Sometime a month or so ago, I posted a call to teens, asking for suggestions of good teen books. A friend of mine, a fellow songwriter, suggested Francesca Lia Block, whom I had heard of but never read. First I read Weetzie Bat, an early book of Block's from 1989, which I'd seen reviewed back when it came out.
It is stupendous. Weetzie Bat is a teenage girl in Los Angeles, from a broken home. She has a male friend with whom she makes the rounds of LA after school. He is like a soul mate but not a boyfriend because it turns out he is gay. Eventually he finds a boyfriend and Weetzie finds a boyfriend. After a series of fortuitous events involving a very cool old woman, they inherit her house and all live there together. They make films together, share adventures and heartbreaks and create a teen girl's perfect life. At least, for me, if I could have had a perfect life when I was 17 and 18, it would have been like theirs.
Weetzie is not a "normal" girl, she is not a "good girl", but she is good-hearted, artistic and a bit magical. She comes through all her exotic and dangerous adventures unscathed, amidst a collection of other misfit characters. Block creates a fairy tale life and mood with all the emotional intensity that goes with being a teen. I could hardly tell how she did it, but I was completely drawn in and charmed.
I am sure that no mother I know would want her daughter reading this book or having such a life, but I am sure there are girls who do both. I'm not sure that life in Los Angeles is a safe as the author makes it seem.
Then I read I Was A Teenage Fairy, written by Block in 1998. I didn't like it as well. Barbie is the daughter of a failed supermodel, who at 11 years old is being pushed by her mom into modeling. She is molested by a photographer but cannot bring herself to tell her mom. She acquires a secret friend, Mab the fairy. Mab is a fiesty, self-centered and quarrelsome character who argues with Barbie but also does her a lot of good by insisting that Barbie get some backbone.
At 16, Barbie finds a boyfriend who is a teen movie star. She finally stands up to her mom, achieves success as a photographer and publishes a book about fairies with photographs of Mab. The writing wasn't as strong as in Weetzie Bat and I was not drawn into the world of the book as much. It was a bit too transparent for me, as a book about dealing with teenage molestation, but then I am not a teenager anymore. Sometimes I wish I was though. My favorite age was 18. Block has lots more books including a brand new one, so I will read more.