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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming

Love in the Time of Global Warming

Author: Francesca Lia Block
Pages: 240
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Read: August 15-16, 2013
Source: ARC from publisher

Description from Goodreads:
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.


First Sentence: "The building has gold columns and a massive doorway, a mural depicting Giants, with small bodies sticking out of their mouths like cigarettes."

Review:
Let it not be said that I don't read with an open mind. There's a lot of talk on Goodreads and in the book blogging community about "hate reading" and whether or not one should do it. Deciding to read Love in the Time of Global Warming might have seemed a questionable choice, because I absolutely loathed with every fiber of my being the first and only Francesca Lia Block book that I read: Weetzie Bat. However, if I didn't risk possibly hating this one and feeling stupid for wasting my time or being deemed a "hate reader," I wouldn't have gotten to experience this amazing book. Even going into a book fearing the worst, there's a chance that you will be unexpectedly swept off your feet, and I've seen this happen to pretty much every blogger I know. So, surprisingly enough to me and to Bekka of Pretty Deadly Reviews who convinced me to read Love in the Time of Global Warming, I kind of loved this book.

My issue with Weetzie Bat was that the book read like I'd been unwilling forced into some sort of drug trip, which is not my thing in the slightest. The book is crazy and the writing annoyed me to no end. Love in the Time of Global Warming is definitely incredibly odd and a little bit crazy, but, for some reason, one I can't really put my finger on except to say that it just sort of comes together perfectly, this one worked for me.

The writing, while still more poetic and off the wall then I generally like, is this lyrical prose that fits perfectly with the story. Block makes excellent use of imagery and achieves a style that hearkens back to Homer's Odyssey while still being totally her own, which I really admire, because it's so tough to achieve.

What I really love about Love in the Time of Global Warming is that it's this genre mash up of awesomeness. Block blends together mythology, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, and magical realism into a book that should come out an incomprehensible mess, and may for some readers, but combined to be this brilliant, strange utterly unique little book for me.

There's this real blend of science fiction/post-apocalyptic with the retelling elements. While some aspects are explained with science, like the giants, others are where the magical realism comes into play, like the lotuses. Personally, I love magical realism and the way that it brought everything together and really made this retelling possible in a world no longer populated by gods and goddesses in our cultural imagination.

In no way is Love in the Time of Global Warming a strict retelling, but Block manages to bring in quite a few of the major plot elements, and they're clearly recognizable. Even better, Block doesn't have the tendency to go on and on in endless descriptions like Homer does. Also, Block takes a story that's very patriarchal, with the only women vile seductresses or waiting at home for their men, and makes it an LGBT love story with a heroine, slyly named Penelope in a nod to the one awesome woman in Homer's work, instead of a hero. All of the main characters have LGBT leanings and they're all messed up, but ultimately likable people with more to them than what initially meets the eye. In some ways, the apocalypse is what frees them to be who they are, because the end of the world really puts life into perspective.

My only reservations are these: one personal and one more analytical. On a personal note, I didn't feel any real emotional connection, this not being so much a character-driven story. In fact, I'm amazed I liked it so much given that I'm such a character-based reader, however the writing and story really resonated and struck the perfect tone. Analytically, there was a little plot line about Pen's parents that I didn't really think was entirely necessary. I didn't remember this from The Odyssey, but apparently another account (as in not written by Homer), explains this little addition. While I can see why she did that, it felt rather out of place since not much really happened with regards to this small twist.

If you appreciate genre-bending novels, particularly those with magical realism, I urge you to give Love in the Time of Global Warming a try. It's a strange, unique book and won't be for everyone, but Francesca Lia Block has woven together something magical here.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote:
"I sniff. 'What is it?'
     'Punch!' he laughs. 'I don't know. Something strong. We need something fucking strong, don't you think? The world actually ended. As in the apocalypse? We better have something strong.'"

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16 Comments:

Blogger meg said...

I first read Weetzie Bat when I was in high school and loved it, then reread a year ago and was pretty meh on the whole thing so when I saw FLB had a new book out I was curious but didn't really plan to read it. Your review makes me think I should not write it off so quickly, thanks for that!

August 19, 2013 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

In no way was I planning to read this until Bekka praised the LGBT themes in the story, and I cannot pass up some LGBT. Also, the MacKids rep saw and sent it to me, so this happened. And what a happy occurrence!

August 19, 2013 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger kimbacaffeinate said...

Wonderful review, and I am glad you picked it up and gave the author another go, we change and they change and sometimes like you said we love a book. Wonderful review, I am quite curious about the Homer influenced writer and this quirky story.

August 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Heather Roddenberry said...

I loved this one as well, Christina:) The Weetzie Bat books didn't bother me like they did you--I think I got caught up in what I now think of Francesca Lia Block's personal style--quirky bordering on bizarre charters, magical realism, and yes, trippy, dreamlike/ slightly hallucinatory writing and story telling. She's definitely an acquired taste, imo. But I am glad your gave Love...a try. I thought it was a pretty awesome take on The Odyssey--and I'm not sure anyone but Block could have pulled it off.

August 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Alexia Boesen said...

Aw crap it looks like I'll have to read this one too. I was leery of it for multiple reasons but your review makes it sound like something that I just HAVE to read.Hearing that these an LGBT theme woven into the book just makes me even more excited.

August 19, 2013 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

I'm glad you liked this Christina! It's always so amazing to stumble upon a good book without planning on it. The fact that this book takes from The Odyssey is incredibly intriguing and I'm happy you thought the author pulled it off! She certainly sounds very interesting when it comes to her writing so I'll be looking forward to reading the book for myself!

Great review, Christina!

August 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

I'd never read another Lia Block novel - but I loved this. I'm now doubting that I want to pick up her earlier books. Weetze Bat has a lot of mixed reviews from trusted friends. Hmm. I'll probably just avoid it.

This was such a creative version of the Odyssey, though you're completely right -- it's definitely not a full-on retelling. Like you, I enjoyed how strange this was. It was weird, it was original, and I liked how Block mixed up genres to create such a unique read.

I also liked that the cast were LGBT. It's a nice change from all the hetero-normative books out there. The characters did fall flat, but the writing and setting kept me involved, like you. I'm not as much a character reader (I can be, or I can be plot-invested) and this one just worked.

Great review. You reminded me of how much I really enjoyed reading this one!

August 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I'm glad you liked it! I'm nervous because I haven't liked her recent books as much as her older ones (and no, Weetzie Bat was not my favorite either.) Most of the recent stuff seems like a rehashing of her earlier themes/style/imagery, which of course wouldn't bother you if you haven't read most of her books multiple times like I have... I will try this one and see!

August 19, 2013 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh, but please tell me this doesn't mention the Holocaust. I'm sure this sounds horribly insensitive, but I'm really sick of FLB working unnecessary, disctracting Holocaust references into every book.

August 19, 2013 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Uhhhh, not that I noticed? O_o

August 20, 2013 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Ashley @ The Bibliophile's Corner said...

AH! I need this book. Seriously, it is a mash up of all of my favorite things. And I have been wanting to put an LGBT book for a while.

August 20, 2013 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Sorry if that seemed harsh, but I REALLY did not like the way she worked a Hitler/concentration camp reference in at the beginning of her book Pink Smog. It had nothing to do with the story.

August 20, 2013 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I remember thinking Block's writing was really weird...I've read a few things from her, and it didn't really bother me, but I never really loved it either. Seeing you give this a good review makes me really curious what this reads like!

August 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Micheline D said...

This is a book that I was instantly attracted to from the moment I first read the blurb. I was really curious to see how you'd made out with it and I'm kind of thrilled that you ended up enjoying yourself so much - ESPECIALLY after you had such a bad time with the previous book Fransesca Lia Block wrote. Everything you described here from the Homer's Odyssey references to the different genres mashed together just sounds really appealing to me :D Lovely review ^^

August 22, 2013 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews said...

HOW DID I MISS THIS REVIEW? I am so beyond happy that you ended up enjoying this - and enough to give it 4 stars! I think the major selling point on this novel is the fact that all four main characters are LGBT. And yes, I do agree that more time was spent on the world rather than the characters, but not ALL of them fell flat for me. Hex really stood out, to me at least. Maybe it was his background combined with the fact that he was the love interest, but I fell in love with him.

I've read a LOT of FLB and this one felt very, very different from many of her books. Weetzie Bat had that crazy, simplistic writing with trippy imagery and a general feeling of instability. Wasteland was very sparse. And I was a Teenage Fairy was... there are no words. Global Warming, to me, with the subject matter, was the most accessible of all of FLB's books. She has another book coming out sometime soon, so I'll be interested to see what we think of it.

August 22, 2013 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Amber (Books of Amber) said...

I didn't know this was the author of Weetzie Bat! HAHAHAHA. I haven't actually read that book, but one of my Youtube friends gave me a summary. Oh my god, I'm dying over here. I just love surprises.

This actually sounds a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Again, this is one that Tatum would like, probably a lot more than me. Whatever, I'm going to give it a try anyway because I like apocalypses, I like weirdness, and I like f***ed up characters.

Am I allowed to swear on your blog, by the way? I shall keep it clean for you, dearie.

August 23, 2013 at 4:29 PM  

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