Block’s latest can’t decide if it’s allegory, tribute or classical fairy tale.
Is Penelope the last person left alive in the world? The floodwaters that slammed through her Los Angeles neighborhood took her mother, father, brother and even her dog. While she journeys across the ravaged land, myth-loving readers—such as Penelope herself, who reads Ovid for fun and tells her friends stories about “Odysseus, Aeneas, and Achilles”—might notice familiar themes. (Despite the title's nod to García Marquez, the direct Homeric references dominate.) Penelope blinds a one-eyed giant in a chapter called “The Cyclops,” escaping by calling herself “Nobody.” In the Lotus Hotel, she meets addicts high on euphoric juice squeezed from flower petals. The parallels to The Odyssey become even more obvious when Penelope meets a sexy young man in black motorcycle boots whose favorite book is The Odyssey itself and who entertains Penelope by reading from the section of Homer’s epic about the Lotus Eaters. The continuing allusions, sometimes explicitly remarked upon by Penelope and the fellow adventurers she gathers along the way, are unsubtle but not entirely clear. But that may not matter so much: Block’s trademark magical realism works best in a brief, dreamy journey such as this one, even if the destination is uncertain.
Mishmash or no, there’s something encouraging about seeing four queer kids on an epic journey across the post-apocalyptic American Southwest. (Fantasy. 14 & up)