Francesca Lia Block,
(HarperCollins, 2001)

The best part of this book was the long exhalation of relief when I was finally finished and could escape its frightening and off-putting characters. I don't understand it, and after some reflection have decided that I'm OK with that. It's possible there was nothing to understand, and that the story really was as disjointed as it seemed.

An attempt to summarize the plot is a bit difficult, but I will attempt it.

Mother is an angel. Maybe not a real one, but maybe. Daughter (Echo) is so in awe of her mother that she is unable to fully actualize her own personality and becomes a bit of a dark shadow version of Mom. Dad is so entranced by his flawless wife that he is unable to focus on his daughter, leaving Echo to complain that she never feels "seen."

Echo's response to this home dynamic is promiscuity, drugs and strange people who also associate themselves with myths or fairy tales -- no one seems to have a strong grasp on reality. No one even has a weak grasp, at that.

I'm sure that a scholar of mythology could deduce the connections between this book and its probable origin with the Greeks, but either I can't find it or it just isn't worth my time. Modernized mythology is in fact one of my favorite genres, and it's true that sometimes the telling can stray extremely far from its source. But to bury a myth in a book that is itself a conundrum seems to me to be going a bit too far off course.

In too many cases, nearly entire chapters go by before it can be discerned which character is doing the telling, and to which characters they might be referring. Time skips around like natural laws have been overruled, and the end product is so confused that it is tempting to just set it down and try a better organized book.

Although Francesca Lia Block is known as an author of novels for young adults, I can't quite tell if that's what this is. I've got no sense of what age group this is aimed at, any more than I can get a sense of Echo's own age. Everyone in Echo's world is lost, and so, unfortunately is the point of the story.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 31 July 2004

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