Monday, October 25, 2010

Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block

Review Contains Some Spoilers!


Love is a dangerous angel. . . .

In five luminous novels, acclaimed writer Francesca Lia Block spins a saga of interwoven lives and beating hearts. These postmodern fairy tales take us to a magical Los Angeles, a place where life is a mystery, pain can lead to poetry, strangers become intertwined souls, and everyone is searching for the most beautiful and dangerous angel of all: love.

I was watching Story Siren's In My Mailbox one Sunday when she mentioned this book. Cassandra Clare had tweeted Kristi that it was these novels that inspired her to write.

As I'm big lover of Cassandra Clare I decided to check them out. This is a re-release of all five novels in one book: Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, Missing Angel Juan and Baby Be-Bop. The above cover is available on Book Depository or on Kindle for those in the UK.

I'm not sure what I was expecting but the first few pages surprised me. The style took a little getting used to; it's very lyrical yet sparse. Things are, "slinkster-cool," and people are actually called, "My Secret Agent Lover Man." Probably because of this, each page is rich with description. Even if I wasn't sure what the words meant, the meaning was woven in. In the first book Weetzie (a girl) and Dirk (a boy) meet at school and become close friends. What follows is a fast-forward of their lives, partners and children with magic on every page. Their lives are nonconformist and wonderful but underneath the sugary surface is a dark reality. I wasn't quite sure of the era that the books cover but I felt it was from the 1960's to the 1990's. The author hasn't shied away from the realities of life such as HIV/AIDS, homelessness, child abduction, drug abuse and a million other subjects.

I think my favourite of the five books (although it's so hard to choose and ask me on another day and I'll probably say another) is Missing Angel Juan. The character Witch Baby has one thing that she hold as precious - her boyfriend Angel Juan. When he wants to see more of the world and move to New York she follows and tries to find him. She stays in the apartment of Weetzie's dead father. What follows is a gorgeous yet heartbreaking story of her search. She's aided by the ghost of Charlie Bat and I loved the way that he's more of a character in the books after his death. By helping her he starts to understand more about his own life. It takes place over Christmas and New Year which gives it an extra element of the mystical.

Having said that, Baby Be-Bop is the perfect ending story. It's about Dirk before he meets Weetzie which gives the collection a circular feel. It covers the difficulties he has with his sexuality in such a touching way. We, the reader, already know how his life will end and it makes you want to reach out to him. Again, the ugly side of life is never far from the surface but these books also give hope; for every single thing you see which may make you despair there's a treasure waiting to be discovered.

I lost count of all the magical creatures which run through the stories; witches, fairies, ghosts and demons are everywhere. I would recommend reading with some food on hand too as the descriptions of meals are everywhere from tiny snacks to huge celebration dinners. I'm writing this review with some Doritos to make sure.

I actually kept a note of some of my favourite lines and that's not something I do with many books: -

"My heart is like a teacup covered with hairline cracks. I feel like I have to walk real carefully so it won't get shaken and just all shatter and break."

"I lie on the floor listening for the broken sound inside like when you shake your thermos that fell on the cement."
(Both quotes from Book Four: Missing Angel Juan)


"He was smiling, but his eyes were like dark corners."
(Book One: Weetzie Bat)

I love that last one. Simple words but powerfully put together. Dangerous Angels is a beautiful book full of dark corners. I think I'll need to read it again to make sure I didn't miss anything.


Catherine (On The Nightstand) said...

I just read Dangerous Angels (and then R&Red Psyche in a Dress) and had a similar experience to you. The initial introduction to the prose was a bit of a "... huh?" because it is so sparse and seemingly simple. But then you get to feel the rhythm behind it all and it's captivating. So many simple yet wonderful lines in there. Really amazing.

Unknown said...

I have had these on my wishlist forever. I am going to have to push them up the list I think. Thank you for the fantastic review :D