By Francesca Lia Block
Available now from Henry Holt & Co. BFYR (Macmillan)
Read my review of The Elementals
Sometimes I love Francesca Lia Block's novels. Sometimes I don't. LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING definitely falls on the love side. This is a retelling of The Odyssey, set in modern-day California. There's a major earthquake, then giant cyclops start roaming and eating people.
Like most of Block's work, the story is told in a dreamy style. I thought it really worked in this case, since Pen's story is something of a fairytale or fable. She's a girl on her own, hunting for her family, especially her little brother, Venice. Along the way she makes several allies and discovers how little she knew about herself or her talents.
The cast is fantastic. There are few characters, but they're diverse in color, sexuality, and personality. Hex, Ezra, and Ash all bring something to the quest, although they aren't all fighters. And of course everything centers around Pen, who is just wonderful. She's willing to believe in the best of people, even at the end of the world.
I didn't like that The Odyssey was still a story in Pen's world, and that two of the characters read and reference it throughout. It felt a bit too on the nose, especially since the story is followed fairly closely. At the same time, it's a story I love, and this magical realism take is enchanting. Block twists it into something just as fantastical, yet thoroughly modern.
Macmillan has made the first five chapters available for free online (just search for them), which is good, because it gives you a chance to try Block's style. If it's not for you, it's not for you. But if you can fall into it, it's a real treat.