Francesca Lia Block’s The Waters & The Wild is as beautiful and evocative as her other books, moving and full of longing, with a surprise bittersweet ending. The teen years are a time when belonging is essential, and the faerie/changeling metaphor is perfect to describe the despair of not-fitting-in.
Bee wakes up one morning to find her doppleganger, a look-alike who declares that she wants her life back, and promptly disappears. In her search for answers, Bee befriends a brilliant nerd Haze, who thinks he may be the progeny of aliens, and Sarah, a plump would-be starlet who sings like Billie Holiday and believes she is a reincarnated slave girl. The three new friends are powerful together and create their own tribe. They pretend to be invisible to give them the moxy to crash the popular girl’s party. Finally, Bee belongs.
Or does she? Who is the look-alike girl whose life Bee may have unknowingly stolen?
Block creates rich, dynamic characters and deftly shifts point-of-view to give voice to each of the friends. On the downside, the plot is a little thin. The ending has not been seeded well; it bears the surprise of the unexpected and not a fulfillment. Still, Block writes beautifully as always and can get away with just about anything. The occasional poem inserts contribute to the theme and tone. The optimistic resolution demonstrates that the despair of high school doesn’t last forever. This is a near-perfect book for outcasts and ‘alternative’ teens longing to belong.
Block, Francesca Lia. The Waters & The Wild. N.Y.: HarperTeen, 2009.
Ms. Block’s website: www.francescaliablock.com