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Psyche in a Dress    by Francesca Lia Block order for
Psyche in a Dress
by Francesca Lia Block
Order:  USA  Can
Joanna Cotler, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Readers with a limited knowledge of Greek mythology and its gods will experience some difficulty following Block's messages (as did I). But a cursory perusal of mythology gives the basis needed to understand Psyche in a Dress. Block is a sought-after author whose writings send consistent, supportive messages to young adult readers: you are fine the way you are, with who you love, being gay, holding your opinions, and more.

In free verse, Block's story is short yet complex, melancholy yet blithe of spirit, applying Greek mythology to a modern-day theme. I read the book three times, each time gaining more insight. Psyche is domineered over by a father who stars her in his world of films - she is sometimes disrobed in front of camera crews. Her mother was swallowed by her husband's drive, and eventually left, leaving behind a designer wardrobe. 'Sometimes I put on one of the dresses / light candles / and dance with my mother's shadow ... waiting for her to come back / Even a wraith is better than nothing / even a silhouette on the wall'. Father's new girlfriend Aphrodite wanted to be the star of his new film, but 'he wouldn't replace me Psyche, which enraged her even more ... In the morning she Aphrodite was gone / but she was not finished'.

In the night, through an open window and bearing scents of jasmine, Love enters Psyche's world, and lies beside her, with the stipulation not to be seen. Love asks, 'Do you think Love and Soul are the same? ... 'Tell me your name, I said' / You already know. If you are Soul / I am the other one'. Psyche denies to her halfsisters there is a Love, when they inquire about her lover. Then, when Love comes again in the night, Psyche sees his beauty in candlelight, before he flees. Psyche is broken and tormented, fleeting and fragile, she has entered the underworld. Her mother redeems her. Psyche feels unworthy of love, she leaves time and again, searching. When Love and Soul rejoin, a child is conceived, a child named Joy. Challenged by the gods, she must never look back. 'I have been Psyche, I have been Echo, / I have been Eurydice / I have been Persephone ... Now I am Demeter, like my mother / Because of you / My Demeter tried to save me from Hades ... 'Psyche' means soul / What more is there than that?'

Block writes up to her audience, with mature words, ideas, and graphic language, telling it like it is! Her messages ring of pain and sadness, accompanied by love, magic, and hope - moving, embracing, and intense. In 2005, the author was given the annual Margaret A. Edwards Award (for a body of works that have been popular over a period of time), honoring Block's outstanding contributions to young adult readers. Psyche in a Dress is an unforgettable story of love's endurance and the 'cyclical nature of life.'

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