Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block (1989, HarperCollins)

Recommended for ages 14+

Weetzie Bat has no intention of fitting in. She is a high school student in Los Angeles, and embraces her punk rock style and attitude. She and Dirk, the best-looking guy in school (who also happens to be gay), are best friends who want to find love but always end up with the wrong guys. Weetzie is desperate to find a lasting love, especially after her parents’ divorce and her dad’s move across the country to New York. When she meets up with a genie who offers her three wishes, she wishes for a Duck (boyfriend) for Dirk, a Secret Agent Lover Man for herself, and a beautiful house for them all to live happily ever after in. Her wishes are granted, and her thoughts turn to having a baby. Secret Agent Lover Man does not want to be a father and leaves, so Weetzie turns to Duck and Dirk, who agree to father a baby with her; she gives birth to a little girl they name Cherokee, whom she dresses in feathers. When Secret Agent Lover Man returns, claiming that he loves Weetzie too much to stay away, he brings some baggage with him, and that could ruin Weetzie’s wish for a happily ever after. 
Set in a surreal, dream-like Los Angeles, Weetzie Bat is a hard book to pin down: Is it all a dream? Is it a metaphor? On the surface, Weetzie Bat is the story of two friends who don’t quite fit in who decide to build their own lives together in a the most surreal of landscapes – Los Angeles. Under the surface, there is a bit more happening; Weetzie’s desire for family and a happily ever after stems from her parents’ divorce; Secret Agent Lover Man’s mysterious illness could be a sexually transmitted disease (some reviews have alluded to AIDS); there are issues with teen parenthood and sexuality, and LGBT teen issues all packed into 109 pages. It is not an easy book to read, but it will generate a lot of discussion.
Weetzie Bat has received numerous awards and accolades, including designation as an ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults; ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Parents’ Choice Gold Award; Phoenix Award, Children’s Literature Association (2009).

Weetzie Bat was author Francesca Lia Block’s first novel, written while she was in college. She is primarily a YA author who concentrates on the Los Angeles area and a recipient of the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association (ALA). Her author website offers links to information about her books, reviews, clips from book readings, workshops, and contact information.

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