Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Perhaps something more uplifting, shall we? YA fiction review #3

I nearly always eat some kind of cereal for breakfast, usually with some sort of berries on top if berries are in season. With my cereal I like to read for a few minutes and, for the last few months, my breakfast reading book has been Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block.

Dangerous Angels is a compilation of five of Block's novelettes. The first one, Weetzie Bat, was introduced to me in 9th or 10th grade by a friend, and I just loved it; it was completely unlike anything I'd ever read. Though the books are meant to be for teens/YA, adults can perhaps get more of the references, especially in the first two books. After reading the first one I found the rest of them that were published at that time. Years later, I saw this compilation in the library and checked it out, finishing the last two books that hadn't been published yet in 1993. When we were in Seattle last fall I found this in a used bookstore and snapped it right up, because I like being able to fall in love with the writing style again and again.

Rereading Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, and Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, I remembered why I had liked the books so much when in high school - they are written in a beautiful style, with interesting characters and situations, almost like a fiction/fantasy crossover. The final two books, Missing Angel Juan and Baby Be-Bop, just aren't as interesting to me as the characters grow up.

I think if EEK and Monkey have not read at least the first 3 of these books, they should because I think you would both dig them. There are goth and fantasy and poetical elements to the writing style that I've never seen duplicated, though I have seen them imitated. The plots of the first 3 books follow Weetzie, Dirk, Duck, My Secret Agent Lover Man, and later Cherokee Bat and Witch Baby. Cherokee Bat has 3 dads; Witch Baby is much like a changeling, and there's a whole cast of supporting characters. There are enough elements of reality mixed in to the fantasy to make the books more interesting and believable; for example, Dirk and Duck are a gay couple and there are a few references to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. The fantastical elements become that much more real with the references to LA, perhaps the most fantastical yet gritty culture in the US. One nice thing about these books is that the plots are not so fast-paced that one can't put them down after just a few pages. They are leisurely, enjoyable material in small doses and it made my breakfast minutes that much more fun to know that I was going to be ingesting some beautiful language along with my Grape Nuts.

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