Thursday, August 22, 2013
Love in the Time of Global Warming
Francesca Lia Block
Henry Holt, 2013
Description: Penelope has just watched her family be swept away into the sea after a huge earthquake devours her Los Angeles neighborhood. Her father had always warned his family of the danger that was coming to the planet but her mother always wrote him off as being plain paranoid. Despite being alone (yet thinking her brother may have survived if she can find him), her father’s end of the world emergency preparations have given Penelope the supplies she needs to stay alive. For a few weeks she remains in her basement until a van full of men arrive. With evil intentions, one of them says that he knew Penelope’s father so he gives her the keys to their van so she can escape. On the run throughout LA she goes on an adventure to find her brother. Along the way she encounters giants, a witch, sirens, a girl with magical powers, and other new friends—Hex, Ex, and Ash—who promise to accompany her on her journey.
Opinion: Unlike a large majority of people, I can’t stand Block’s books. I read the Weetzie Bat series when I was in ninth grade and couldn’t stand it. I have read other books by her throughout the years and still have yet to find one I like. So I was wary to even give this book a try—she just isn’t my type of author and I don’t like her style of magic realism. I think I gave this title a shot because it was short and the premise seemed interesting—a dystopian type world after a climatic event destroys everything and mythological creatures being the cause of it. Unfortunately, the plot synopsis was the most entertaining thing about this story. There were parts here and there that I liked but most of it I didn’t. I still really hate that you don’t really know what the hell is real or fantasy. I want it to be one or the other and I want it spelled out. The fact that Merk magically kept appearing when Pen was in trouble (and then apparently is revealed to be her real father) was a very deus ex machina moment (one of my teens agreed with me and we discussed it at length)—it was all just too convenient. Another thing that we were bugged by (me more so since I have read numerous books by Block) was that half way through the story the budding love between Pen and Hex is revealed to be GLBT in nature as Hex was born a girl. I have absolutely no problem with GLBT people, characters, issues, etc., however, it seems like every single Block book has to have GLBT characters in it. While I believe that books about GLBT characters are important (ones that focus on them in particular) and books with strong and positive GLBT secondary characters are also important with Block’s books it just seems like the story is going along and then WHAM here is this gay/lesbian/transgendered character and then the book’s focus, sadly, seems to become an issue book about “look at these gay characters” and the fact that the characters are GLBT becomes the focal point and not the character as an individual who happens to be GLBT. In this case we go halfway through the book before we find out that Pen had a crush on a girl classmate. She is confused that she is attracted to Hex who we discover (after Hex appears to have sex with the female witch in order to gain some power in the situation and hopefully escape the witch’s house) was actually born a girl and is living life as a boy. All of a sudden Pen has an “oh, that’s why I liked him” attitude and my other teen reader said it just confused the crap out of her (especially because the witch clearly was thinking she was going to sleep with a male and it just made her think what the heck happened in that bedroom when she discovered Hex wasn’t a guy?). The book just rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed like a normal dystopian story and then wham—hey did you know all the characters are GLBT? Well, they are and that’s why they are all misfits! To me it just seemed to devalue the characters as GLBT characters.
Thanks to the people at Henry Holt for the ARC for the YALSA YA Galley Group!