Monday, April 8, 2013

I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block

I feel like I'm stuck in a reviewing rut right now, but I'm going to force myself out of it for a second to tell you about this book because it was so damn good and such an important little book. I'm starting to see a pattern with Block's books. They all give hope to people in rough situations. She takes characters that have had a rough life and she doesn't make it easy for them at all, but they make it. They persevere. And she gives them hope.

I Was a Teenage Fairy is no different. We meet Barbie at the age of eleven. She's the daughter of a former model and a psychiatrist. She's been named Barbie because her mother wants her to be everything that she couldn't be and while her psychiatrist father knows that the lifestyle that her mother is providing for her isn't healthy, he doesn't do much to change any of it. Barbie's mother forces her into modeling, sending her every week to a photographer who photographs her with no supervision and it's clear to the reader that something is going on in those sessions.

Barbie's solace comes from a faerie, if you will, by the name of Mab....a small little thing with green skin and red hair and an attitude like no other who advised Barbie to revolt against her mother though when it comes down to it, Mab is there for Barbie when she needs ways that bring tears to your eyes. I have to say that Mab reminded me so much of Martin Millar's fairies in The Good Fairies of New York at times...I LOVED her.

We follow Barbie throughout her life in the novel and witness the aftermath of her childhood. We meet other children who were put in the same situation as her. There was one paragraph that hit me in the heart so much and resonated so much. I think it's something that most males (or at least some males) who have been through abuse as a child have thought:

"He was still clammy from fear as he stood at the window. 'You're a fucking coward,' he said to his see-through, night-filled twin. 'You're afraid, because you think that if you tell what he did they'll all know about you.'

He stopped and pressed his burning forehead against the chilly pane. 'Maybe it was your fault he did what he did. Maybe you encouraged him to do it because you like men.'"

This is the gift that Block has. One of the many gifts she has. She can pull thoughts out of people's heads and then just make you feel like you're getting a personal hug from her and she's telling you "no no no....that's not how it works at all." And you're not alone. I've always associated her with Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and Tori Amos. Other strong beautiful women who have fought for survivors of any type of trauma to reclaim their lives. And she does it with magic...quite literally. Fantasy can be quite a powerful form of healing and I'm so thankful for it for being just that.

I'll leave it there. This is one everyone should have on their bookshelves. It's a quick read, but not one that will leave you any time soon.


DesLily said...

wow this is a powerful book. I have a feeling it's not unusual for a "personality" to come out to help save yourself... I could use one now and then myself!

glad it was such a good read Chris!

Debi said...

Block absolutely won my heart with the Weetzie Bat books, but I was so disappointed with Pretty Dead. This sounds like just the book I need to fall in love all over again. :) So love hearing how much it meant to you. *hugs hugs hugs*