Release Date: 08/27/13
Source: ARC via publisher
Published by: Henry Holt. & Co.
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
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.
I am not sure how to write one of my regular reviews for this novel, and I think that if I did, it would be a lot of filler words, so instead I am trying something different this time.
5 Reasons to Read This Novel:
1. It is what it says it is. That's not to say that the book doesn't have layers - that it wouldn't make for an interesting study. No, not at all; indeed I suspect the very opposite. What I mean, however, is that for all of you who wanted to win my ARC based on the synopsis, you have a book that has been accurately described. A post-apocalyptic retelling of the Odyssey with a feminist twist and writing heavily steeped in magical realism. If the sound of that appeals to you, go for it.
2. Did you love the Odyssey? I am a huge Odyssey fan. It is one of my favorite books from school - I read it far ahead of the rest of my class and continued to reread certain passages even after we'd finished discussing. One of the most fun parts to Love in the Time of Global Warming is seeing which elements from the Odyssey have been incorporated and how they've been changed - how this novel becomes a mishmash of post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, and mythology-inspired elements, and magical realism atmosphere. From sirens to Circe to a vast number of other elements that I shall let you explore on your own, you have a wonderful adventure to unravel. This story is not a strict retelling of the Odyssey, but the plot elements from the epic are clearly recognizable.
3. Are you looking for a new (writing) experience? I've not read many magical realism tales in YA, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of my experience with this book, but the writing is gorgeous. It's poetic and flowing and atmospheric, and alternates between past and present. The two are seamlessly interwoven and work well to depict the sense of loss that Pen has experienced and a sort of dreaminess that makes this apocalypse somehow feel real. Here is a sample from early on (sorry--forgot to mark the page #):
"The chocolate bar is gone by the time I return from the memory; I haven't even enjoyed the dense crack of sweetness. As I lick the dark stains off my fingers, I wonder if I'll ever know chocolate, again, let alone the residue of love."
4. Are you looking for more diversity? This book has got it in spades: from its genre-bending ways to the incorporation of several LGBT characters. Thank you, Macmillan, for your initiative.
5. Penelope, the heroine, and the feminist edge. Have you ever felt dissatisfied with the sort of patriarchal tones in ancient epics? This book has a sort of wry self-awareness of its own criticism and retelling of old myths. For instance, here's a quote toward the beginning to demonstrate (sorry--forgot to mark the page # again):
"Sometimes we had slumber parties in my room and I'd made up stories to help them sleep--tales based on the myths I'd read or the paintings I'd seen. Tales of the great heroes of the past, who sailed the seas, fought monsters, and rescued their friends and lovers. I made up words, too, which drove my friends crazy... Sometimes I made Odysseus, Aeneas, and Achilles into heroines instead. My friends liked that twist, although it wasn't always easy for me to do since the original stories were so male-oriented, women often so passively or negatively portrayed."
Several scholars, such as Nicole Loraux and Froma Zeitlin, have noted the sexual double standard that exists in the ancient Greek myths and epics. For instance, in myth and epic, men tend to die at the hands
of others or in battle, retrieving glory or shame for their house, while Penelope, Odysseus's wife, receives glory for sustaining her marriage via her fidelity. The epitaphs for Athenian women were shorter and described a woman whose feminine worth was high--who served her husband or family well, for the glory of women was certainly not the glory of men. Even in Hesiod's origin story, woman is naught but a
punishment, an afterthought that resulted from the creation of man.
What Ms. Lia Block does brilliantly is take all of this and refashion Homer's tale into a story with a feminist lens. Penelope is strong, level-headed, a heroine of epic proportions in a epic tale on loss and love, death and rebirth, tragedy and hope. Penelope is finally given her own journey rather than waiting passively for her husband's return from the war. She attains her own kleos in this novel, and bravo to Ms. Lia Block! I am looking forward to rereading this one so that I can analyze the writing and themes more deeply.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.
PS - if you're interested in knowing more about epitaphs, origin stories, etc., I can direct you to some of the books that I found helpful.