Love in the Time of Global Warming

By Francesca Lia Block
Published on August 27th 2013
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Source: ARC from publisher
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.
I've been aware of Francesca Lia Block's writing for a while, and even own at least one of her other books (The Rose and the Beast) but have never actually gotten around to reading anything of hers.  I'm kicking myself now, because Love in the Time of Global Warming was a fantastic adventure.

Block has a beautiful, lyrical style of writing which works very well with the half-fantasy, all-apocalyptic world she's created for this book.  The plot draws very heavily on the Odyssey, a fact which the characters are well aware of.  Pen and her new friends frequently read from a copy of the Odyssey, and in a way use it to inform them on their journey along the way.  It sometimes makes the parallels a bit heavy-handed at times, but ultimately I think I liked the meta level of awareness that the characters had.  It also makes understanding the book on a deeper level somewhat easier to readers who aren't as familiar with the Odyssey.  I remembered the broad strokes of it, but the helpful little reminders in the text made it easier to not miss the point.  Overall, I loved the parallels, and spent a lot of time going DANGER DANGER NO DON'T while reading, when it appeared like Pen and company were going to walk straight into a trap.

This book is unlike most other dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels that you've read.  Block's writing style makes everything seem somewhat ethereal, like it's all a dream world.  Everything felt surreal, in some sort of land just beyond magical realism but not quite full blown fantasy.  I think some reviewers didn't necessarily like that -- a look through Goodreads shows that it seems like some people wanted things to be more concrete and fleshed out -- but it really worked for me.  Block's writing really created the atmosphere in which this story could thrive and work in remarkable ways.  I was reminded a lot of Marcus Sedgwick's Midwinterblood, which had a very unusual voice and tone that made the book really outstanding for me.  It may not be to everyone's tastes, but to me, it was magnificent.

Block has created a fantastically diverse cast, in age, race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Pen, Hex, Ez, and Ash are all people who were different, who were othered in their lives before the great Earth Shaker, to some extend or another.  Some come from abusive backgrounds, some struggle with their sexuality, etc.  Even Pen, who seems to have a picture-perfect life with a close, loving family, struggles a bit with who she is.  These four find each other at a time when they needed each other the most, and help each other grow and change on their journey.  Pen goes from being a fairly scared girl, hiding from the outside world, to someone who will literally fight and bleed for her friends and her family.

I thought this was an outstanding book, though perhaps not to everyone's tastes.  It was fairly short and I read it over just a couple of days of commuting to work, so I'd recommend giving it a chance.  There are some sexual situations, violence/gore, and cursing, so probably not great for younger teens.

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