cover image The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold

The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold

Francesca Lia Block. Harper Teen, $14.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028129-8

Block's (Weetzie Bat) contemporary novels have invariably borrowed elements from classic fairy tales; this time, the author pulls a switch. Setting out to revisit nine fairy tales, she fills her stories with gritty, even headline-grabbing issues. ""Charm,"" for example, features a Sleeping Beauty who embraces the needleDbecause it delivers heroin. In ""Bones,"" a serial killer who names himself Bluebeard is an L.A. hotshot; he throws huge parties and from among the guests selects his victims, rootless girls whose disappearance will attract no attention. One or two stories strain for effect (""Glass,"" loosely related to Cinderella, tends to belabor the storytelling prowess of its protagonist, whose glass shoes are ""made from your words, the stories you have told like a blower with her torch forming the thinnest, most translucent sheets of light out of what was once sand""). But even these entries wield power, and the collection as a whole is close to intoxicating. Rendered in Block's inimitably lush prose, these works are heady, like the thick fragrance of the redolent gardens and perfect roses that figure here. The darkness of these conflicts and subjects proves the strength of the magic she describes: the transfiguring power of love. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)