Love in the Time of Global Warming
By Francesca Lia Block
August 27, 2013
Ages 15 and up
Henry Holt and Co.
Reviewed: ARC from Publisher
Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.
In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
What a crazy, conflicting and completely alarming little read…
LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING by Francesca Lia Block is a strange little Odyssey for the modern-age… or perhaps it’s just Percy Jackson on crack. Despite my exhilaration over the unexpected paths this super quick read took me through, I can’t really say that I “enjoyed” reading it. And that’s a darned shame because the physical book really is quite gorgeous.
First thing’s first: Other than some side comments about the climatic state of the world at the time that LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING takes place, very little of what actually happens in the book has anything to do with “global warming”. Instead, what happens between these pages will likely surpass anything even the wildest imagination could possibly cook up. The events within this book are more along the lines of what the (likely insane) Homer created many years ago, told in a manner that also attempts to stay true to the classic works. The only problem is, I am not so sure if this entirely works within a contemporary novel…
My biggest problem with LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING has to do with how little I cared about the characters. (What is it with me feeling so disconnected with the characters in the books I’ve been reading lately?!) First, I didn’t ever get to know or care about Pen or Pen’s family, other than the fact that I thought that they were all a bunch of California snobs. As a result, there was very little about Pen’s life that I could feel connected to right from the beginning. Second, when it comes to the characters that Pen meets along her journey, I also couldn’t find much reason to care for them. Instead, I saw the secondary characters as something akin to Dorothy’s pet dog, scarecrow, tin man and lion companions in The Wizard of Oz: cardboard caricatures tacked on to represent a particular theme within the novel. Did I feel any real emotional connection to them? No, not really. But I think I was supposed to.
Although “global warming” doesn’t appear to be the main theme within the pages of LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING, there is an abundance of underlying propaganda on every leg of Pen’s journey. Some situations could even be construed as an “opinion” about the affect that certain actions we are currently taking within society will have on the future. Such topics of discussion include technology, sexuality, class and status, gender roles and ideas of power. If you like books that touch upon such difficult subjects, albeit in a somewhat distorted, otherworldly manner, then LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING might be for you.
Readers should take note that LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING includes an excessive use of drugs, pronounced violence and a sexual awakening between two characters – it is not for the faint of heart. The author touches upon these items in a (mostly) tasteful manner, and oftentimes surrealistically. But unfortunately for this reader, the overabundance of such things deterred from my overall enjoyment of the novel, rather than added to it. Even though it only took me a couple hours to get through LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING, I spent those few hours feeling as though I was being crushed by an unseen weight thanks to the sheer number of heavy subjects within the book. (Pun intended.) Honestly, it was just so darn difficult for me to concentrate on any particular event and the author’s underlying intentions at any given time.
Typically I am all for difficult reads, but apparently combining Salvador Dali-esque prose and surreal situations with the fantastical ideas spawned from Homer’s more straight-forward Odyssey does not work for this reader. On top of that (and in summary) LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING includes characters who are just as unreachable to me as those created thousands of years ago as well as a plot that involves too many topics while moving as a much too frantic pace to balance it all… While I did enjoy the resolution of this unbelievable little novel, I still had to many issues with the rest of the pages to provide a full recommendation.
Again, it’s a shame because I really am a fan of crazy things (and Dali and Percy Jackson and The Odyssey…)