Author: Francesca Lia Block
Genre: YA, magical reality
Publication Date: January 2012 (expected)
Synopsis: The long-awaited prequel to Francesca Lia Block’s groundbreaking Weetzie Bat.
☆: 5/5 – a gorgeous and satisfying conclusion to the “Weetzie Bat” series!
Review: I might be a little biased, as the first five “Weetzie Bat” books (when first published as the omnibus “Dangerous Angels” in 1996) literally changed how I saw the world through writing when I was 12 years old, but this is a glorious and wonderful conclusion to the “Weetzie” series. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from the author herself, and to participate in one portion of the book, making me feel apart of something larger than myself for the first time within the world of books.
Bias aside, “Pink Smog” is not a long read, but it’s a very tightened, almost sparely-written tale of how Louise Bat becomes the girl we know and love in the rest of the books. Yet at the same time, it’s still full of the magical realism that’s come to dictate Block’s style all of these years later after the first book was published in 1989. Make no mistake – “Pink Smog” may be a prequel, but it’s a book you cannot miss in 2012.
Even if you’re new to the “Weetzie” canon, Block starts “Pink Smog” by constructing the 13-year-old Weetzie’s character almost, it feels, from scratch. This is the first time we’ve seen and interacted fully with this version of Weetzie, as opposed to the mid-to-late teen and 20’s version, and in a “Necklace of Kisses”, near middle aged version. This Weetzie is still soft in places where in the later books she’s become hardened by her experiences with the world and her parents’ divorce, and here we’re only experiencing the beginning twinges of this divorce with her for the first time.
We’re also experiencing her entrance into the teenage years, with mean girls and social outcast best friends, an empty place where her father used to be and magical trips into the most wonderful parts of Los Angeles. Block builds a wonderful foundation for Weetzie all over again, leaving no stone unturned yet at the same time, as previously said, her prose almost feels sparse. This is probably because we’ve seen so much action in the rest of the Weetzie books that there’s very little else to say that we don’t already know with six other books out. But this sparse style is awesome. If anything, it just made me even hungrier to read about how Louise became Weetzie, with all of the pain and love and magic that she experienced to kick her transformation into high gear. It leaves so much room to fully take in her scavenger hunt that a certain genie gives her, along with a witch that moves in next door, and a boy that may or may not be angelic that becomes a good friend. And that’s not even when she’s in school. Weetzie is trying to not only find her father but herself, making her the more secure teenage Weetzie we meet in the first book later at age 15-16.
This is the perfect book to introduce a new generation of YA readers to Weetzie because she’s in the process of trying to find herself, like all the other YA readers out there, whether they’re in their teens or already adults. All of the opposites that attracted me to the original books in the first place are still intact in this prequel. Down is up, ugly is beautiful, dirty is clean, mean is kind, and quiet is loud. The “Weetzie” series has always been about finding yourself, and I’m happy to say that this final book really tops off the other six books that echo that message.
As for my own participation in the making of this book, I found it rather pleasantly there in the last part of the book. I didn’t expect it to be there, as Francesca herself was mysterious about where the real experience was going in the several books she was working on at the time, but there it was. I won’t reveal what happens or how I participated here (that will later be revealed in a separate entry on the blog), but get ready for a happy tear-jerker ending that foreshadows the rest of the books.
Oh, and seeing 1970’s Los Angeles/places that are now gone there again in text didn’t hurt, either.
As “Weetzie” helped build me up during a rather difficult adolescence, even now in my late 20s, I felt the cushion that is this series buoy me up once more. So thank you, Francesca, for writing this final book. If you love magical realism, or if you love books about finding yourself, or if you’re in the midst of trying finding yourself, this is the book for you. Every girl should read the “Weetzie” series, but especially “Pink Smog”; the younger, the better, before all of the self-hate that current Western culture quietly encourages takes hold. This will help you believe that you are good enough, you are worth it, and yes, it does get better.