With dozens of new YA books released each week, it’s easy to get focused on the new and exciting books soon to hit shelves. That doesn’t mean that we want to forget about old favorites or older titles that may be easily overlooked yet could still be a hit with the right reader. Our Throwback Thursday posts will highlight backlist titles, prolific authors, and classics of YA.
My discovery of Weetzie Bat was a bit of a fluke. This past summer, I recall looking up popular and cult books in the 1990s and cross-referencing those titles with my library’s collection. I came across Weetzie Bat and the synopsis intrigued me. I vaguely recalled the title from my teen years, but I had not read it yet. When I placed a request for the title and it arrived at my library, it was surprisingly small and had acid colors on the cover.
Weetzie Bat, written by Francesca Lia Block, was originally published in 1989 and is the first of five books in the Dangerous Angels series. Other titles in the series include: Witch Baby (1991), Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992), Missing Angel Juan (1993), and Baby Be-Bop (1995). Block was awarded the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards award for substantial contribution to literature for young adults.
Weetzie is a quirky girl with a platinum blonde flat top and her best friend is Dirk. Both are searching for love in dream-filled Los Angeles. Weetzie describes her perfect man as My Secret Agent Lover Man and she finds him when Dirk finds Duck, a blond surfer dude. They all live happily ever after in their shared home. Well, sort of.
The surprising part about this story is its breeziness, not only in plot, but with important topics like sexuality, AIDS, and abortion. While the story touches upon these topics, it never comes off as didactic. The story resembles a punk rock fairy tale, just without any saccharin details. You are not entirely sure, though, if Weetzie is a bit shallow since her outlook on these tough topics is without pithiness.
However, I could easily see how the story became a cult classic and helped define the Young Adult genre. As a teen in the 1990s, there weren’t very many books for teens. Mainly, you would either read classic children’s literature or adult books. At my favorite neighborhood bookstore, I recall that the “teen” section was a shelf situated within the children’s area. It is possible that I would have enjoyed this book as a teenager, but I definitely appreciate it as an adult with its magical realism and mature topics. I spent my early years in southern California (yes, technically I’m a Valley Girl), and something about this story reminds me of the late 1980s and early 1990s of my childhood with the descriptions of palm trees and the very California-ness of the plot.
Weetzie Bat still enjoys fictional celebrity status as a style icon according to Rookie Mag. You can check out the article (and fun photos) here. Also, supposedly, the story has been optioned to become a movie that has yet to come out. You can read more about those details on Francesca Lia Block’s website here.
Final thoughts: I recommend this book for readers that like their fiction brief, southern California fairytales, and for those interested in LGBTQ themes.
–Diana Slavinsky, currently listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio in her car (though, not writing while driving because that would be dangerous)