Necklace of Kisses by Francesca Lia Block

Twenty years later…how many fairy tales have the nerve to return to their protagonists so many years after that first flush of magic, dreams and romance? Overall, this strikes me as the ideal book for Valentine’s Day, if you’re in a dreamy state of mind.

Weetzie Bat and her Secret Agent Lover Man have been together for twenty years and then some, and frankly both are having what the less charitable among us would call a mid-life crisis, both as to their own lives and futures and the futures of their life together. Weetzie and Max are no longer living with Duck-and-Dirk in the magical cottage left to them by Dirk’s grandmother Fifi. Ping and Valentine Jah-Love are drifting away physically, though Ping and Weetzie are running a vintage clothing shop together. Even Cherokee and Witch Baby have grown up and away and begun the separation from birth family into their own adulthood as the two girls begin college.

As the book begins, Weetzie packs up an overnight bag with a few select outfits, her favorites from the shop and from her life, and checks into the ‘Pink Motel’. (What else in the candy floss fairy land of Weetzie’s and Lia’s Shangri-L.A.?) For Weetzie, this hotel holds special meaning, as it’s where her high school prom was held, and where she met the boy who might have been her Certain Special Someone; she can’t help but wonder whether he was truly The One For Her, now that all the kisses have gone out of her relationship with Max, her Secret Agent Lover Man given her by the genie in Fifi’s magic lamp.

It’s as magical as we might expect from a sequel in the Weetzie Bat series. The desk clerk is blue. The housekeeper is invisible, having learned that art as the ultimate protective camouflage in El Salvador. The room service waiter is a faun…and the guests are equally strange, from the supernatural and mythical—a mermaid, forest sprites, tree spirits—to the mundane—a transvestite who throws smashing parties, a wedding party. Weetzie has a series of quasi-romantic encounters with the other guests, culminating in the kisses mentioned in the title, and from each of these kisses she gets a jewel: a pearl, a ruby, an emerald, an amethyst, a sapphire. In the end, she does tie up the threads of her wondering about the prom, when she meets her date, now grown to a man, and realizes that this would not have been right for her after all; they close the main plot arc with a kiss and a jewel of their own for him, a diamond.

In fairness, I can see why the fans of Block’s previous Weetzie Bat books were so dubious about this one, both from a literary standpoint and a stylistic one. Written fifteen years (or nearly so) after Block wrote the first five tales in this sequence, how could her writing style do anything BUT change? How many of us haven’t grown and changed in that time span, and with it our reading skills and tastes and wants and needs? Were you really expecting to return to the magic of the first books? Well, in fairness, yes, so did I the first time I read the book. Coming back for a second read-through…I appreciate it much more for what (I think) it is: Weetzie Bat grows up. As we all do. As we all must, unless we’ve had fairy dust sprinkled on us by Peter Pan. But wasn’t that also the point of Peter and Wendy: everyone grows up but Peter? If you’re longing for more magically carefree magic realism books about being young in L.A., who wants to read about being middle-aged in L.A. when all the dreams might be dying? Not so much. In that case, I suggest you stick with the first five.

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