Weetzie Bat

[openbook booknumber=”0064470687″][rating:3/5]

In her stunning debut, Francesca Lia Block has created a wild, sophisticated fairy tale. She invites us into a magical world where love really does manage to conquer all.

The first time I read Weetzie Bat was at a very young age, and really too young for the subject matter at hand. The writing might lead you to think otherwise as it is really written at a 6th grade or lower level. Publisher’s Weekly says its perfect for 12 and up, the School Library Journal says 10th grade and up. See the disparity?

Weetzie Bat was Francesca Lia Block’s first novel and the first in her Dangerous Angels series. I wanted to re-read it to capture some of the adventure and sparkle and hope I had gotten the first time around when I read it at the young age of 12. I was an outcast, a loner, a reader and a ridiculously creative dreamer (in the crazy sunshine and rainbows way, though if you are here reading this at my blog you probably already knew that). I still got some of that magic, but now I’m older and not all of it managed to keep its hold. As an adult there were some problems, some hitches, some flaws. Mainly my naivete is gone and with it went a lot of my original enjoyment of the book.

Weetzie could see him–it was a man, a little man in a turban, with a jewel in his nose, harem pants, and curly-toed slippers.
       “Lanky Lizards!” Weetzie exclaimed.
       “Greetings,” said the man in an odd voice, a rich, dark purr.
       “Oh, shit!” Weetzie said.
       “I beg your pardon? Is that your wish?”

In this book we have a cast of characters that kind of float through life in a series of moments, each chapter is almost like a short story, with little conflict and hardly any character development. We have characters with silly nick names who, when faced with life’s problems, pretend they don’t exist with alcohol, music, food, shopping and when that doesn’t work they run away and hide – in bars, in exotic dens – where they smoke, drink and have promiscuous sex with strangers. For the most part though there are no consequences to their actions, no “bad” ones anyway. Seriously bad things are hinted at. Relatives OD and die, friends get AIDs and die, but the main characters live in a bubble where they cruise around and party and make movies and dress up and love each other and while they are affected it’s not really given any weight with the reader.

As an adult reading the book I also was bothered at the complete lack of real growing up the characters do. They don’t worry about money, about getting an education, about a career, their main concerns are finding love and holding on to it once they have it. An admirable aim to be sure, but not to be gotten at the sacrifice of other people’s happiness (even if that is done through short sightedness, not malice). When Weetzie wants a baby she asks her lover and when he turns her down she turns to her gay friends and has a threesome with them behind his back in order to get pregnant. This results in the lover running away when he finds out, of course, because none of these people can handle having adult conversations or making adult decisions. As a child this all made perfect sense to me. I had the same naivete as Weetzie displays and figured that a child is born of love and as long as they all love each other (and they all do in the end, even the additional illegitimate child that the lover had with some random stranger when he ran away) then it is all okay.

I hate to put this book in such a negative light because when I was a young teenager this book, and the series after it, was like a life line to me. I wanted to be loved more than anything and having that be Weetzie’s sole pursuit, concern, and end result made perfect sense to me then. I loved reading the flowery prose and the crazy nick names. I loved reading about the wonderful magical place that is Los Angeles, which is written to be even more magical then it is, or ever was. (I went there on a sort of pilgrimage when I was 17 – true story.) But this book doesn’t hold up to the hard cold light of adulthood. I think it works for the young and the young at heart if you want to just dive into a world of magic and light and crazy food/clothes/streets/people/experiences. But not too young, I don’t think. I’m not so sure it should be read when you’re 12, and I was 12 when I first read it!

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