Author: Francesca Lia Block
Genre: YA contemporary, magical realism, fairy tales retold, post-apocalyptic, AWESOME
Publication Date: August 27, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.
In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
☆: 5/5 stars – another knock out of the park for Block in this gorgeous new novel!
Review: It never fails to amaze me how much better my mentor gets with each book she releases. Seriously. I’m feeling stupid for putting off (though there were circumstances, to my credit) reading this for so long, and I finished it in one sitting. Blending her trademark lyrical magical realism style along with a post-apocalyptic setting and a semi-retelling of “The Odyssey”, “Love in the Time of Global Warming” is a wonderful book that makes one fight to survive, and to evolve – yet not lose one’s heart doing it. I can’t recommend this one enough, guys – and yeah, I’m slightly biased because this is my mentor we’re talking about, but at the same time, it’s definitely one of the best of 2013.
Once again, what was very sneakily (and yet masterfully) done by Block was her way to incorporate her own real life issues (google “save the faerie cottage” while you’re reading the beginning of the book and the talk of foreclosures) and at the same time make this prose emotionally accessible to all. If you’re an American, you know someone who’s lost a house, almost lost a house, or suffered in some major way since the start of the Great Recession. This book makes that topic accessible to the YA crowd that’s within the marketable age range of the readership, and makes it understandable to all. In “Elementals”, it was the topic of her mother’s fight (and defeat) with cancer. In “Global Warming”, it’s the topic of the battle of the banks, which gets mentioned numerous times. I was in her classes during both periods of writing, and I had no idea both were going into both books. So it feels like all of that stress, though painful, really pushed Francesca to grow, to conquer, and like our heroine Pen, not to lose her heart or her power to love while doing it.
That being said, Pen is definitely a sympathetic heroine. Sensitive, sexually confused, devastated by the loss of her family, friends, and of her beloved city of Los Angeles (quite possibly the entire country or even the world) to the Earth Shaker, Pen takes quite a few hits, both emotionally and physically in this book. While not as quite as aggressive as Odysseus in “The Odyssey”, Pen learns to fight, and she learns how to be a real person again in the face of Kronen’s terrible Giants in this wasteland (and all of the land on the path to Las Vegas). What I loved the most about Pen was her fear – her fear of becoming a Giant, of losing herself completely, of losing her new friends/lover completely, of losing her humanity, and of not being able to find her family alive. Though on her journey throughout this book, like “Odyssey”, it’s one big character development arc for the entire main cast, including Kronen, our biggest antagonist. You see the most development in Pen, though the rest of the main cast does develop a fair amount before our eyes, and that’s quite satisfying. The fear kept Pen on her toes, and while that can get tiring (fight or flight responses require a huge amount of energy), the emotional payoff? Absolutely brilliant.
The sensory language is of the caliber I’ve come to expect from Block is still on par with everything I’ve read from her so far – and if anything, because of this strange new post-apocalyptic landscape, is more heightened than ever. We have double worldbuilding going on – internally (emotionally/within memories) in our main cast, and externally (the actual setting) as well, and that’s never easy to do. Block’s always been able to do both, as both have almost always existed within her broader bibliography as a whole. So, FLB fans, nothing to worry about there.
If you’ve read more of her work, you’ll notice Block’s fascination with Giants, mythology, magical realism has reached its height in this semi-retelling of “The Odyssey”. In her other books, she’s related Giants with fear and anxiety (usually about body image – though in this book there really are giants), of sugary foods as possibly poisonous (in this book they really are poison), and of ecological destruction as a place where we can’t come back (that, I can’t spoil for you – you’ll have to read it for yourself in this book). All of that culminates explosively in this book, and it’ll be interesting to see if she continues her pattern of musing on these various repeating subjects in future books. I hope she does.
Final verdict? Definitely one of my faves of 2013, “Love in the Time of Global Warming” kicked me in the feels, let me catch my breath, and then kicked me in the feels again. And it’s never heart so good. “Global Warming” is out today from Henry Holt/Macmillan Children’s in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!