Tuesday 16 July 2013

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Review: Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia BlockWeetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block - This could be a book about cheap cheese and bean burritos, slinkster dogs, lanky lizards and rubber chickens ...Or strawberry sundaes with marshmallow toppings, surfing, stage-diving and sleeping on the beach ...It could even be a book about magic. But what it's definitely about is Weetzie Bat, her best friend Dirk and their search across L.A. for the most dangerous angel of all ...true love. From Amazon UK

I first heard about this book when I was at university in my Young Adult Fictions module. We had our required reading, but there was also further reading, and one of the later books in the series was one we could read, Missing Angel Juan. I didn't really get into it because it's the fourth book, but I remembered Weetzie Bat recently and decided to read it for LGBTQ YA Month.

Weetzie and her best friend Dirk live in L.A. They have fun dancing all night, and eating out all day, and just generally having the time of their lives. There's just one problem; neither of them can find the boys of their dreams. They're each desperate to find The One. Then Dirk's grandmother gives Weetzie a lamp with a genie, who will grant her three wishes, and their lives change forever.

This book, this series, is raved about. But I have to say that I didn't get it. I just didn't understand the point of the book. There didn't seem to be any real story to me. It's a dream-like world where everything is shiny and perfect, and any blemishes that arise are brushed under the carpet or dismissed. The book just seems to be a series of events until the book ends, without any real plot. When I say dream-like, I mean everything seems to dazzle; everything is rich and beautiful and just a complete vision of perfect in an edgy world. The whole thing seems like it could also be the result of hallucinogenic drugs. It's like you're seeing the world through a cloudy, colourful lens. This is not just down to the things that happen, but through the language Block uses, like how Weetzie describes a kiss:
'A kiss about apple pie à la mode with the vanilla creaminess melting in the pie heat. A kiss about chocolate, when you haven't eaten chocolate in a year. A kiss about palm trees speeding by, trailing pink clouds when you drive down the Strip sizzling with champagne. A kiss about spotlights fanning the sky and the swollen sea spilling like tears all over your legs.' (p45)
It's like this throughout the book, and it is beautiful, but the book is so crazy weird I was thinking "What?!" more often than I was admiring the language. And it doesn't help that the characters have names such as Weetzie, My Secret Agent Lover Man, and Witch Baby. Weetzie Baby is described as magic realism and it is pretty whimsical, but it was just just too much for me.

Serious issues, like suicide and AIDS, are covered but in no real detail or without much sense of right or wrong. I can't really explain what I mean by that without spoiling certain aspects of the story, but I was reading and feeling quite disturbed. Some things aren't handled at all, it seems, and other things are just forgiven without a second thought. It made me a little uneasy.

The fact that Dirk is gay isn't really an issue in Weetzie Bat. He tells Weetzie, who responds with, '"It doesn't matter one bit, honey-honey."' (p8) Which, obviously, is awesome. However, there is one aspect, one of the few I was referring to in the above paragraph, which really didn't sit well with me, and I can't talk about it! It's not specifically about Dirk and his boyfriend Duck being gay, but choices made because they are. It's not a choice I would make, and really made me feel uncomfortable, but I think readers' reactions will depend on their own personal viewpoints. Possibly not something anyone else would have a problem with. And then there's the look at AIDs, which isn't really looked at, but more ran away from. But there was one line that really made me think "Wow": '"How can I live in a world where this exists - where love can become death?"' (p100)

Overall, really not the book for me, but lots of people love it, so perhaps read some more reviews. Really doubt I'll be continuing with this series.

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Published: 4th July 2002, originally published in 1989
Publisher: Atom
Francesca Lia Block's Website


  1. I have really mixed feelings about Francesca Lia Block books. On the one hand, they have an interesting atmosphere and some really memorable lines, like the one you quoted at the end. But on the other hand, like you, I think they're just a bit too whimsical and insubstantial for my taste. I love quirky books but they have to have some kind of solid basis - I've read several of FLB's books and can barely remember most of the plots. Thanks for a thoughtful review!

    1. It's great to hear I'm not the only one who has some trouble with these books. I just couldn't warm to the book or the characters.