Francesca Lia Block has made a trademark of twining myth and reality so snugly it’s difficult to figure out where one ends and the other begins. Love in the Time of Global Warming blends an emergency road trip into Homer’s The Odyssey, with home and family—who and wherever they are—firmly at the heart of the story.
The Earth Shaker and tidal wave that wiped out Los Angeles destroyed Penelope’s home and scattered her mom, dad and brother to the four winds. No longer safe among the dwindling emergency supplies in her family’s basement, she cuts off her long hair and hits the road, hoping for signs of life. The ruined landscape she travels, complete with genetically engineered giants who scarf humans like Buffalo wings, is bleak. However, fantastical and sometimes funny parallels to The Odyssey are a pleasure to follow. Pen encounters tranced-out “lotus eaters” crashing in an abandoned hotel, and sirens who—well, the chapter’s titled “The Real Sirens of Beverly Hills,” which pretty much says it all. She also meets Hex, who becomes not just her traveling companion but a love interest strong enough to ease an old heartache from the time before.
A story so harsh could be terribly depressing to read, but Block has always been able to find hope in the bleakest realities, and Global Warming is no different. Pen doesn’t get her old life back, but by story’s end she’s reclaimed some of her history and is no longer running scared but living with an eye toward the future. This is a fine adventure story that leaves the question of what comes next in the reader's hands. You can read it in an afternoon, but you’ll be thinking about it for days afterward.