Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

28 Jun

Bibliographic Information

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, Harper Collins Publishers, 1989, ISBN: 0-06-073625-9

Plot Summary

Weetzie Bat is different than most girls.  With her beach blonde flat top and love of old fifties movies and fashion, she doesn’t fit in with the other girls in her Los Angeles high school. Nobody seems to understand her until Dirk.  With his “shoe-polish-black Mohawk” and red ’55 Pontiac, Dirk is Weetzie’s soul mate.  When he tells Weetzie he’s gay, it doesn’t bother her one bit.  They become best friends and begin to share their lives together.

After Weetzie’s grandma dies, she leaves Weetzie her house and she and Dirk move in to begin their post-high school lives.  Dirk falls in love with Duck and Weetzie falls in love with her Secret Agent Man.  Together they make small, independent films and live in perfect harmony.  Until Weetzie wants a baby.  “The worlds a mess,” Secret Agent Man tells her. “And there’s no way I feel okay about bringing a kid into it.”  He gets her a dog instead.  When Weetzie, Dirk, and Duck decide to get pregnant without telling Secret Agent Man, it puts their idyllic household at risk.  Things only get more complicated when a witch arrives and curses the whole family.

Critical Evaluation

Weetzie Bat is a modern fairy tale. In telling the story of Weetzie and Dirk, Francesca Lia Block writes with a mixture of realism and magic to give the novel an almost surreal quality.  Los Angeles is not only a place of movie stars and “tropical soda pop colors” but also genies and witches.  Weetzie isn’t shocked when she encounters these supernatural forces, but accepts them as Little Red Riding Hood accepts the talking wolf.

For the most part, the world that Weetzie and Dirk live in is free of conflict.  Despite their outsider status, neither experiences hate or prejudice. In one of the book’s darker moments, Weetzie meets a man named Buzz at a club.  When she goes home with him, “Weetzie glimpsed the handcuffs for a second before Buzz had her down on the mattress.  She kept her eyes on the bare bulb until it blinded her.” Despite the ominous tone of the passage, Weetzie wakes up the next morning, calls Dirk, and the two go off on their next adventure.

Weetzie and her Secret Agent Man live a blessed life making films and creating a family without the usual boredom and responsibility associated with parenting.  This stands in sharp contrast to Weetzie’s own parents.  Weetzie mother is “bitter” and her dad “a real lush.”  How Weetzie manages to avoid this fate isn’t entirely clear as she and Secret Agent Man’s relationship begins in much the same way as Weetzie’s parents.  It isn’t until her dad dies that Weetzie’s life feels touched with sadness.  “She was the girl in the fairy tale sleeping in a prison of thorns and roses,” Block writes.  It is at this moment, when the reader understands Dirk’s warning at the beginning of the novel that “love is a dangerous angel.”

Reader’s Annotation

Everyone knows Los Angeles is a place of movie stars and magic.  In Francesca Lia Block’s novel Weetzie Bat, the magic exists off the screen as well as on. Enter her world of genies, witches, and secret agent men as you follow the lives of Weetzie Bat and her quirky friends.

Information about the author

From the author’s page on Amazon.com, we learn that “Francesca Lia Block, recipient of the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award has been publishing novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and poetry since 1989. Her work has been translated into many languages. Ms. Block lives in Los Angeles where she teaches writing workshops that are also available online.”

Genre

Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties

English

Booktalking Ideas

How are Weetzie and Secret Agent Man similar and different from Charlie and Brandy-Lyn?

Who or what is the antagonist of the novel?

Reading Level / Interest Age

Grade 10 and up

Challenge Issues

Weetzie Bat deals with some pretty mature themes including drinking, sex, and homosexuality.  Block’s primary focus here is to write a love story.  She does not depict any adult behavior in graphic language or detail.  The fairy tale quality of the book makes her treatment of these subjects feel more like fantasy than reality.

Why did I include this title?

I was introduced to this book by my San Jose State professor and enjoyed the writer’s creative storytelling.  To me, it feels like a modern fairy tale and a good example of the kind of magical realism I enjoy in many Latin American novels.

 

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