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Wasteland    by Francesca Lia Block order for
by Francesca Lia Block
Order:  USA  Can
Joanna Cotler, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Referring to Marina as a baby, Lex says 'Then you reached out and curled your fingers around mine, so tight. I knew you recognized me. That was the first time I knew I had a heart inside my body.' They had long felt a connection that goes beyond what a brother and sister should feel for each other. Each seeks the other's approval and company to the exclusion of everyone else. They try to resist the attraction. Lex spends time with Marina's best friend Michelle, and Marina with her boyfriend, West (chosen for her by Lex). One day, Lex and Marina's relationship becomes sexual, and Lex commits suicide shortly thereafter. Marina is left to pick up the pieces of her life and to make sense of the person she is without Lex.

The title comes from T.S. Eliot's poem of the same name, and the book is written in a lyrical style. It's emotionally rich, so that readers cannot help but feel for Marina and her deep grief and torment, whether or not they agree with the way she acts out her feelings toward her brother. The prose is quite confusing and difficult to follow at first. Both Marina and Lex are referred to as 'You' and although it becomes meaningful when the story is fully revealed, it's tough to figure out whose perspective is being expressed in each chapter. The narrative changes from first person to third person and back again, often reflecting different points of view from one paragraph to another.

Wasteland is definitely for mature readers only. It deals with an incestuous relationship that may offend some people. The author does an excellent job of capturing the angst and drama of being a teenager in an authentic way. The complex subject matter is handled in a fascinating manner that kept my interest all the way through. Evocative prose will touch readers on many levels. As Marina looks back and explores her feelings, readers will do some soul searching of their own.

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