Four teens who inexplicably survive the “end of the world”, brought together seemly by random chance who each have an undiscovered power and a deeply hidden pain, who together can set the teetering, ravaged city of Los Angeles (and perhaps the whole world) back on its axis . . . Icons by Margaret Stohl? Not even close, actually. Instead, this tale of destruction, survival, and the power of love comes from Francesca Lia Block and is as different in tone, imagery, and execution as day from night.
In Love in the Time of Global Warming (August 2013), Block again crafts a story wherein her beloved city of Los Angeles is as much a character as any other, although this time it (and all of the Southwestern United States) has been struck by such powerful earthquakes that almost everyone and everything is destroyed. And yet, the magic that underlies and permeates L.A. gives birth to something wholly unexpected: a mythical world full of giants, lotus-eaters, Sirens, and mind-altering witches. Indeed, this is a modern retelling of The Odyssey, complete with all the adventure, loss, searching, and hard choices once faced by Odysseus but here, in modern L.A, it is 17 year old Pen who must travel the dangerous, dreamlike roads of L.A. searching for love and home.
Penelope’s life by the Pacific lies in ruins. Her parents, beloved brother, and dog have been swept away by a tsunami that came after the Earth Shakers. For weeks Pen, as she calls herself now, has remained in their once cozy seaside home hoping someone, anyone, would find her. On the day when a beautiful, but injured Monarch butterfly appears on Pen’s windowsill and then flies off, marauders come and Pen realizes she isn’t safe in a place where survival by any means necessary is the new law of the land. She sets off on a journey through the broken, desolate streets of L.A. looking for traces of her family, of her former life, of hope, following fleeting sightings of brilliantly colored butterflies as they amble through the desolation.
Soon Pen meets Hex in the Lotus Hotel, and they happen upon and save Ez, who in turn leads them into the desert and to Ash. Together these four broken souls discover that something they can’t explain helped each of them survive when all those around them did not and that the secret pain they’ve been hiding may be the seed from which courage, new love, and hope, will ultimately sprout.
Love in the Time of Global Warming is dreamlike, lyrical, and unique. Pen and the others are keenly aware that their journey parallels that of Odysseus as they repeatedly return to a dogeared copy of Homer’s epic tale that Hex saved from the ruins for guidance and inspiration. This doesn’t diminish their journey, nor does it hinder the reader’s, as we watch how tragedy and loss transform each of them into wholly new beings, metamorphosing into the butterflies of their new existences: “Non sum qualis eram. I am not what I once was.” (51) – and that is the truth of growing up.
- Posted by Cori