Series: Love in the Time of Global Warming #2
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on August 26th, 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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In The Island of Excess Love, Pen has lost her parents. She’s lost her eye. But she has fought Kronen; she has won back her fragile friends and her beloved brother. Now Pen, Hex, Ash, Ez, and Venice are living in the pink house by the sea, getting by on hard work, companionship, and dreams. Until the day a foreboding ship appears in the harbor across from their home. As soon as the ship arrives, they all start having strange visions of destruction and violence. Trance-like, they head for the ship and their new battles begin. This companion to Love in the Time of Global Warming follows Pen as she searches for love among the ruins, this time using Virgil’s epic Aeneid as her guide. A powerful and stunning book filled with Francesca Lia Block’s beautiful language and inspiring characters.
I love this series so much. I think it has a lot of excellent things going for it, especially in terms of character diversity and sex- and body-positivity. Of course, Francesca Lia Block’s writing is just stunning, as usual – it’s always the best when she is tying mythology into her work. However, I did not think that The Island of Excess Love was quite on par with Love in the Time of Global Warming. I loved it, but it wasn’t perfect.
I guess I’ll just get the “bad” stuff out of the way real fast. My only real, legit complaint is the pacing in the middle. This is a thing for me, a peeve. I just can’t stand laggy middles. The Island of Excess Love opened excitedly, with lots of action and mystery. The ending was stellar if not incredibly heartbreaking. But the middle just kind of dragged on. It was full of, admittedly gorgeous, lengths of descriptions that slowed down the scenes. There was way too much about the looks of the palace and the rooms and the dresses Pen wore. For a series that so far hasn’t really cared about the characters’ clothes and trivial things like that, it was just a bit annoying.
I was also annoyed that there was cheating in this book. A ship that I adore is slowly being torn apart because one of them cheats on the other and nooooooo and whyyyy.
Anyway. Love in the Time of Global Warming followed The Odyssey pretty closely. This time, the characters are seeing omens and symbols from The Aeneid. This second installment doesn’t follow Virgil’s work quite so religiously, but the inspiration is obvious and the characters directly refer to events of that book and even quote it a handful of times. You can also see the author’s inspiration through all of the art mentioned in the text. I thought that was awesome and I loved looking up the paintings described in the book. It gave me a sense of depth to this world and helped me further feel like I was entrenched within it.
I so, so appreciate the diverse representation in this series. There is Pen, the main character, who is bisexual. Her boyfriend, Hex, who is trans. There are Ez and Ash, a gay, interracial couple. The racial diversity could be better, I see that, but I do love the diversity of orientations and identities presented here. There are also two pretty graphic sex scenes – the second one was VERY graphic, probably the most I’ve read in YA and I’m all about the YA sexy times. It was kind of jarring to read something like that not because I’m all “Ew sex” but more because it was surprising. The first one is in the first thirty pages.
I know that Francesca Lia Block’s work isn’t really for everyone. In my opinion, she shines brightest when she’s writing with mythology in mind. Those are her best books and I like to pretend she doesn’t have that vampire novel. Her writing is very poetic and lyrical and she does love her flowery descriptions. Other times, her writing is sparse and vague and haunting. I think if you want to start reading from her, I’d start with this series. There are themes and ideas here that we’re familiar with, but there’s still that magic FLB infuses into everything she does. The Island of Excess Love is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking; I honestly cannot wait for the conclusion of this series.