Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie

For the past twenty years, Weetzie Bat has been an icon for outcasts who choose to see the world through rose-colored glasses (preferably cat-eyed and pink). Francesca Lia Block has returned with Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie, an origin story that takes us back to 1970s Los Angeles, before Weetzie was slinkster-cool, when she was just awkward, thirteen-year-old Louise Bat.

Fans of the series know that Weetzie’s parents, Brandy-Lynn and Charlie, had a poolside fight that ended their marriage and shattered both adults forever. In Pink Smog, we get ringside seats to the collapse of their relationship and how Weetzie coped. While the novel is focused around this event, the plot is usually beside the point in Weetzie Bat novels. What we get is an escape into the glittering lives of the dangerous angels of Shangri-L.A. When it comes to magical realism, Block has got everyone beat. I wish that my brain worked like Block’s, churning out beautiful ideas like, “Once I was stung by a jellyfish and the pain felt just like the thing looked—gelatinous and cold and veined with hurt.” Block creates a mystical world of jacaranda blossoms and vintage cars that encourages readers to find the beauty in their own lives.

Pink Smog is more grounded than any of the others in the series and it suffers slightly for it. For the first time, the novel is written in the first person, so the reader knows Weetzie’s thoughts and feelings. While it might be reassuring to younger readers to know that such an amazing character has insecurities, part of the fairy tale fun of the novels is lost in the process. Another misstep is that too much time is spent in Weetzie’s high school, a setting that feels out of place and uncomfortable in Block’s world. It’s always risky to return to a beloved character, but Block has done it before with Necklace of Kisses (review), which takes Weetzie into her forties. That foray was more successful because she was still able to be the independent spirit that readers love, untethered to school and parents.

This slim volume could be read in an afternoon, but Block’s writing deserves to be savored. Her descriptions are gorgeous, particularly when describing the city that she and Weetzie love. If you haven’t read any of the books in the series, I recommend reading Weetzie Bat first, in order to understand the references at the end of Pink Smog. Once you are firmly entrenched in Weetzie’s world, you will enjoy this and the other novels in the series.

Read this and more reviews at Young Adult Books Central.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished The Future of Us and there was a Weetzie Bat reference! Brought me right back to high school :) I feel like I would need to re-read Weetzie Bat before starting Pink Smog. Ooooh, now I'm excited!

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