Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books
Francesca Lia Block
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O’Brien (age 14) for Reader Views (11/10)
How do you even begin to describe these books? – perhaps urban fantasy where love is the real magic, a long string of incidents linked by tenuous threads that are nonetheless all equally enthralling to read. We start with an explanation as to why Weetzie Bat, our title character though by no means our only protagonist, hates high school—because no one understands. From there, it’s a roller coaster ride of new best friends, lovers, surfers, genies in lamps, Native American rituals, guitar, drums, dingy New York subways, ghosts, and so much more. Try to pigeonhole this book into one genre and you will undoubtedly fail. It’s spare, to use that reviewer cliché, “lyrical”- written about teens, though, in places, more about adults than anything else. In short, while I was apprehensive at first between the “slinkster cool” L.A. slang and the highly unusual (though imaginative and original) voice in which it was told, all five novellas deserve to be called masterpieces.
It doesn’t make sense to review this compilation based on the quality of writing when it’s being published over twenty years after the first novella; “Weetzie Bat,” made waves in 1989. So many reviewers have already done that. Instead, what you have to look at how revolutionary it still is today. It’s come under fire for years for being inappropriate for its target audience because of its honest explorations of sensuality in all of its forms, including homosexuality. Frankly, that’s funny to me. I couldn’t imagine a worse perversion of the point—that we’re all looking for love, the most dangerous angel of all.
What’s interesting about the novellas presented as an anthology is the seamlessness of the whole thing. While I love short stories and novellas, I have a hard time finding an enjoyable format in which to read them, because anthologies tend to feel jerky and distracting. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare this to your average anthology, as they all star the same characters by the same author, but it’s still unusually smooth. It never crosses the line into boring, though, with the varied voices and POVs, song lyrics, and settings all bleeding together into a seamless whole. It’s interesting that they’re even referred to as “The Weetzie Bat Books” when Weetzie fades into the background shortly after the first novella, giving the other characters—especially Cherokee Bat and Witch Baby—their time in the limelight. Though I’m not sure what else you could call it, seeing as character names vary from the short and sweet—Duck, Dirk, Coyote—to the intentionally ridiculous, such as My Secret Agent Lover Man
I’m not sure how a book so goofy, light, and sweet can tackle such straight-faced, dark, bitter topics as well as it does, but perhaps that is the only way you can handle these things. Either way, few books have made such a deep impression on me as “Dangerous Angels.” As long as you can handle the lush suspension of reality this world offers, these stories will linger in your daydreams for a long, long time. If love is a dangerous angel, my love for this book could very well be deadly.
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