Your basic Dwarf+Giant Overview is a comprehensive survey of an author or series. It is not an in-depth analysis, nor is it a summary. Think of it as a buying or reading guide, telling you what’s out there, what’s essential, what to avoid and so forth.
It is difficult to say where the writing of Francesca Lia Block came from, what books might have influenced them. Maybe a little Alice in Wonderland. Maybe a little Judy Blume. A lot from punk rock, for sure. Her language is lush, vivid, glamorous, emotional. Her honesty about teenage life is still unmatched. Nothing else was like these books when they came out nor can anything really compare these days.
Dangerous Angels 1998 (omnibus edition of the first five Weetzie Bat Books 1989-1995)
Weetzie Bat would be eccentric in any other context, but her feelings are laid so bare, any reader could connect to her, especially girls. She’s a heroine who is both powerful and vulnerable, defying both the Damsel in Distress and Strong Female Character stereotypes. To this date, she is one of the best female protagonists. Parents, if you’ve got a daughter in need of a good book featuring a girl like her, The Weetzie Bat Books are an excellent place to start. In truth, the books are good for any teen who feels like an outsider—they address mixed families, coming out, and alternative lifestyles. L.A. is rendered with such detail and devotion, to say her descriptions transport the reader is just not enough. If you only read one set on this list, read the omnibus of this series, befittingly titled Dangerous Angels, after the line “love is a dangerous angel.”
Its companion and prequel, Ecstasia lays the groundwork for 1994’s Primavera. Siblings Calliope and Rafe live in the disturbing and blissful city of Elysia, where pleasure is sought to the extent of delusion. Most unsettling is the city’s practice of sending the aged underground where they die in darkness and shame. Calliope sees a vision that sends her underground, causing a rift between her, Rafe, and their bandmates, Dionisio and Paul. The novel switches between perspectives at a rapid-fire pace, making the plot a bit confusing to follow. All of the characters get time on the page, which is welcome for the curious reader, but also overwhelming given the short length of the book. That being said, the books still contain Block’s characteristic passion, imagination, and wisdom. The characters grow, their flaws laid bare and improved. Primavera can still be read alone, though if you find yourself enamored with their world, Ecstasia may be worth the time though it’s less finely crafted than its progeny.
The Hanged Man 1994
This is one of Block’s darker books, taking the reader through one girl’s story of abuse, grief, and anorexia. Tarot cards provide a motif for the book with each chapter covering a different card in the deck. Trauma, self-esteem, and sexuality are prominent subjects, addressed with Block’s characteristic honesty and emotional complexity. She hides little from her young readers while also providing them with guidance and hope throughout the book, ending it on an ambiguous but positive note. One of Block’s greatest strengths is highlighted in The Hanged Man: her trust and belief in the reader. She knows that teens can handle more than they’re given credit for and provides a story many could relate to, including the subjects parents fear addressing the most. The Tarot cards provide a backdrop of magic and mystery that keep the story from becoming bleak or pessimistic. The main character is inspired by the cards, imagining a future for herself and her loved ones. They seem to give her strength, which in turn keeps the reader afloat while Block addresses some of life’s more unsettling aspects.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world drained by pollution and poverty, Primavera tells the story of a girl whose family has managed to create their own paradise in the middle of the desert. Primavera’s singing creates gardens, keeping those around her fed and safe from the scourges of the world. Before she was born, her mother, father, uncle, and uncle’s spouse lived in the seemingly mythical, magical city of Elysia where they made music as the band Ecstasia. One day, distraught with feelings of impossible love, Primavera decides to visit Ecstasia, taking her flowers and plants with her. She discovers a world the opposite of her own where children tear apart birds to survive and the elderly are forced to live underground once their appearance loses its youthful beauty. Primavera meets the son of a bird-woman, excluded and tormented by others, and a girl who lost her Centaur love to a man who takes away any creature that is less than human. The novel is often dark and unsettling, echoing both horror stories and Greek myth simultaneously. Primavera could easily occupy the world presented in Love in the Time of Global Warming, perhaps living in some time after that novel’s era, though there is no clear link between the two. The story is passionate and vulnerable, Primavera’s thoughts laid so bare as to be uncomfortable, but endearing and fascinating at the same time. She embodies our most brave, foolish emotions and the moments when we are the most lost on the way to future we can’t imagine.
Girl Goddess #9 1996
This is a magical collection of short stories that no teenage girl (or former teenage girl) should miss. Friendship plays a prominent theme, especially in the book’s title story about two girls who write a zine covering everything from their opinions on important matters to their favorite musicians. The girls journey to their rock star idol’s home to interview the mysterious man and find out something they didn’t expect. In “Pixie and Pony,” Pixie longs to be Pony’s best friend. Pony goes through a series of other close friends, while Pixie stays by her side. With both girls about to go away to college, will Pixie ever receive her wish? The daughter of a Lesbian couple journeys across the country to find her father only to discover that the person she was looking for is right under her nose. These are just a few of the stories in Girl Goddess #9. Most of them stay on the bright side, though there are a few moments of darkness here and there throughout the collection. Block provides snippets of young women’s lives at various stages, though each girl is quite different from the last. It feels like a photo album of girls in America, each shot vivid and unique, providing insight and hope in every glimpse.
The title alone is so Francesca Lia Block. Once you’ve gotten to this point in her bibliography, you will understand why. Barbie’s mother is forcing her to become a model to make them both rich and famous. Unable to reason with Barbie’s mother on the matter, her father decides to abandon them both to start a new family. Without her father to (halfheartedly) stand up for her, Barbie must face her harsh and controlling mother alone until Mab comes alone. Mab is a tiny green fairy the size of Barbie’s pinky who hates it when Barbie apologizes for no reason or doesn’t stand up for herself. Mab accompanies any young person in distress, including Barbie’s friend Griffin who was also forced to model. The story is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting, taking the reader on the journey of two young people’s coming-of-age which they must go through while being stuck in the hazardous limelight of the modeling industry. Barbie and Griffin go through the contradictory experience of having their childhoods taken from them while being tightly controlled. Both break free physically, but then have to sever the emotional and mental ties as well. I Was a Teenage Fairy is a story of learning how to stand up for yourself, even if it’s painful for you or others.
Violet and Claire 1999
Violet and Claire is an excellent example as to how structure can take a short book and pack it with greater punch. Violet wants to be a film director. She’s ambitious and focused to the point of fixation. She meets her best friend Claire in hopes of making her an acting star, but Claire is interested in poetry and quietude, the opposite of Hollywood’s bombast. Violet is hard and ambitious. Claire is odd and innocent like the faeries she hopes are real. They seem to be inseparable until Violet’s burgeoning film career pulls them apart. Both girls get to narrate the book. Naturally, Violet goes first and then Claire second. The last section is third person with both girls present. It’s shorter than the others, which serves to increase the reader’s worry about the girls’ friendship. Will they survive when their personalities are so different? The book addresses what truly binds us in the face of change.
Block re-tells nine fairy tales in this dreamy, dark, and glamorous collection. She takes things a step further than simply placing the tales in an updated setting, giving the characters distinctly modern problems. Sleeping Beauty has drugs forced on her in “Charm”. The Big Bad Wolf is an abusive husband and step-parent in “Wolf”. For most of the stories, Block uses very hazy imagery and lush language, making each tale seem more like a dream than reality. This approach doesn’t infringe on suspension of disbelief, however, especially since a few of these re-tellings don’t contain any fantastical elements. As with much magical realism, it’s hard to tell what is really happening and what is an emotional exaggeration. It’s a genre that blends suitably with the fairy tale. As with many re-tellings, these stories return to the fairy tale’s darker, more violent origins, though the stories are suitable for teens.
The story of Echo, a young girl who grows up in the shadow of her beautiful, talented mother, is told through a series of interconnected stories. Her father becomes ill with a disease no crystal magic or mysterious food can cure. Echo meets an angel on the beach, gets her heart broken by her rapturous and dangerous first love, and finds herself the target of an exercise-obsessed couple’s sexual desire. All the while, Echo hopes to find her angel again, a boy who would not get too close to her at the time of their first meeting. Block references the ancient myth of Echo and Narcissus, mixing in her own urban magic and belief in love to bring the reader into Echo’s dark, dreamy world of contradictory emotions and mysterious longing. Echo would appeal to the older teen about to transition into adulthood. Her story captures the life of a young person’s journey of self-love and self-discovery, including her struggle with an eating disorder and finding out where she belongs as well as who she belongs with. Echo is a mellow, but magical tale of a young woman at life’s crossroads.
Told in vignettes that jump through time, Wasteland weaves the surreal, powerful memories and grief of a girl who has lost her brother to suicide. Every page is packed with eloquent emotion, each chapter a brief, gauzy moment in time. The book captures the way human experience presents in real life, particularly when it comes to memory. We don’t recall things in chronological order, nor do we remember everything in the most complete, accurate way possible. The moments Marina remembers are small and short, but filled with meaning given the turn of events since. Her relationship with her brother is intense and obsessive in a way that crosses the line, which may make some readers uncomfortable. This book is definitely for Block’s older readers—the content is quite mature and the structure may be hard for younger readers to follow. That being said, Wasteland is a fascinating read with poignant language and imagery. The erratic structure creates a compelling mystery without needing a lot of dramatic action to draw the reader from page to page.
Like some of her other collections, the stories in Nymph are interconnected, some loosely and others directly. Most contain a supernatural element or at least the sense of something magical pulling the characters along. Each steamy tale attends to a different aspect of love, eroticism, or both, from body-related insecurity to the fear of vulnerability. Block doesn’t hold back, packing each story with intense sensuality. However, she doesn’t tell these stories merely for erotic enjoyment—they are meaningful, poignant, and surprising. From the mermaid in love with a surfer to the couple who reconnects after a tryst in an abandoned home, these characters all have something to face, either within themselves or their relationships.
Quotable, touching, and beautiful, Block’s memoir is exactly what one would expect in the best way possible. Though the book is about real life, Block manages to infuse her characteristic glitter, darkness, and magic into this reflection and record of her first year as a mother. There are too many beautiful and valuable passages to sample for a short review. Parents and parents-to-be will surely appreciate this book. Guarding the Moon is an honest book—Block reveals her flaws, strengths, hopes, and worries for the audience to contemplate. Even a non-parent like myself found the book touching. I’d recommend keeping it on your shelf for future reference if you’re thinking about having kids one day.
Necklace of Kisses 2005
Perhaps the final Weetzie Bat Book, Necklace of Kisses chronicles Weetzie’s stay at a magical pink hotel where she seeks refuge from her ailing marriage to Max, AKA My Secret Agent Lover Man. She meets a myriad of peculiar folks, from the blue-skinned front desk agent to a mermaid held captive by a man who claims to love her. Weetzie discovers that the boy who took her to prom, the one she couldn’t bring herself to kiss, is holding an art show nearby and wonders if it’s time to pursue her feelings for him. Each person she meets has something to teach her, something that shows her a little more about herself. With each lesson, she gives them a kiss that turns into a gem to add to her necklace which, once complete, may lead her to her destiny. As an adult, Weetzie is no less magical, passionate, or loving than in past books. Max, Witch Baby, and Cherokee lead a few of the chapters, revealing the time between the end of Dangerous Angels and Necklace of Kisses. Weetzie fans will not be able to put this book down, enraptured by the shining, strange world of the hotel and the question of whether she will return to her secret agent lover man.
Psyche in a Dress 2006
One of a few books featuring Greek myths as recurring motif. Though each character lives in modern L.A., they’re each named after figures like Psyche, Orpheus, Persephone, and Demeter. Fittingly, they all have some traits or roles in common with their namesakes. The main character, Psyche, is visited by Love, though he forbids her from seeing his face. She sneaks a glimpse of him one night and Love disappears. Psyche thinks she is paying for her misdeed every time life hurts her. She presses on, believing that one day, she’ll have received enough punishment and Love will return to her. She tries to find a substitute for Love in the troubled Orpheus and then the frightening Hades. Her mother, who abandoned her to escape Psyche’s controlling father who forced his family members to play in violent movies, finds Psyche and tries to rescue her from what she perceives to be a dangerous life. Reminiscent of The Hanged Man, Block takes the reader on a journey that is both dark and hopeful at the same time. Psyche must learn to trust herself and believe in her own ability to love in order to win Love back.
Blood Roses 2008
A collection of charming and creepy fairy tales with a few interconnected stories included. All take place in modern settings, primarily L.A., and focus on some of the more unsettling aspects of girlhood. Rachel finds herself growing out of proportion in “Giant” right when she falls in love for the first time, making her feel like too much to handle. Another girl suspects her unearthly boyfriend is an alien. Fleurette believes her dollhouse to be haunted when she notices its tiny contents have mysteriously fallen out of place. The fantastical experience of each girl seem to echo the realities of being young and female, from fearing the power of your own emotions to the pain of unrequited affection. Many of the stories are particularly brief, some bordering on flash fiction, and giving the reader a tantalizing glimpse into the characters lives. Some feel a little incomplete, until you refocus and examine what the story is trying to emphasize, giving this collection a strong literary feel. Emotion is the core of Blood Roses, the experience of them and the detail of them. Plot is deemphasized in their favor. Combined with the tales’ brevity, the collection almost feels like prose-poetry, which may appeal to readers of that genre.
Quakeland is a collection of interconnected short stories for adults, addressing the themes of love, family, sex, and marriage. It’s perhaps one of Block’s saddest books, the characters never seeming to get the hopeful resolve that others have received in the past. Plot is perhaps the weakest aspect of the books—once completed, it’s hard to say what really happened. Block chooses to focus on interiority and language instead, something she’s pulled off better in other books and stories. Nonetheless, the beauty of her words and the power of the characters’ emotions are compelling enough to get the reader to the last page. For Block’s darker side, I’d recommend The Hanged Man and Beyond the Pale Motel before Quakeland as they feel like more complete and coherent stories. If it had been allowed to be longer, Quakeland might have been just as powerful. Perhaps less interiority might have given her more room on the page to flesh out the plot. Quakeland still has a certain appeal—the reader will feel endeared to the characters, touched by their troubles, and curious to find out what happens to them in the end. It’s a good read in spite of its apparent flaws.
Block has released a few poetry collections with this one dedicated to every girl in the world. Again, Block hides from no issue of teenage life, no matter how disconcerting. Sexuality, bullying, loneliness, beauty, love, and dozens of other themes are addressed. Above all, Block encourage girls to “believe in your own myth” and find their own sense of inner beauty. Fairy tales, Greek myths, and Hollywood glamor are called upon for the imagery. The poems work through each stage and aspect of life in great detail. There are few poems in the collection that don’t end with that punch-in-the-gut many poetry fans crave. The language is easy to follow with little of the obscurity that many readers complain of in regards to modern poetry. I’d recommend the collection to anyone unfamiliar with free verse who may need a stepping stone from the classic form poems of old to the poetry of today. Of course, I’d also recommend it to any girl who needs a boost and some words of wisdom from someone who’s been in their shoes.
The Waters and the Wild is the perfect fantasy for those who feel out of place in the world, who struggle to find friends and bond with family. Bee starts to sense that something is about to change—a girl who looks just like her appears in her room and demands her life back. At first, Bee and her new friends, both outcasts as well, speculate as to who the girl could be. A doppelgänger? Is Bee about to die? Soon, she discovers that she must switch places with the girl or defend her place as her parents’ child, a choice that seems impossible when she’s finally made friends in the human world. A quick, moving read, The Waters and the Wild is an escape into a fantasy where an outsider finds out the truth about herself and why she’s never quite fit in. The story has a bittersweet ending that will leave the reader hoping for a sequel, yet simultaneously content to speculate about what happens to Bee after she makes her choice.
Pretty Dead 2009
Of course, no writer who delves into the supernatural can pass up the chance to write a vampire tale. Block brings her magic and emotion to the myth, telling the tale of a vampire who wishes to return to mortality. Charlotte befriends a human teenager named Emily who envies Charlotte’s apparent wealth, apparently unaware of its source. Emily commits suicide, leaving behind her distraught boyfriend, Jared, who falls in love with Charlotte. Shortly after Emily’s death, Charlotte’s body starts to change—her perfect skin breaks out, she gets her period for the first time in decades, and, most importantly, she loses her taste for blood. Is Charlotte turning back into a human? Why did the otherwise happy Emily commit suicide? Will Charlotte give in to Jared’s request to become a vampire? The book takes us into the past where the reader meets Charlotte’s devious maker who gives her a gift she’s not sure she wants anymore. In Block’s mythology, vampires lose all their creativity, an unusual approach when so many authors make their vampires unusually gifted artists. “When you become only the art and not the artist, the girl in the shocking-pink dress, what becomes of your soul?” Charlotte wonders. In spite of the tortured path most writers take with the vampire tale, Block manages to end on an optimistic and surprising note, putting her mark on this most popular of myths.
A beautiful collection of poems for adults, Open Letter to Quiet Light chronicles Block’s emotions and thoughts during a specific relationship. Though the book starts out joyful and slowly becomes sadder, it’s far from a downer since Block starts sharing what she learned from the breakup right away. The poems are constantly passionate and often erotic, giving the impression of a fiery, physical connection with her amour. She conveys her acceptance of the relationship’s close with such confidence, grace, and wisdom, the reader won’t feel the heartbreak for long, which makes this collection stand out among breakup poetry. It also reads a bit like a diary with Block often indicating that she wrote a poem shortly after a thought or incident, giving an intense sense of immediacy and speed. It makes the relationship seem like it felt all too brief, a feeling many will relate to.
If you’re looking for a fun book to share with a date or significant other, Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur is a whimsical alternative to zodiac and other mystical guides. Block will help you pick which mythological creature you are, then your partners. She offers analysis based on personal experience as to how well things may go. The book may also help you determine if your potential mate has the humor and imagination needed to please a Francesca Lia Block fan.
The Frenzy 2010
Just as no supernatural writer’s career is complete without a foray into the vampire myth, few could pass up the chance to write about werewolves. Block steps out of her comfort zone a bit with The Frenzy in an almost literal sense of the word—it’s one of few fictional stories she’s told that are not set in L.A. Instead, she chooses an unnamed, remote small town that is rocked by a series of brutal murders that take place during the full moon. At the same time, Liv’s body starts to change. Hair grows all over her body. She craves meat in spite of being a vegetarian. Her temper becomes unusually short. After a mysterious family tells her what she is—a lycanthrope—she tries her best to keep her condition a secret, especially from her judgmental mother and the boyfriend she will do anything to keep by her side. A series of tragic events makes this increasingly difficult to do, forcing Liv to take action. The Frenzy is a riveting, exciting tale with tension and action on every page. While Block chooses not to modify the traditional myth very much, the story still feels unique, mainly due to the particulars of Liv’s situation and personality. Block mixes the issues of rebellion, sexuality, abuse, race, and self-discovery into the werewolf myth, putting so much more at risk than the exposure of Liv’s condition. The ending will leave readers satisfied, but wondering what will be in store for Liv once she’s made her daring choice.
House of Dolls 2010
A delightful picture book complete with Block’s prose, this short book is something to share with your children. The illustrations by Barbara McClintock are enchanting and elegant, enough to hold the attention of one who’s yet to learn to read. House of Dolls may be a good practice book, too. Specifically, it seems like a good bridge to a longer chapter book. The story follows three dolls who live what appears to be a decent life in spite of their owner’s lack of love. When the little girl Madison Blackberry decides to punish her dolls, her grandmother intervenes, and a great lesson about gratitude and love is wrought. The book acknowledges the difficulties of home life, but not without Block’s characteristic glimmer of hope throughout. Highly recommended for parents and anyone who enjoys Block’s writing. The book is also a testament to her versatility when writing for different age groups.
Fairy Tales in Electri-City 2011
Here Block blends the magic of her young adult works with more mature, personal concerns in these playful, mythology-laced poems. She portrays L.A. as a mystical and contradictory place full of fairies, elves, satyrs, witches, and numerous other creatures which may present both gifts and threats. They stand in for real people in what could be labeled an extended metaphor that spans the whole collection. As with her other poetry, Block focuses mostly on what she’s learned from her encounters and entanglements. The book is fundamentally optimistic even though there are elements of danger and darkness throughout. Since it’s so characteristically Block, long-time fans will find this one to be an instant favorite.
Pink Smog 2012
Fans of Weetzie Bat will not want to miss the prequel to Dangerous Angels. With Pink Smog, readers can catch a glimpse of Weetzie’s early life. Her parents’ relationship declines, ending with a fight by the pool. Weetzie’s mom falls into the water where she’s rescued by her daughter and a mysterious guardian angel named Winter. At school, Weetzie and her friends must cope with mistreatment from the popular kids, in addition to their own personal struggles. The glamour and magic that characterizes Weetzie hasn’t quite emerged yet, which works well for a portrayal of her in her early pre-teen years. Readers will see a bit more of what made Weetzie dislike school, as well as the events that lead her to the lifestyle that makes her so endearing in the main part of the series. Already, Weetzie is emotionally perceptive and caring towards others, strong in the face of life’s struggles. Pink Smog is a luminous, fascinating story of one of YA’s most enduring characters.
The Elementals 2013
If you grew up reading Francesca Lia Block, Elementals is for you—the book is one of her forays into the world of adult fiction. Ariel is searching for her missing best friend at U.C. Berkley where the girl disappeared, when she finds out that her mother has breast cancer. She meets three mysterious grad students who offer her the freedom and comfort she needs. However, her friendship with them comes at a cost. Those who are familiar with witchcraft will quickly recognize what the three are up to and why they want Ariel in their lives so badly. Though the book is for an adult audience, there is no shortage of Block’s lush imagery and honest emotions. Ariel transforms from a teen to an adult while persistently handing out flyers to find her friend, avoiding her parents altered behavior in light of her mother’s diagnosis, and falling in love with John, one of the grad students who takes her under wing. The story alternates between glamour and darkness, sometimes mixing the two, encapsulating the temptations and challenges faced by a young person away from home for the first time in her life. Ariel’s world is mystical and brutal, dangerous and inviting with an aching sadness and desire for things to return to normal. Like many of Block’s books, The Elementals captures a transitional time in a young person’s life, a time when she has to let go of what she expected and accept what she has been given, a lesson that may reward her more than she could imagine.
Lay Me Out Softly 2013
Lay Me Out Softly is a collection of Block’s previously published short stories and a few new tales. A zombie tries to cope with her new life as one of the undead in “Revenant’s Anonymous”. A woman who is losing her sight worries about the future of her supernatural family in “Unless You Change”. Vampires, ancient gods, and spectral beings populate this dark, sometimes humorous, sometimes haunting collection.
These two books are Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid re-imagined in post-apocalyptic L.A. A scientist creates Giants through genetic modification, beings that turn out to be too heavy for Earth’s fragile surface to handle, causing a massive earthquake. After the Earth Shaker, Pen must recover her family and survive in dangerous, depleted world. In both books, Pen steps outside of her comfort zone, twice sacrificing the safety of her broken-down childhood home to rescue others. Pen is a superb heroine, flawed enough to make mistakes, but brave and strong enough to blind a Giant and escape the bewitching entanglements of more than one enchanter. Pen and her friends use ancient myths as a guide through both books, perhaps serving as an introduction to these classic works. If you have a young reader who seems uninterested in these ancient stories, Block’s duology may help spark their interest.
Teen Spirit 2014
After her grandmother dies and her mother loses their home, Julie finds a Ouija board hidden in her new room. Hoping to contact her grandmother, Julie and her friend Clark use the board to reach into the spirit world, calling up Clark’s late twin brother by mistake. Grant wants to take over Clark’s body, sending Clark into the afterlife. Julie and Clark seek the help of various mystics who all give them a new hint, while reminding them that the true power resides within. Both teens must learn to let go of loved ones who have passed in this creepy yet endearing tale of grief and friendship. The language is more mature than usual, appealing to an older teen audience who may relate to the story better than younger readers. Nonetheless, there is still some spooky magic involved, including a ghost possession. Block seamlessly intertwines fantasy and real life, especially when Julie finds herself attracted to Grant. Teen Spirit is fun in a Halloween kind of way, which doesn’t take away from the book’s moving and important lesson.
Be prepared: this novel marks a departure for Block. The sun-sparkle that usually characterizes her language is largely absent, primarily to match the dark content and tone of the book. Catt’s husband ends their marriage, putting her sobriety, mental health, and personal life at stake. She engages in several affairs and becomes increasingly absent from the life of her best friend, Bree, and godson, Skylar. In the meantime, a serial killer is attacking and dismembering women close to where Catt lives. All of them resemble Bree, leading Catt to believe that her friend is the next target. At the same time, Catt must learn to accept the love in her life, a lesson that may come too late to save her. The book follows the downward spiral of a woman who can’t seem to fully escape her damaging childhood and self-destructive tendencies. While the story is grim, there is a little shimmer of the optimism that tends to characterize Block’s work. The story is suspenseful with new twists and complications on every page. The content may be painful, but the book is still impossible to put down.
My Miserable Life 2016
Published under F. L. Block, My Miserable Life marks a slight departure from Block’s other children’s books. It contains the diary of a fifth grade boy who just can’t seem to catch a break. He has a friend-stealing bully at school, an overprotective mom, and a pesky pup who keeps getting into the neighbor’s food. Ben Hunter isn’t sure how things will ever get better. With the encouragement of this teacher, Ben grows up a little bit, but not too much. The chapter book format is good for kids of Ben’s age who may need a lesson or two about life’s flaws. The use of a pen name suggests Block and her publisher were going for a different audience than usual. Sadly, many in the book world subscribe to the idea that boys don’t read books written by women. Perhaps, though, it was just a way of marketing a magic-less, glamour-less work by an author usually known for those traits. Longtime fans shouldn’t skip this one, however. There are some downright Block-esque features in My Miserable Life. In spite of the lack of fey and glitter, there is only one author who could write a story like this. Block’s optimism, honesty, wisdom, and sensitivity are on every page.
Works as Editor, Collaborator, or Contributor:
If you can’t get enough Francesca Lia Block, here are a few more tidbits.
Zine Scene: the do it yourself guide to zines 1998 with Hillary Carlip
This book will have readers of all ages psyched to start their own DIY magazine. Zines are mostly associated with music, but can be about any subject as Block and her co-writer, Hillary Carlos, emphasize. Traumatic experiences, esoteric interests, socio-political rants, and more can be the subject of your zine. While the writers encourage independence in the creation of a zine, they do list certain must-do’s and must-not’s in the book, as well as a few do-with-caution’s. It’s also a great source on the history of zines.
Written with Carmen Staton, Ruby is more muted than Block’s other works, but no less magical. Ruby leaves her hometown hoping to escape her abusive childhood. She is gifted with “the knowing” and, upon seeing the face of a handsome movie star, knows she is destined for him. When the actor suddenly disappears from the limelight, Ruby journeys to England where she meets his loving parents who guard the secret of his absence. Her past still haunts her and she must learn to reconcile with it before moving on to a brighter future. Spells, visions, memories, and dreams fill this haunting and fascinating novel. Ruby’s inner strength and compassion make her a compelling heroine. The imagery and language are often understated, which suits subtle Ruby very well. Her world is dark but fragile and not without a spot of fairy dust here and there.
Evidence of Angels 2009
Suza Scalora’s art may be familiar to readers as she’s done many of Block’s book covers. In this short, coffee-table-suitable book, Block co-writes with Scalora to follow the brief tale of a woman searching for real angels in L.A. as a way of moving through grief. Scalora’s dramatic and colorful art dominates the story, however, which mainly serves to contextualize each piece. Her style is quite intense and may require a few flip-throughs to absorb. The book is thin, but don’t take that as an invitation to rush.
Kisses from Hell 2010
A fun and varied collection of vampire fiction from five young adult authors, Kisses from Hell is an enjoyable journey through this particular creature’s many forms. High society vamps take a risk-filled school trip in Richelle Mead’s “Sunshine”. Kristin Cast’s “Above” is dark, poetic, and haunting in its violent but unique mythology. Of course, Block’s contribution “Lilith” is no less mysterious and dark than readers would expect. This story is Block’s third published vampire story and it won’t let fans down. It’s different enough from the other two to stand strongly on its, but you can imagine these characters living in the same world as the ones from Pretty Dead and “My Mother is a Vampire”.
Love Magick 2014
A diverse collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry spanning several sub-genres and aesthetics, Love Magick is exactly what one would expect from a Block-edited anthology. There is glitter, magic, passion, pain, beauty, and tragedy. Highlights include the haunting fairy-tale “Birds” by Meghan Brown and Michael Phan’s poignant, breathtaking poems. Block herself contributes the fun, light-hearted story “The Real Housewives of Mt. Olympus” told in magazine interviews. There are too many gems in Love Magick to cover—don’t miss this one for sure!
Rough Magick 2015
This is a much darker collection than Love Magick with most of the stories focusing on the dangers of romantic love. Denise Hamilton’s “When the Carnival Came to Town” stands out as a modern cautionary tale for those fascinated with fame and tragedy. Block’s contribution is the story of a woman who tries to use magick to let go of a man she can’t be with. It’s told three different ways in first, second, and third person, all in present tense, adding an intensity and immediacy that is heart-wrenching. Rough Magick might be a good collection for older teens as it contains a mix of protagonists from their age to adulthood.
Perhaps one of Block’s most unique releases, this collaboration with Ruby co-writer Carmen Staton provides recipes for the delectable-sounding dishes from the Weetzie Bat Books. Everything from Weetzie’s Vegetable Love Rice to flower salads are included. Most of the dishes are vegetarian or vegan, so there’s something for everyone. You could easily make a meal for a large Weetzie-themed party or picnic with this cookbook.
Many publications have stated that Weetzie Bat was Block’s first book. This isn’t quite true. Currently unavailable, Block released two illustrated poetry collections, Moon Harvest in 1978 and Season of Green in 1979. Both were printed in small, limited batches. Even the most die-hard fans may never find copies of these books, but it makes for some good Block-related trivia.