Making the transformation from a shy girl to a confident woman is no easy task, especially when you are growing up amidst the fading hopes of once gre...moreMaking the transformation from a shy girl to a confident woman is no easy task, especially when you are growing up amidst the fading hopes of once great Hollywood. It becomes even harder when your father leaves you for New York City, your ex-starlette mother becomes a suicidal alcoholic, and your name is Louise “Weetzie” Bat. We know Weetzie’s young adult life from the books in her Dangerous Angels series, starting with the self titled Weetzie Bat. I have given her a lot of flak in the past for the way she deals with things and her, occasionally thoughtless, outlook on life and finding happiness. I have a new appreciation for just how hard it was to make the transformation from child to woman, and manage to lead a life of hope and happiness and love in spite of her past, after reading about that difficult transition in Pink Smog.
Little Weetzie has a very difficult life once her father decides he no longer wants to be in the picture. Her mother attempts to commit suicide and then slips into a deep depression aided by alcoholism. Weetzie is left to fend for herself, cleaning their apartment, cooking their meals, trying to make sure her mother eats and bathes while trying to get her out of the funk she is in. Weetzie is rocked by her father leaving her with next to no explanation. At middle school Weetzie has to deal with bullies who couldn’t care less what she was going through. She has two friends to fall back on, but one struggles with an eating disorder and the other is possibly a male prostitute. All three struggle with problems bigger than themselves and there are no competent adults around to step in and help. This is very deep and heavy stuff for anyone to deal with and Weetzie must find a way to prevail or get pulled under.
Pink Smog works as a great introduction to the character of Weetzie. For a new generation unfamiliar with the Dangerous Angels series there is now a coming of age novel showing Weetzie as she was at an age they can identify with. Unlike other Weetzie Bat books this one is written within the confines of Weetzie’s perspective and is very linear and straightforward in story telling. The magical language was toned down a bit and while the magic of LA was still present it seemed muted when shown in relief next to the stark reality of the difficulties Weetzie faced. I can’t help wondering if this was deliberate, not just to tone things down for a new generation but also because Weetzie isn’t capable of seeing all the magic of the world she lives in just yet as she is in a haze from all the problems she is suddenly having to deal with at thirteen.
People that grew up with Weetzie might not like this book as well as others in the series because this was clearly written for younger fans. I recommend for old school fans to check out Necklace of Kisses if you haven’t already. I do think middle schoolers will appreciate a book that was tailor written for them and introduces a whole new generation of Weetzies to the magic of Los Angeles. Parents might want to know that while most of the above issues Weetzie deals with are glossed over to some extent there is drug use, bullying, and language as well.
Ultimately Weetzie learns to see the magic and beauty in things and it is wonderful to see a glimpse of the cool, confident high school Weetzie we meet at the beginning of Weetzie Bat. Her transformation was by no means effortless and, like I said, I have a better understanding of Weetzie now that I not only know her as the slinkster cool teen and confident adult she will be, but also as the scared overwhelmed kid she was. Reading about Weetzie overcoming her problems and coming of age into the magic, fun-loving young woman we know she can be was magical to see.