I Was A Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block

Woah woah woah! Today I’m mixing things up and reviewing a YA novel called I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block. Most of the time I skip the overview because you can get those on Amazon, but I’ll be kind today and include a brief synopsis because the protagonist is not in fact a teenage fairy, which is somewhat misleading.

Barbie is a child controlled by her mother’s failed ambitions to become a supermodel. Barbie is unhappy, and makes friends with a sassy fairy named Mab, who may or may not be real. Barbie grows up in her mother’s shadow and must learn to stand up for herself in order to break free and become who she wants to be. It’s a coming-of-age tale told in a dreamlike manner that brings up more questions than it answers.

My first instinct here is to say that the writing is Not That Good. However, I finished it, and it did leave a lingering kind of spell on my brain for a few hours – in a vague kind of way. Maybe it’s like a drug. You know it’s not good, but boy are drugs delicious. I mean DON’T DO DRUGS KIDS.  As I said, it’s written in this dreamlike, surreal style which is interesting, yet hard to follow. At times, it gets a bit too precious for its own good and wanders off into what-the-fuck land.  It was, however,  considered good enough to be published by HarperCollins (as an ebook) which at least means that it’s been edited properly. Hooray for no glaring grammar mistakes!

And in the author’s defense, she does tackle some pretty deep concepts, like molestation, abuse, and depression.  I’m just not sure how well she tackles said subjects.  Barbie, as a character, is pretty difficult to relate to or feel sympathetic towards.  She just kind of mopes around smoking cigarettes and allowing her mother to control her life. Until, of course, the end, when she begins to stand up for herself and becomes who she wanted to be all along.

I don’t know, man. I could see myself absolutely loving this book if I’d read it when I was about fourteen, because Barbie is well cool.  She’s a famous model and hangs around smoking cigarettes and drinking too much and hitchhiking with strangers, and she’s emotionally traumatized in that way that you could find glamorous if you’ve never experienced it for yourself and you’re a teenager with raging emotions who just wants to be different and interesting.

If, however, you’re [redacted] years old and pretty much finished finding angsty teen drama as relevant to your own life, this might not be the best book for you to read. I mean, it’s certainly not the worst. You could always have the misfortune to be locked in a room with James Patterson’s entire bibliography, (I’m so sorry) in which case this book would be a welcome change. If, however, you’re looking for YA fiction that covers similar themes in a much more profound way, I would highly recommend checking out Joyce Carol Oates’ YA books, especially Freaky Green Eyes and Big Mouth, Ugly Girl.  

That’s not to say this was a bad book, because it’s not. It’s just not…exquisite. It’s not amazing. AND I CAN ONLY LOVE PERFECTION *sobs alone* You dig? If you read it, it’ll entertain you for a few hours, and then you’ll put it down, and then you’ll forget about it. Whereas I can recall Freaky Green Eyes with a rush of remembered emotion years after I last read it. So. You know. Go do whatever you want to do. I won’t judge (I’ll totally judge.)

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