Bibliographic information: I Was a Teenage Fairy. Francesca Lia Block. Joanna Cotler, 1998. $7.99. 186p. ISBN-13: 9780758795977.
Summary: Barbie Marks is a model, she has been since she was just a kid. This is what her mother wanted for Barbie, because it is the life that she could never have. When Barbie was still just a kid, her photographer sexually abused her and she told her mother she didn’t want to go back, but her mother made her anyways. One day when she was at the studio she saw a boy who had that look in his eyes, and Barbie knew what had been done to him. That was the only time she saw that boy. As time went on Barbie met a new tiny friend, her name was Mab, and she was a fairy. Mab was always there for Barbie when she needed her, and as she grew up they grew closer. When Barbie was a teenager, Mab talked her into running away from home and to a new life. She moves to the city and meets this guy who she surprisingly really likes. The most surprising thing though is the boy who is friends with the guy she falls in love with, he was the boy from the studio from when she was a kid. Now Mab has her work cut out for her, she is going to have to help both Barbie and the boy move past their childhood traumas, and possibly find love.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 12 and up IL: grade 8 and up
Review: Author of the Weetzie Bat series, Block’s inventive tales always have some greater meaning behind the words that what meets the eye. This is a mesmerizing tale of a girl named Barbie Marks, who is a child model who has been sexually abused by her photographer. Forced into this life by her mother, she longs to get away from it all and be the one behind the lens, not in front of it. Barbie takes refuge through her new friend, Mab, a teeny-tiny fairy, to find some solace from her tragic past. Mab symbolizes a few different things throughout the story. First she acts as the anger that Barbie feels towards her mother and her photographer and the life they have given her. Then she acts as the audacity Barbie has to move away from it all and take life into her own hands for a change. Lastly she acts as a match maker and guide for Barbie to be able to have an intimate relationship with a male after all the trauma from her past that she faced when she was sexually abused by her photographer. A beautifully written story that is magical and heartfelt.
Readers’ annotation: Mab is just a tiny, red-haired fairy. Is she even real? Or is she the anger, the courage, and the greatest match-maker for one unfortunate girl named Barbie?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book is great for children who have been abused by an adult, especially sexually. It brings all emotions to the front and discussing ways of coping with the abuse. Through Mab Barbie is able to cope and fight her way to recovering and children will be able to use this book as a way to help them recover from their abuse.
Issues present: There is sexual abuse done to a child that may cause alarm. But this sort of thing happens in life and a book like this would be a great coping tool for abused children. There is a supernatural create as well in Mab the fairy, but she is only there to help Barbie cope with her abuse and if imaginary creatures help children cope then there is no harm because in the end Mab was forgotten and Barbie was able to move on with her life.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Barbie’s character.
Barbie has lived her whole life as a model and her best friend is a fairy named Mab.
Genre or subject: Realistic fiction: fantasy, fairy, sexual abuse, rape, PTSD
Readalikes: Other Block novels, Living Dead Girl, Speak
Author’s website: http://www.francescaliablock.com
Awards: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Award winner (1999)
Reviews: School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-5010335.xml; Kirkus Review: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/francesca-lia-block/i-was-a-teenage-fairy/; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-027747-5
Why I chose it: I am a fan of fantasy books and thought that I would try a novel that mixed realistic fiction with a bit of fantasy. Plus I have heard great reviews on Block.