectly. Surreal and dreamy would be good adjectives to use, as well.

The book is broken up into nine short stories. All of the stories deal with a transformation of some sort, whether it is physical or emotional. Not once in any of her stories is the magical element questioned - it is just accepted. My favorite story out of all of them is called Skin Art. Basically, it is about the all-consuming power of first love and how, after time has passed, it is not as great as once thought.

Easy to read, this little book sucks you in, especially if you are a fan of thought-provoking fantasy, as Ms. Block straddles the line between the worlds of magic and reality. The stories seem very personal, emotional; even, at times, irrational. You definitely can't argue with the quality of writing - Francesca Lia Block is a very good writer, but with that said she is not for everyone.

People that are into the art scene will enjoy her work, as well as those who like to analyze dreams, as the stories are rich in sensory detail. Hail to the queen of magical realism.