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love-in-the-time-of-global-warmingReviewed by Marcus Hammond

Francesca Lia Block is an author that has proven in the past with Weetzie Bat that she knows how to deft the standard conventions of the teen fiction genre. In Love in the Time of Global Warming, Block takes her darkly lyrical prose, adds a teen dystopian backdrop, and sprinkles in a bit of Homer’s Odyssey. The outcome is violent and bleak yet utterly gripping.

The plot revolves around Pen, a young, disillusioned girl who finds herself alone at the end of the world. Block expertly juxtaposes the alienation of the teenage experience with Pen’s loneliness after losing her family in the chaos of a civilization-ending earthquake. Pen’s journey to find her family is rife with danger as Block mixes genetically engineered giants, evil and seductive Sirens, witches, and other fantastical creatures to act as barriers to Pen’s success.

The combination of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology makes Pen’s voyage to overcome her fears and find her own uniqueness a harrowing yet hopeful tale, just like the epic poem that Block takes inspiration from. Block does not hide the connections between Odyssey and Pen’s quest, as the epic poem is used as a guide or omen throughout the story. As Pen faces cannibalistic giants (ala The Cyclops) or pulls her traveling companion, Hex, away from seductively deadly aquatic songstresses (the Sirens) the connections become transparent.

While a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey may sound unoriginal, Block incorporates intense emotion into her characters that force the reader to become connected to Pen in a way that isn’t possible with Odysseus. As Pen struggles with her loneliness in her new apocalyptic world, lines like: “My brother, Venice, is gone and I’m not dead. But I’m pretty much dead, without a heart. Venice is still my heart, and my heart is missing, but Hex has become my lungs” exemplify the passion Block has instilled into the story.

While this young adult novel develops crowd appropriate themes of alienation and triumph over overwhelming odds, the fantasy aspects, the connection to Odyssey, and some rather mature situations provide some content that may cause a reader to do a double take. With that said, however, Homer’s poem is not for the faint of heart, and Block clearly holds his work in the highest reverence. Teens who read this may find some of the action and drama startling, but it may also inspire them to uncover the classic hero’s journey that Block so eloquently alters for a modern crowd.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Henry Holt and Co. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.