What I love about Francesca Lia Block is that she’s such a diva in feminist/YA fantasy that she doesn’t have to write epic novels. She’s just like “BAM HI HERE’S MY NOVEL ABOUT WEREWOLVES, SEXUAL MATURATION, THE PSYCHIATRIC INDUSTRY, AND MOMMY ISSUES. You gotta pick your jaw off the floor yourself because my nails are drying.”
That is to say: The Frenzy is pretty awesome. When Liv turned thirteen, she realized the depth of her curse. She got her first period, realized her mother’s got some barbaric tendencies, and fled into the forest. Where she, y’know, turned into a wolf. It happens, am I right? Anyways, the next morning, her parents made her appointment with a shrink. She’s been on Lexapro for four years now. While she hasn’t changed again, she’s still afraid of the depths of her anger. This anger is directed at her mother, the racism and homophobia of her fellow townies, and herself. Her boyfriend, Corey, helps. Her best friend, Pace, helps even more. But even their love might not be enough to save her from the secrets of her mother’s past. While fans of early and mid-career Francesca Lia Block may be disappointed by the simplicity of the prose, I’ve got to say that this is the first truly YA book I’ve read in a while. Its clear writing, relate-able heroine, and honest approach to generational conflict make this an excellent offering to younger fantasy fans (I’m thinking 12 and up), and a GREAT discussion opener for conversations about the validity of women’s anger.
Don’t Kill The Messenger (A Messenger Novel 1)is delightfully fun. Melina Markowitz is a Messenger, meaning she’s a neutral party that fairies and other magical beings can use as a courier service without causing mad drama between species. When one of her messages is stolen by ninjas, she gets embroiled in a magical dispute spanning centuries and including Chinese hopping vampires. Melina gets bonus points for sounding like she’s actually well-versed in martial arts, including several reflections on the power of the dojo, the serenity she feels when stepping on the mat, and her own part-time gig as a martial arts instructors for teens, tweens, and little kids. While this book was super fun, I’ll be honest with you… if it weren’t for the engaging heroine it’d be pretty forgettable. However, the intensity with which she referred to her martial arts practice, Melina’s personal growth, AND her long standing relationship with her yoga-lovin’ bestie make this a series to watch out for.
Wintergirls is about Lia, a recovering anorexic haunted by her ex-best-friend, who died a month ago. Before Cassie and Lia parted ways, they swore an oath. They would be the skinniest girls in school… together. Now, even though Lia’s begun making steps towards recovery, Cassie is reminding Lia of promises made… and promises broken. As Lia wanders into “dangerland” (the world below 95 pounds), she begins losing touch with reality. Cassie’s scent becomes more real than the allure of food and Lia’s own potential recovery. While Wintergirls may be triggering for readers suffering/recovering from an ED, Anderson’s seductive, terrifying description of anorexia as a disease, and the convoluted relationship children have with food is deeply evocative. Of particular note is Lia’s own protectiveness of her younger half-sister Emma, a chubby 3rd grader, whose mother (the otherwise awesome Jennifer) finds her weight troubling, and Lia’s awareness that her thin-ness is a status symbol amongst women.