I first read Wasteland (Harper Teen, 2004) when I was seventeen. It was summer, and I had just graduated from high school, and everything was changing around me in ways that I couldn't explain or understand. My life was nothing like Marina's, and yet her voice spoke to me in a way fiction hadn't in long time, maybe ever. I have reread it more than once in the last eight years, and it is a story that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. At the novel's opening, all we really know is that Marina's brother Lex has just killed himself, and that Marina attributes it to something unmentionable that has happened between them. The book unfolds in micro-chapters (often only one or two pages long), told in a variety of perspectives that has no rhythm or order. Things begin to make sense, and then are undone by an entry from Lex's journal; Marina tells us her side of the story, and then is thrust away from the reader by a third-person narrator. The structure is poetic and raw, like grief, like love, and while it might be frustrating at first, it is worth the confusion in the end. Block does not hold your hand as you read -- she expects you to unravel the narrative for yourself. Block explores controversial themes in Wasteland, as she does in most of her novels. Of all that I have read of her work, this one is (by far) the least pretentious. Marina's voice is evocative and authentic from page one to the end, when we realize that everything could have been prevented if only someone had told them the truth. For fans of E. Lockhart's We Were Liars (Delacorte, 2014) and Sarah McCarry's All Our Pretty Songs (St. Martin's Griffin, 2013), Wasteland, by Francesca Lia Block, is one that will haunt you long after you have finished reading.
When the close relationship she shares with her brother is shattered by tragedy, forcing her to confront her dark past, Marina finds solace in her friend West who helps her to pick up the pieces of her life, in a powerful novel that explores both the healing and destructive sides of love. Reprint.