Author of the acclaimed Weetzie Bat series, YA novelist Block gives her YA heroine a mid-life crisis for the adult market—with mixed results.
Fifteen years ago, Block, the 2005 recipient of the American Library Association Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement, brought to life Weetzie Bat, a punk-rock L.A. princess with an internal lightning rod for modern magic. With a devoted following, the novels are both heralded and attacked for their edgy content (in the first novel Weetzie conceives daughter Cherokee in a ménage à trois with best friends, and gay lovers, Dirk and Duck.) The question is whether her outcast characters and titillating scenarios will play to an adult crowd. Weetzie at 40 is now wondering if she’s too old for her Hello Kitty watch and orange pants. Her daughters Cherokee and Witch Baby are in college, her Secret Agent Lover Man has turned into just plain old Max (a Cassavetes-like director obsessed with the attacks of 9/11) and though she loves her vintage clothing boutique, Weetzie is wondering where all the magic and kisses have gone. Weetzie packs up her suitcase (the contents of which are listed, indeed much space is given to what Weetzie is wearing) and runs away to the pink hotel. There, Weetzie begins a surreal journey toward healing, or as the hotel’s hermaphroditic lounge singer Heaven/Haven suggests, growing up. She meets Isis, the blue-skinned woman at reception; Shelly, a former mermaid and now trophy wife longing for the sea; Esmeralda, the invisible maid; and the aptly named Pan, in room service. At each encounter, Weetzie gets the kisses she’s longing for, and then left behind in her mouth she finds a precious gem. She was initially drawn to the place as it was the setting of her high-school prom, and now Weetzie finds that Zane Starling, the date she was too afraid to kiss, has a gallery opening at the hotel. Maybe this one last kiss will make all the difference.
Lovely language and ambitious ideas aside, the novel’s emotional content is thin, and entirely too much relies on some very pretty window dressing.