Cover image for Wasteland
Block, Francesca Lia.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Joanna Cotler Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
150 pages ; 19 cm
A brother and sister must deal with terrible consequences when their love for each other stretches past acceptable boundaries.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.8 3.0 74512.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



When you were a baby I sat very still to hold you. I could see the veins through your skin like a map to inside you. I stopped breathing so you wouldn't ... You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magical dividing cells, pictures no one else knew ... Your whole life you can be told something is wrong and so you believe it.

Author Notes

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles, California on December 3, 1962. She graduated from the University of California Berkeley and wrote her first book, Weetzie Bat, while a student there. It was published in 1989. Her other young adult works include Baby Be-Bop, Violet and Claire, How to (Un)cage a Girl, and The Waters and the Wild. She is also the author of the Weetzie Bat series. She has won several awards including the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association in 2005 and the Phoenix Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 9-12. Teenage Lex and his sister, Marina, have been close since early childhood, always there for each other. But when their love intensifies during a sexual encounter one night, both are racked with guilt. Lex kills himself; Marina tries to carry on with the support of a friend who loves her and knows that her brother did, too. There have been several recent YA books about incest, but what distinguishes this small poetic novel is its quiet. There's no sexual violence, no abuse. In the siblings' short, alternating monologues to each other, the word you is an endearment as each teen remembers growing up with a beloved sibling who was mother, father, friend, and child. The young people remember the small physical facts of their childhood together, the tenderness of Marina's baby hand clasped around Lex's finger; the laughter, then darkness. A plot surprise at the end seems patched on, and a long quote from T. S. Eliot's Wasteland may be beyond many readers. It's Block's simple, beautiful words that reveal the loving connection--and then the fragments. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Teenaged Marina must come to terms with her brother's death. In a starred review, PW called this novel "a picture-perfect vision of mid-1970s Los Angeles, shimmering with magical realism and delicately overlaid with allusions to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land." Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Block once again tackles the theme of love and its many variations. This time, she zeroes in on the ultimate taboo: incestuous love. Though Marina and her brother, Lex, struggle against their powerful love and attendant sexual attraction, the force is too strong to be denied. Readers will fear for them as their situation slowly but inexorably propels them toward their ultimate union, and, by extension, to Lex's suicide. It is a double tragedy, because Marina later learns that her brother was adopted. While Block's prose is as poetic and lush as always, her narrative shifts may confuse less sophisticated readers. It's not immediately clear that the italicized portions are from Lex's journal, and chapters switch abruptly from Marina's voice to third person. Also, while parental flakes aren't unusual in Block's fiction, readers may have a difficult time buying into the mother's reason for not telling her children about the adoption. Still, Block might reach a larger audience with this book; it does not stray too far from her characteristic terrain, but is set in a more realistic neighborhood than her otherworldly Shangri-L.A.-Catherine Ensley, Latah County Free Library District, Moscow, ID (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Wasteland You We keep burning in the brown smog pit. The girls swarm in their black moth dresses. Their scalps are shaved like concentration camp ladies. Rats click my head. Everything broken. When you were a baby I sat very still to hold you. I could see the veins through your skin like a map to inside you. How could skin be that thin? I was so afraid you might drop and break. I stopped breathing so you wouldn't. When you were crying I got out of bed and went into your room. You were thrashing around behind the bars of the crib, your face twisted and red, like, how could they be doing this to me? I didn't understand why Mom hadn't come to you. You turned your head to look at me. Your eyes looked so big in your face, so mysterious -- wide and flickering like a butterfly-wing mask. When you saw me the wails turned to sobs, and then just quieter heaves of your body. I held out my finger through the bars. 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. You still cry too easily, but without your tears, at least, everything would burn. You are Spring in your jeans, in the laughing leaves. I think pearls melted over your bones. I thought sacrifice might mean something. The wounds throb even though they're not real yet. Would you reach inside them to uncover the secret? You try to tell me but your tongue feels severed. Kaleidoscope You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magical dividing cells, pictures no one else knew. I remember. I was going on a date and I came into your room. I wanted you to see me, but I pretended I was coming to see if you had any beers in the ice chest under your bed. I was wearing my shiny leotard and my wraparound skirt, my cork sandals and Jontue perfume and Bonne Bell lip gloss. I had shaved my legs and they were pretty tan already, even though it was May. I knocked and you didn't answer. I thought the music was too loud and you hadn't heard. It was this crazy banging shouting music I'd never heard before. I just opened the door. You jerked up and looked at me. You were in bed with the sheet over you and the room smelled close. I smelled your pot and beer and your smell -- salty, warm, baked. I read in a magazine that women aren't supposed to be attracted to the smells of their fathers and brothers. You sat up and your eyes were blank and hard -- mad. You yelled, What are you doing? Don't you knock anymore! I backed up and your eyes turned sad, then kind. You said, I'm sorry, you. Hang on, and I turned and pretended to look at some albums while you got up. You were buttoning your black jeans when I turned around. But you didn't have a shirt on. You looked pale -- usually you were tan by spring, too, darker than me -- but your skin was white and smooth like marble. I could see every segment of muscle in your stomach; your arms looked stronger, too. There were some weights on the floor. I apologized and you sat on the bed and asked me what I wanted. You never asked me that when I came to you. We just accepted the pull that brought us into the same spaces as often as possible. I mumbled something about the beer. I wanted you to like my outfit, I wanted your praise because without it I felt like I was going to fade into nothing. This little shiny leotard and rayon jersey wrap skirt would walk out all alone on platform sandals to meet my date. You said, Where are you going? You sounded like a dad and it scared me. I said dancing. You asked where and I said, Kaleidoscope. You rolled your eyes. Why that disco shit? You never spoke to me like that. I could feel my face getting hot. I hoped my tan and the Indian Earth makeup on my cheeks and eyelids would hide it. I smelled my perfume and it was way too sweet; I wanted to smell like you. You saw me getting upset and you said you were sorry again. You asked if I was going on a date, I looked pretty. I said kind of. Michelle and I were meeting some boys. You asked who was driving. I said Michelle. You said you didn't want us drinking. You asked if you could drive. I said no. I didn't want you to see me with Brent Fisher. I was afraid you'd tease me about him forever. You shrugged. You said, Whatever, have fun, and you lay back on your bed and closed your eyes. I came home at about 2:30. My leotard was sopping wet. I had sweated off all my lotion and perfume and deodorant and I kept sniffing my armpits on my way upstairs, touching with one fingertip and sniffing. I wondered if you could smell the beer that Brent Fisher and Billy Ellis got for us. I was chewing some Bubble Yum to try to hide it. The sugar coated my mouth but bitter, the sweet was all gone, like I'd sipped perfume. I knocked and you answered. I couldn't believe it when I saw you. Your head was shaved. I thought you looked so naked and different, vulnerable and ugly and beautiful ... Wasteland . Copyright © by Francesca Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.