Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

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.


  1. It sounds amazing! I love the idea of the retelling of Odysseus, and all the incorporated elements makes it sound like a magical read.

  2. Hi Christina! I'm so into this book!! I love magical realism and, like you, I read The Odyssey when I was very young and I also loved it. From what you described, I think this would be a book that I would really enjoy. The themes are so interesting! It's going to my wishlist right now. Hopefully I'll be able to buy it soon. Thank you for sharing!

  3. This sounds really appealing, I did read some pretty mixed reviews about it but all the things you've listed down here make it sound like it's going to be a book I'll enjoy. I haven't read The Odyssey but I adore Greek mythology. I really like how this is a feminist take too. Will definitely be adding this back to my to buy list :)

  4. I haven't really paid much attention to this book for some reason, but now you have me really curious about it. I haven't read many magical realism tales in YA either, but it's something that I'm interested in exploring further. That dreamlike quality of storytelling can be really effective if used well. And there's a diverse cast of characters, too? That's so great to hear! That's definitely something I like seeing in books. Thanks for sharing, Christina! I guess I will have to get my hands on this now. :)

  5. Lisa (Lost in Literature)August 27, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    Is it absolutely horrible to admit that I've never read the Odyssey?? I should probably remedy that. I think I was probably supposed to read it in school, but back then I didn't enjoy reading like I do now, so I'm thinking I may have skipped that one. :( This sounds awesome though, so I may need to read the Odyssey first, then give this one a try! :D

  6. Good to hear that it puts an original spin on such a known story. I haven't read it, but we did discuss it in lit class so I know a few things about it. Hey, not wanting to sound like a moron, but honestly, the one who doesn't reach to more knowledge is the real fool, so I'm asking you, what exactly is magical realism? O.o I have come across the term quite a few times, but haven't really invested myself into the details of what it really contains. So happy you liked the writing though:) And that chocolate excerpt you shared is, indeed, gorgeous and very real. I'm glad you enjoyed the MC as well. I really like this type of review, btw. It's refreshing and lol, at first I thought I had stumbled upon a wrong blog because I'm so used to your +/- reviews. Love both styles:) Wonderful thourough review, hon!

  7. Oh gosh this sounds great! I love ancient mythology, I studied Ancient History as part of my degree at uni and it's always fascinated me. So modern adaptations/takes on it always get me interested =)

  8. I've only ever heard of a few retellings of Greek epics in YA - most seem to be retellings of the myths or incorporating those elements into their books - so I definitely agree that that aspect helps make it a magical and unique read :). Plus... the Odyssey! :)

  9. Yay, Pat! I hope you enjoy it. If you do get a chance to buy & read soon, let me know so we can discuss the themes and whatnot :).

  10. Really? Well, I have seen mixed reviews on her writing style, but I hadn't seen many that didn't like this one :O. I really do hope you like the feminist take and Greek aspects of the book when you get a chance to read it!

  11. Me too, Sam. I want to read more magical realism books; when you say the 'dreamlike quality of storytelling,' my first thought is actually of the Raven Boys. But I don't think TRB is the best of examples for that....

    Since this book is past its release date, you might be able to find it in libraries now, if you're interested :).

  12. No, of course not! I've never read the Illiad, but I do think that a lot of people get these looks on their faces when I admit to that - don't worry, I won't do that :). But hey, even if you haven't read the Odyssey, this book is still entertaining. You might even find it more so, the plot twists and details more unpredictable for that reason.

  13. 1. Siiri, I would never, ever call you a moron. 2. I'm also not the best of resources when it comes to magical realism o.O but I generally associate it with books like Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and the Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (though that one is more of a genre-bender). It's a type of story where the lines between reality and magic are blurred. That's not a very thorough definition o.O - I can try to find another one soon. And also: thank you! It may not be the +/- review, but it is another kind of list ;). I can never escape them.

  14. Woot! Woot! Sounds like you're like me, and would want to take apart the novel and deconstruct its modern outlook on the old epic :).

  15. Christina, I have been sitting on this one but your review makes me want to pick it up immediately! Thanks for reviewing it in a way that I can skim to get your impressions without spoiling anything. I need to try to get to this one soon.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  16. Love the format of this review!! It works great at getting your main points across.

    I have been sooo curious about this one ever since I saw the cover and read the title and blurb, and now I am somehow even more intrigued after reading your review. Okay so, how important is it that I am really familiar with the Odyssey? I sort of know, like, the cliff notes version, but I haven't read the actual thing myself, and I'm worried that I would not get the full experience and references if I wasn't as familiar with the story as you are. I really ought to read The Odyssey someday; it would just be nice to know if it's a must before reading this one.

    I have yet to read anything by Francesca Lia Block, but every time I read a review for one of her works, they always make a point to mention the writing, and that's probably what I'm most interested in. Though a close second would be your mention that this is a bit like a retelling told through a feminist lens. Wow! I mean, that sounds so intriguing. Though I do worry something like that may go over my head as, as I have mentioned, I am not super familiar with the source work.

  17. I know you wouldn't, I just felt like one for not having found out what the term atucally means. I figured it was something like that, but thought maybe there was some really complex definition or something and some twists and turns to this term. Heh, they work good for you and often you've got to stick to what works and what makes you comfortable, plus I enjoy reading them so all's good:)

  18. Hehe, there probably is a more complex definition, but I'm definitely not up to speed on that o.O. I will actually search tomorrow since i still need to reply to your very lovely email :).

  19. Wendy, this is actually the book I was thinking of when I'd commented on your mini reviews about Macmillan's initiative toward diversity. I do hope you enjoy it :) and I'm glad the review worked well for you!

  20. Not that important that you're familiar with it. I think the book holds two layers of appeal in that regard - if you've never read the Odyssey, you'll probably love all the different fantastical elements and think it's very original. If you've read it, you'll laugh and smile at the way she's retwisted some of the concepts. Since you're not one way or the other, maybe you won't get the full experience in the sense that some of the layers - like why she would choose to include X element - would be opaque, but I too still need to reread and understand those decisions myself :). And that was a long way of saying that I don't think it's a must to have read the Odyssey. Lol, sorry.

    Right? Her writing was the reason why I wanted to read this one too, and it didn't disappoint in that end. I don't think that parts of the feminist lens will go over your head, since the book does mention some of these aspects (not my whole spheel on the sexual double standard in Athenian myth & epic; that's just me), especially with regard to the inclusion of diversity :).

  21. Ah okay, thank you for your response!!

  22. Fantastic review Christina! I like doing these lists in my post's lately too!

    Ok, so YES to everything you said. I really loved this book. It was not my first F.L. Block read--so I already expected the writing to be uniquely her own and incredible. But it is the first time I have read a mythological re-telling from this author and it was a total win in my opinion. Not since O Brother Where Art Thou have I encountered a more original take on Homer's The Odyssey.

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that Pen is the hero of this book and I love this from your review:

    "What Ms. Lia Block does brilliantly is take all of this and refashion Homer's tale into a story with a feminist lens."

    and this:

    "Penelope is strong, level-headed, a heroine of epic proportions in a epic tale on loss and love, death and rebirth, tragedy and hope.'

    I love the LGBT themes and how so much of the original story made it into this version but just spun out in a fresh new way.

    I hope that like Kendare Blake's Antigoddess, this book encourages more readers, especially younger readers, to pick up these classic works of literature and give them a look:)

    And that cover! Gah! Gorgeous!

  23. The Odysessy is such a classic book. I loved all the mythical creatures in it and I'm fascinated if and how they are incorporated in the story. The idea of a feminist twist intrigues me so much that I need this book in my hands!

  24. Hahah, Heather - lists are the best :). I love yours and I love making them.

    Ooh, you've read her other work? Did you like it as much as you liked this? I haven't read many Odyssey retellings, but the claim you make sounds really, really impressive and fitting with this book :).

    I too loved how those LGBT themes connected with the fresh aspects of the retelling and her own magical realism writing :). And wouldn't it be wonderful if more people were interested in the Odyssey? If this book could inspire them that much?

    The cover is gorgeous, but I also can't stop seeing the creepy one eye that's floating beneath the title o.O.

  25. Right?? The Odyssey is wonderful about incorporating all sorts of mythical creatures, and this book has its own fresh spin in that regard. I hope you like the book, Cee :).

  26. Hm, I'm not a huge fan of retellings, but I liked Odyssey and I like to read about LGBT characters and this books sounds unique enough so I might check this out. Thanks for the review! :)

  27. yay!! Retellings sometimes do get to me too, but I think with what you've said, you'll like the book. Or, at least, I hope you will :).


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