Love in the Time of Global Warming

 
(i)

 

Compelling apocalyptic survival story with four LGBTQ teens.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This homage to Homer's Odyssey runs parallel to the story pretty often, with a blinded giant and a soap opera star depicting Circe, for starters. The teens also carry the book around and quote from it. Pen loves art and art history and often compares scenes she sees to paintings from the masters, especially the Spanish painter Goya's Black Paintings and those she knows from the Los Angeles County Art Museum. The Tibetan goddess Tara is also one of the characters.

Positive messages

Resilience is key to survival after all is lost. So is finding and treasuring love and friendship. Since all the main characters are LGBTQ, there are plenty of flashbacks to their searches for identity and acceptance and the harsh reality of the prejudice they face, often from within their own families.

Positive role models

All four teens form a bond over a need for survival and companionship when their families are lost. Pen will do anything for her family, even suffer an injury and face off against giants to find them.

Violence

They call the apocalyptic event the Earth Shaker, which causes tsunamis and fires everywhere and giants swarming across Los Angeles eating people. Pen sees her family washed away. She and her friends see piles of bones on the streets everywhere "just the hair left on the heads like string." The goriest moment is when Pen punctures a giant's eye with scissors; a character later loses an eye but it's not described. She's also tied to a giant's bed and force-fed meat that's probably human. There are a couple sad deaths and one death by sword.

Sex

Main characters have a sexual relationship, with kissing, nakedness in a pool, and mutual masturbation described. One character offers sex for freedom; the sex isn't described. There's lots of drugged hooking up at the Lotus Hotel and talk of crushes and kissing a friend. The sirens are bare-breasted.

Language

All the biggies are here, including variations of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and the gay slur "f-g." But te swearing isn't constant.

Consumerism

Giants have taken over Target, and the teens drive around in a VW bus.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Hex's backstory includes drinking and taking heavy drugs from the age of 13 until his friend overdoses. Now he just likes cigarettes and mentions them more often than he can get his hands on them. Pen talks of when she smoked pot and got drunk with friends. She and Hex take the mystery drugs at the Lotus Hotel and can't remember how much time has passed. A mention of drunken little people staying at the hotel during the filming of the Wizard of Oz.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that mature themes abound in Love in the Time of Global Warming, a literary romantic fantasy marketed at mature teen readers. Most notably, the four main characters are lesbian, gay, or transgender (LGBTQ) teens, one having had a sex-change operation. There's a sexual relationship between two characters that includes descriptions of nakedness and mutual masturbation. One character trades sex for freedom, but the sex isn't described. Talk of their past brings up issues of serious drug addiction, family cruelty, and painful searches for identity. Talk of the present brings us to the apocalypse. Now all of the characters' families are either killed in the Earth Shaker, fires, or floods or are missing or captured. Giants attack and eat humans. In one of the only gory scenes, Pen stabs a giant in the eye and blinds him; later, a character loses an eye, but it's not described. There's mature language, including some uses of "f--k" in its variations, but it's not constant. Love in the Time of Global Warming parallels Homer's The Odyssey pretty faithfully, and the teens even carry a copy of the book with them to read passages. The main character is also an art history buff, so many scenes are described through paintings she loves.

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What's the story?

Pen watches her whole family wash away in a wave caused by the Earth Shaker after she runs into the house after their dog. She's on her own for days hiding in her house until scavengers come to steel her food. One scavenger finds her first and helps her escape with keys to his VW bus and talk of a map that will help her on her way. She races to the van and takes off, seeing destruction and piles of bones everywhere. Her search for supplies lands her in a Target guarded by a real, honest-to-goodness giant. She blinds him with scissors and runs for it. Now the giants and their creator, the mad scientist Kronen, want revenge -- but Kronen may also know where her family is. Pen could use all the help she can get to survive long enough to find them. Enter the beautiful samurai sword-wielding boy named Hex; Ez, the sensitive painter; and Ash, the musician and model. Together they work their way to Sin City and Kronen's giant-infested lair.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING gets extra kudos for the title alone. It promises to be provocative, especially when you see the author behind it. Francesca Lia Block has never shied away from tough subject matter: see her Dangerous Angels series for proof.

Here Block has teens already grappling with their sexual identities now wondering how to survive in a harsh new world. And they have strange and new magical powers. And then there are the scary lab-created giants. And the sirens. And so many parallels to The Odyssey that they keep Homer's classic handy as a reference. All those ideas are packed sardine-tight in a surprisingly low page count. This book definitely could have dug deeper into how each teen got a special power, why they were the ones to survive, and why and how the villain went crazy with his giants. By leaving much of this unexplained, those issues become simply the apocalyptic scenery. It's a brutal backdrop that draws four fascinating characters -- unique ones in teen lit -- together in a compelling and touching survival story.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Homer's The Odyssey. How does Pen's journey mirror that of Odysseus? For starters, who is Circe in Love in the Time of Global Warming?

  • Pen sees many scenes through art she has studied. What do you know about the Spanish master Goya? She describes more than once his painting titled "Saturn." What does this visceral image capture about her new world?

  • Can you think of any other books in which all the main characters are LGBTQ? Each character has a backstory about coming to grips with his or her sexual identity, and each one's experience is very different. Discuss what it was like for each of them.

Book details

Author:Francesca Lia Block
Genre:Literary Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Publication date:August 27, 2013
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle

This review of Love in the Time of Global Warming was written by

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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