The Waters & the Wild
by Francesca Lia Block
Cover Artist: Sophie Toulouse
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
HarperTeen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061452444
Date: 01 June 2009 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Three very lonely, very strange thirteen-year-olds live in Venice Beach. At night, Bee encounters ghostly visions of her doppelganger, a girl who could pass as her twin. Bee suspects herself of being a changeling--a faerie who was exchanged with a human baby. The doppelganger wants her life back but Bee doesn't want to leave her new friends and return to the faerie world beneath the city. She has befriended Sarah, who believes she is a reincarnated slave, and Haze, who believes that his real father is an extraterrestrial. Together, the three misfits learn to cast spells to make themselves invisible and to fly like birds. They boldly crash the party of a snobbish classmate. Later, Bee must fight the doppelganger to keep from returning to the faerie world.
The Waters & the Wild is a bizarre novella that reads like beautiful poetry. In fact, it is based on "The Stolen Child", a poem written by William Butler Yeats. Lines from this poem are quoted by Bee's nerd friend, Haze. (Could Jimi Hendrix's song "Purple Haze" have influenced this choice of name?) The reader is kept in a type of haze, wondering how much of the children's experiences are reality and how much are pure fantasy. The children are all products of dysfunctional families and may have found solace from their emotional pain by creating fantasy worlds. Many children, especially abused ones, imagine themselves living alternate lives. It is never clear whether Bee's doppelganger is real or the product of her overwrought imagination. This makes the novel exceedingly creepy. The ending will definitely cause chills to course up and down the reader's spine long after they've closed the book.
With The Waters & the Wild, Francesca Lila Block has written a social commentary cleverly disguised as a supernatural fantasy novel for young teens. Children, when left alone, often create fantasy worlds. They become so immersed in them that they eventually lose touch with reality. However, this novella does express hope--the hope found in friendship among one's peers. When Bee, Sarah, and Haze are together, they obtain a feeling of belonging. They gain confidence and strength, both mentally and physically. Even their appearances change. No longer are they social outcasts. Whether they can actually become invisible or fly through the air is irrelevant. They learn to accept and love themselves and each other. That is the true magic of this poignant, insightful novella.
Francesca Lia Block is the author of numerous popular fantasy novellas and short story collections for young adults: I Was A Teenage Fairy, The Rose And The Beast, Echo, Psyche In A Dress, and Dangerous Angels. Poetic in their writing style, they depict worlds populated by fairies, angels, mermaids, nymphs and other mythical creatures. Often the characters are searching for love and acceptance in a world filled with turmoil. Controversial, provocative and eccentric, Block's writings offer an insight into the lifestyle of today's youth.