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url 2016-03-30 13:41
Young Adult Magical Realism Recommendations

YA Magical Realism is still a fledging genre, I think. Compared to the YA fantasy and contemporary books that are published each year, it’s a much smaller part of the pie. But as I’ve said before, I’d love to see more YA magical realism. I basically love magical realism because I think in YA, in particular, these kinds of stories take really unexpected turns and can push the boundaries of what YA does. Some people think that magical realism stories are slow-paced and they can be, but for good reason. I’m not an expert, but the magical realism definition according to Wikipedia involves work that “share… an acceptance of magic in the rational world…. Magical realism… refers to literature in particular that portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.” According to The Atlantic, when they wrote an obituary for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they mentioned how his works were “quintessential examples of ‘magic realism’: fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings.” (More magical realism definitions, re: YA magical realism & urban fantasy vs. magical realism).

This is where things get a little hazy for me – because Urban Fantasy often includes magic + contemporary settings, but the feeling of urban fantasy is much different from that of magical realism, though I think both could end up in an urban setting if you wanted. I think that UF is much more likely to include creatures of legends; both can have that dreamy feeling, too, but then I think magical realism focuses more on the individual, the main character and the MC’s unique experience. You can have character-driven urban fantasy, of course, but the actual experiences of the character PoV in magical realism tales are more deeply explored, I think. Hey, for all I know I could be talking out of my ass, but if you’re looking for more YA magical realism books to read, here are some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed reading!




** Chime by Franny Billingsley.

Chime is the story of a girl whose life turns upside down once a new boy comes to her witch-intolerant village swamp, because his presence helps to reveal long-lost secrets. It’s cyclical and beautifully written, and the swamp – here’s another magical realism quality! The setting is almost ALWAYS its own character! Which should happen in most books anyways, but can be critical to magical realism – the swamp is its own character. You get fantastic new magical creatures in the swamp, and Briony’s coming-of-age and sexual awakening are twined together so beautifully in her quest for the truth. Highly recommended! The writing style might throw some people off, but stick with the book and you’ll be so rewarded!

** We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

We Were Liars is the story of a girl who no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.. The details of her fifteenth summer at her family's private island elude her, and her family is reluctant to talk about what exactly happened. Her quest for the truth is interspersed with fairy tale like stories about her family and her memories of their summers at their island retreat. It’s a beautifully written suspense story on grief, privilege, family, duty, friendships, and much, much more.

(Is WWL technically Magical Realism? Or is it more speculative? It could just be considered contemporary, but given the above definition, I think it still fits into magical realism.)

** The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

First off: if you’re a fan of We Were Liars, definitely check out The Accident Season. Set in Ireland, The Accident Season is the story of a family plagued by “accident seasons” – they fall down; they bruise; their bones break. Is everything that happens in The Accident Season truly an accident, or is there something more sinister going on? Like We Were Liars, The Accident Season is beautifully written, full of atmosphere, and it centers on family, grief, truths and more as well.

** Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

Bone Gap is the story of Rosa, a girl who suddenly appears in Finn’s life and then just as suddenly goes missing, and Finn, a boy who witnesses Rosa getting kidnapped but who isn’t believed in town because everyone thinks he’s weird and maybe a little unstable. The story takes place in a town where again! Setting is its own character. People can go missing in the “gaps” of the town, all the corn fields… What really happened the day that Rosa went missing is up for the both characters to discover. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). The story does a great job examining the construct of beauty and perception, and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA (despite me lumping it in here with other magical realism books).

** The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma & Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

The Walls around Us and Imaginary Girls are the two Nova Ren Suma novels that I’ve read, but they definitely won’t be the last. The Walls around Us was described as Orange is the New Black Swan, and I think that’s a perfect description—and yes, the book focuses on girls, jealousies, intimacies, and more. Imaginary Girls is the story of a girl sent away from her sister when she discovers a body in their town’s reservoir. When she returns to her sister, certain secrets will be revealed. Nova Ren Suma writes gorgeous, atmospheric stories that are about and told in the voices of girls, and both of these are no exception to her list of highly recommended reads.

** Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block.

Love in the Time of Global Warming is a YA magical realism post-apocalyptic retelling of The Odyssey told from Penelope’s point of view. Francesca Lia Block’s writing is as always incandescent, proving why she’s one of the founders of YA. Reading this made me want to go back and reread The Odyssey, which I think is always a sign of success for a retelling—rekindling or stirring new interest in the classic.

** The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater & The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

I don’t even know whether to consider either of these novels magical realism. Some part of me wants to classify The Scorpio Races as a high fantasy because it takes place on a fictional island, and so the society is also modeled after ours but is its own thing. But The Scorpio Races is also written in a way that reminds me of magical realism novels. The Raven Cycle could also be categorized as urban fantasy or just fantasy, but looking at the definition for magical realism, hey, the series could fit too. Plus part of that dreamy atmosphere, again, makes me think of magical realism novels. Oh, genre categories.

Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses. The Scorpio Races is a standalone filled with magic, adventure, and romance—and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA. The Raven Cycle is a tad harder to describe. One of the main characters, Blue, has been told all her life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. It’s implied that Gansey is her true love, and she ends up getting caught in Gansey’s quest to find Glendower, a mythical sleeping Welsh King who’s supposed to grant a wish to whoever wakes him up. A very bare bones sort of intro summary—but anyway, the books have multi-layered, complex characters, unpredictable, complicated plots… magic, adventure, atmosphere, romance. I talk on and on about these books, so get to reading them if you haven’t already!

Those are my YA magical realism novel recommendations. One I’m looking forward to reading this year is A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry, which made my 2016 YA Debuts on my TBR list. Let me know if you’ve got any other recs! Have you read any of the books I recommended? Is magical realism your “thing”?
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review 2015-03-22 00:00
Love in the Time of Global Warming
Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block Book content warnings:
homophobic slurs

This . . . is a book that's very hard to rate. On one hand, I love the fact that there's LGBT+ representation, and I want to support it! On the other . . . I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed the book as a whole.

I do need to say how much I loved the writing, though. The writing is gorgeous. So lyrical and expressive. I can see why Francesca Lia Block has many loyal fans. And the book certainly has one heck of a lovely package: the stunning cover design and the butterfly-adorned chapter illustrations.

Love in the Time of Global Warming somewhat follows The Odyssey, in a post-apocalyptic, modernish-day way told from the viewpoint of a young bi girl, but things seem to be thrown into the story to make this "retelling" make sense. There isn't a lot of explanation for why these things happen (a Lotus Hotel randomly coming into her path full of teens drugged on lotus flowers to serve as the Lotus-eaters of this modern-day Odyssey, etc.). The story spends such little time in places that there's not enough spent on building tension, learning from each situation, etc. Places are there to acquire new characters or draw very blatant similarities to the Odyssey.

Francesca Lia Block tries to make the story scientifically plausible with whole scientists-gentetically-mutated-&-cloned-giants-to-create-the-apocalypse thing, but the entire story world is so fantastical that the explanation seems far-fetched somehow. It almost seems that a more magical explanation would suit the story better and would make more sense . . .

The book also has a tendency to skip over the action scenes, having Penelope (the MC) fall unconscious at the most convenient parts so others can get her out or something similar and then explain how they did it later. It became very annoying (her rescuer: a man who tended to show up at nearly every scene she needed help. How does he always pop up so conveniently to save the day?? Why was that a thing?).

This book is half written in flashbacks that the MC could see when she looked at people, and half when the book actually takes place. I found myself way more invested in those flashbacks than the current plot, as they tended to make a lot more sense, invoke more sympathy, and show more character than anything written out-of-flashback.

Now . . . the diversity! The four main characters are part of the LGBT+ community. One of them is described as being black, and there is an interracial couple as well. Yes! This is great. Everyone knows YA could use more diversity, and this is wonderful. The whole "queer superpowers" dialogue had me grinning so much it hurt.

But . . . this book keeps trying to say Hex is queer . . . and he's not.

"Ash throws a glance back over his shoulder. 'Wait, since when are you queer?'
'I am not what I once was,' he answers, and though Ash and Ez exchange a glance, no more discussion seems to be needed."

Hex is attracted to women. He's a heterosexual trans man. Him liking women does not make him queer, because he's a man. Then again, I hear the next book is extremely transphobic, so I guess this is foreshadow.

Anyway, I was tempted to read the sequel just to support diversity in YA, but I read some reviews discussing how the book was ridiculously transphobic, ableist, and slut-shaming, so I think I'll pass.
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review 2015-02-17 14:56
Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming
Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block is one of those books that dazzles and sparkles, but once you look through all that and get down to the details, it starts to lose some of its shine.

There's just so much going on in the limited amount of space provided that certain plot points feel tragically under written -- mad scientist, magic users, man-made vs natural disasters; all of these are never quite resolved in any way that feels truly satisfactory. The connection the The Odyssey -- one of the book's main selling points -- is a great example:

The parallels are there, the characters realize it since they have a copy of the book, they find it strange and curious, but then nothing else comes from it. Their lives just happen to be mirroring the events in The Odyssey.

(spoiler show)

But where the book does shine is in the prose, in the teen characters, and in the magical realism that is Block's signature. The characters feel real, their internal struggles (primarily grief and their sexualities) are relatable, and their external battles (as in, the end of the freaking world) are fantastical but still grounded in their responses to it. The world After is beautifully illustrated, though horrific in its construction.

If you want an easy read with a rich world and characters, then read this book, just mind the details left unsaid.

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review 2015-01-29 23:06
Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block

This is one of those times where my logical brain pisses me off. For some reason, the blurb of this book made me think that perhaps the fantastical goings on in Love in the Time of Global Warming were not real – that they were a story Pen was telling. And I was wrong. But I couldn’t accept this fact until halfway through reading, and by then my enjoyment of the story had been greatly reduced because I had spent so much time going WTF? Is this real OR NOT? So if you think it’s not: it is. IT FREAKING IS, OKAY?


So, once I got over myself, I was able to really enjoy Love in the Time of Global Warming. Like, four star enjoy it. But I won’t get into my irritation at myself again. But yeah, it was lovely once I realised that everything that was happening was happening.

All of Block’s other books that I have read haven’t really followed a true storyline (more like prose, I suppose), but Love in the Time of Global Warming is told like a normal book (albeit with flashbacks). And I really liked her style; it was very easy to read and yet quite lovely with its prose-like qualities in places, as well.


The four main characters in this book are pretty adorable, not gonna lie. And they’re all diverse, which just makes everything about them amazing. Pen was not a very vivid character to me, but I liked her nonetheless. My favourite aspect of her character was her love for Hex, and her complete acceptance of who he was. Which brings me to Hex. I just. I cannot even with Hex. I absolutely adored him from the moment he stepped onto the page. He’s freaking divine in so many ways, and I just. *nods furiously* HEX. Ash and Ez were pretty likeable, too. Although I must say I likes Ash a little better than Ez. I always like the musicians. >.>


There wasn’t a lot of urgency to the plot, but I wasn’t averse to that. I kind of wish I knew The Odyssey a little better because everything was new to me in Love in the Time of Global Warming, and I’m sure that knowing the parallels between the two texts would have made for an even more enjoyable read but hey. I haven’t picked up an ancient book, and I may never.


I was really happy with the ending of Love in the Time of Global Warming, and I am a little surprised that there is a sequel, since I think it could have been left as a pretty agreeable standalone novel. But I can see that there was room for a sequel, so that relationships would be explored even more, as well as the whole “end of the earth” theme. I haven’t heard very good things about the sequel, but I’m willing to give it a try anyway. Even if only to revisit one of my all time favourite characters in any book ever (HEXXXX).


© 2015, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

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review 2014-10-25 17:30
Book Thoughts - Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesa Lia Block
Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block

This YA novel was a fairly loose retelling of The Odyssey, and it didn't work all that well for me. I thought the writing was lovely, but I didn't particularly care for the story as Block told it. I thought it was difficult to follow, and there were certain plot elements that seemed to be added more to have something to say about a "hot topic" issue than to really further the action of the plot. I will read more by this author, but probably not more in this sequence.

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