The week I turned twelve, if memory serves, I purchased my first copy of Sassy magazine. I immediately begged for a subscription, and I read every single issue until its sorry demise at the hands of the publishers of Teen Magazine. But even just the year I read it had an enormous effect on my life. Even in college, my first real conversation with Peppermint centered around our shared passion for the defunct glossy. I admired and trusted Sassy writers. I can directly thank Sassy for getting me into Velocity Girl, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, baby barrettes, birkenstocks, My So-Called Life, and Noxema. And if I had my stack of tenderly preserved mags nearby, I could easily point out more beloved finds I nabbed on the suggestion of Sassy staff.
One such find was Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block. It's the first of five thin volumes that comprised the Weetzie Bat books (later published in one volume as Dangerous Angels). The series is hard to describe without stringing together altogether too many cultural references, so bear with me. Imagine a postmodern literary smoothie with little bit of Judy Bloom, a lot of Isabel Allende, a pinch of liberal politics, a handful of punk rock, and a generous helping of fantasy, all topped off with one of the most perfect phrases ever coined: "slinkster cool."
Block's writing style was, well, slinkster cool. She spun a vision of Los Angeles - and life - that was at once magical and broken. There are deep shadows in her world, but if you look close enough, they might be adorned with glitter. Weetzie Bat won a host of awards, including the Parents' Choice Gold Award and the ALA Best of the Best Books for Young Adults.
Last year, Block published an addendum to the series, Necklace of Kisses. Weetzie Bat is 40 and separated from her husband, whose name we suddenly discover is not My Secret Agent Lover Man after all, but Max. Max?? What next, is Weetzie's name really Jane? I've only read the first few pages of my library copy, and while I'm reeling from the loss of magic, I trust Block enough to know that she will not abandon surrealism altogether. I think she just knows her audience; the book is marketed as an adult novel, aimed at all those little girls who met Weetzie way back in 1989. The girls have all grown up and out of fairy tales. I just can't help but hope that Max will become My Secret Agent Lover Man again. (Weetzie's Secret Agent Lover Man, that is. I already have one. His name is Ben.)
This is all to say that last night, I gave my recently reread copy of Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books to my niece for her thirteenth birthday. She's an avid reader, so we're pretty predictable when it comes to presents. Books, books, books. I'm so excited for her to read about Weetzie and Witch Baby and Dirk and Duck and Grandma Fifi. Even if she doesn't love that motley crew as I did, I have a feeling that the stories will stay with her. They have a way of doing that.