March 24, 2014

Review: Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

Title: Teen Spirit
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 234 
Source: ARC from ALA
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.)

First Reaction: Oh well.
After Julie's grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie's grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

Francesca Lia Block's latest young adult novel is a haunting work about family, loss, love, and redemption.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


When Julie's grandmother passes away and her mom announces that she's lost her job and they have to move out of their lovely house into a dinky little apartment, it's clear Julie's having the worst month imaginable. But, with the move comes a transfer to a new school and a new friend named Clark. This would be great, except Julie's mom is a mess and Julie herself is still desperate for closure over her grandmother's death. Oh, and Clark's dealing with his own baggage. All of this is made a more complicated (and bizarrely paranormal) when Julie finds an Ouija board in the closet of her new bedroom. Will Julie and Clark be able to work it out, or will all of this Teen Spirit get the best of them?

Let's break this down:

Okay, disclaimer time: I really read maybe 150 pages and then skimmed the last 80. If this book had been much longer, I probably would have DNFed.


This book starts off incredibly strong. Julie's sadness over her grandmother's death is my sadness. Her complicated relationship with her mother is my complicated relationship. Her burgeoning relationship with Clark is mine as well. I was totally connected and I was totally digging all of the Buffy references. I really felt like this was a book I could jive with... until the paranormal really set in.

I don't think I realized how truly paranormal this book is when I started reading it. I thought it would just be hints, superstition, or even some kind of creepy mental disorder kind of thing. But it was actually paranormal and that threw me off.

The way this book deals with the paranormal is also a little more... possession/folk magic than I like. There's nothing wrong with that genre and I know it really works for some people, but I usually like going into those kind of books prepared. This one snuck up on me and I wasn't really into it.

I also wasn't so into the lack of real confrontation between Julie and her mom. The way the absentee parent issue was handled was great, I was down with that, but the way Julie and her mom reconciled at the end left me feel... underwhelmed. I wanted a little more development there.

All of that said, I did like Julie and Clark. They were great and really sweet together. They acted as scared and erratic as I wanted them to. I just didn't love the situations they were placed in, is all.

The long and short of it?

Plot: Promising at the start, but then it's bizarrely paranormal and, sadly, skim-able.
World Building: The paranormal sort of comes out left field, but there's no world built around it - it's just a spiritual occurrence. It's sort of like one of those TV shows you watch with possession and what not. So there was no shaky foundation, really, even though I kind of wish there was more background on the lore.
Character Development: Julie and Clark are just great and I really like their development together, although their relationships with others are somewhat problematic for me.
Prose: Quick and easy.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you're into somewhat scary possession books and Ouija boards (not as jokes at slumber parties or plot points in horror movies), then this is the book for you! Otherwise, there might be something else you should read

Did you read this one? Are you going to read this one? Regardless, how do you feel about Ouija boards? Let me know in the comments below!