Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block

The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block is yet another departure, although not a far reaching one, for this young adult author.  In Pretty Dead, she explored vampires and in this novel the supernatural manifests in the form of werewolves.  There are a variety of themes underlying the main story of Liv’s emerging wildness including racism, homophobia, body image, etc.

Where this book falls flat for me is in Block’s choice to abandon magical-realism, a style of writing in which she excels, in favor of supernatural realism.  And even this I could forgive, allowing that all writers have the freedom to explore other means of communicating their themes, if only the conclusion hadn’t fallen so horribly flat for me.  I appreciate that Liv is struggling with who and what she is and I am sure that most young girls will resonate with this even if they don’t personally suffer from the specific problems she does.  Unfortunately, Liv doesn’t begin to accept herself until she is first accepted by a boy and this is simply not a message I would want my daughter, or granddaughter, to embrace as her own.  Young women should be hearing that they can love themselves without the validation of anyone else, not even a lover.

With that said, Liv’s relationships are at least healthier even if they are not necessarily happy ones.  Her family life is difficult–angry at her mother, feeling abandoned by her workaholic father, she has a loving relationship with her alcoholic grandfather.  Her best friend, Pace, is afraid to come out to their small town community and his story, which is under-explored, is especially relevant in these times.  (I would love for Block to go back and explore Pace’s story more fully even if the conclusion were the same.  Why not write a ghost story?  She’s already done the vampire and now the werewolf thing?)

This is a good beach book, or a bit of Halloween-y fluff.  It is not up to Block’s usual standards and the ending is insulting and disappointing.  I’d say more but no spoilers . . . if you must know what bothered me, feel free to click on the little envelope at the bottom of this review and you can email me.  I’ll tell you all about how it ends and why I know Block could have done better by her readers.

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