Originally reviewed here
.Why I Read It:
Back in 2010 I read and really enjoyed Block's Weetzie Bat collection Dangerous Angels
. It was a beautiful mix of borderline magical realism in a contemporary and cosmopolitan setting (they largely take place in Los Angeles). I haven't been in love with everything I've read by Block since then
but she's still an author I'm almost always willing to give a chance. No spoilers in the review ahead.
Part of what made the Weetzie Bat books so compelling was the blurring of the lines between what's real and what's not. As I mentioned above, the books have a very magical realism edge to them, with writing that is both sparse and lyrical at the same time. The books were sometimes TOO quirky for their own good, but I gobbled them up anyway and loved every minute of it.
This prequel book felt very different in tone and style. For one, it's written in the first person-present tense from Weetzie's POV. The other Weetzie books were written in the third person, usually limited to Weetzie's POV as well, though this changed over the course of the five novel/novellas. Writing in the third person was a great vehicle for that magic realism feel the books had, while this first-person writing makes it feel much more grounded in reality. This will probably be more inviting to new readers of the series and will hopefully draw them to the other books in the series, and I think the style was perfectly fine for this prequel. After all, this book is about Weetzie coming into her own and becoming the confident and self-assured girl we meet in Weetzie Bat
, which is when the magic REALLY starts.
Despite this book's distinctive magic realism edge, there is SOME sprinkled in there. We have Weetzie's elusive crush Snow who acts as a kind of guardian angel. Snow also has a younger sister who practices voodoo of some kind, and her spells appear to actually work in the real world and no one bats an eye. There are quite a few other things as well, but these elements were very welcome by me and were reminiscent of the other books. The writing, while not quite as flowery as the other books still had Block's trademark style -- her books are quite distinguishable and I think if I were to read a random excerpt and not know it was written by Block I would recognize it regardless.
The best part of this book is Weetzie herself. Watching her grow and come into her own amidst that chaos of her life broke my heart a little sometimes: she's trying to take care of her depressed mother while also morning losing her father who has walked out of their lives. Weetzie is only 13 in this book, so watching her take care of her mother when she needed taking care of herself made me want to jump into the pages and give her a hug.
My only complaints with the novel lie mostly with the secondary characters. Weetzie befriends a girl who is clearly anorexic and a boy who is the victim of gay hate, and it's also insinuated that he prostitutes because he is of a low-income family. Block doesn't IGNORE the issues she presents these characters as having, but I don't think she touched on them ENOUGH. While I don't expect sunshine, rainbows and perfect endings for these kids, I wish something MORE had been done with them. Even Weetzie depressed mother isn't touched on quite as much as I would have liked, but she gets more resolution than Weetzie's poor friends do. And then, when the story started to draw near its end, I guess Block realized she needed to get these friends out of the picture because they're not present in the Weetzie books, so she makes them leave rather forcefully. It felt ridiculously contrived and out of place.Final Verdict:
I really enjoyed this prequel to the Weetzie Bat series. It's much more grounded in reality (though there are sprinkles of magic realism/contemporary fantasy) than the other Weetzie books, but that didn't deter my enjoyment. I was wrapped up in Weetzie's sad journey of self-discovery amidst her mother's depression and the hole left by her father's recent absence. Despite the lack of magic realism, Block's flowery writing (without being annoyingly purple) was still present and brought the L.A. setting to life. I had some grievances with the (lack) of resolution for most of the secondary characters, but other than that I recommend this novel to newcomers to the series, as well as old fans.