On the day that Olivia turns 13, her mother kills a wolf right in their driveway. Something inside Olivia snaps, physically rages, at this. Because something inside Olivia is different: she is a monster, a werewolf. She has known that something was different since she was 13, and tries her best to keep it at bay by being a vegetarian. But Carey, her boyfriend, loves her anyway. He and the woods keep her safe from a cruel society which tells her that she is different, weird. In fact, she has kept their relationship secret from everyone her whole life, because Carey happens to be black, and Olivia is not. But they are in love. So Olivia pretends to be dating her gay best friend Pace, instead. Still, things are changing. Olivia is changing. She wants to spend more and more time in the woods with Carey, because that is where she feels at home, safe. But there are murders in those very woods, and someone, or some-thing, is watching Liv very closely, as she comes to learn exactly who, and what, she is.
This story is more straight-forward than Block’s previous works. It reads more like a supernatural romance or urban fantasy than her usual poetry-driven, mythic fairytales. Still, it has all of the elements of a good fairytale, and expresses very real and difficult feelings that teens experience about themselves, their families, and society. Liv may be a werewolf, but deep down she is a girl trying to find out who she is and how she is supposed to fit in the world. The metaphor of girl-as-monster is well-devised and explored by Block, though the novel could have been expanded to include more about Pace and his trials and tribulations as a gay teen experimenting with a ghostly presence, and his subsequent death. As a society, we still struggle with the realities of racism and homophobia, and Liv’s story exemplifies what it would be like to live in the midst of that struggle.
Olivia (Liv) is frightened of “the frenzy,” that time she raged at her mother for killing a wolf. What she’ll come to realize is that she really is a monster: a werewolf, and the frenzy could happen again at any time. She tries to keep it at bay, but as her anger grows, as her family won’t accept her boyfriend, and her kind come looking for her, she’ll need to decide exactly who she is, and where she belongs.
Information about the author
Francesca Lia Block has received the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Phoenix Award, for her contributions to young adult literature. Weetzie Bat was her first novel, written while she was still in college. Since then, she has written many new stand alone novels, more books in the Weetzie Bat series, and books of poetry. Most of Francesca’s work takes place in Los Angeles, which is lovingly referred to in her books as, “Shangri L.A.”While her work doesn’t always involve monsters, it never shies away from controversy, and always utilizes magical realism. Her influences include Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the poet Hilda Doolittle.
-Recent LGBT suicides
Reading Level/Interest Age
This book may prompt discussions about racism, homophobia, and even a LGBT suicide is suggested in the book, though a supernatural occurrence seems to surround the event in the novel. Teen characters also engage in premarital sexual activity, which has been a reason for challenges in the past.
The Frenzy is about the oppressive feelings society places on teens who are different, and in banning this book, those teens would lose a work that may express how they are feeling and help them work through their very difficult, and differing, situations. The recent LGBT teen and young adult suicides are not fantasy, and these are people who may have benefitted greatly from such a book. Therefore, in response to challenges, I would argue that this is an essential book to include in a young adult collection for the reasons mentioned above.
Why did you include this book?
Francesca Lia BLock happens to be a favorite author of mine, and after Twilight was published, teens were ravenous for the next supernatural romance. This book can satisfy that hunger, while also speaking to may teens who may feel alienated or different.
The Frenzy is recommended by Lee Wind at his blog, “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read? www.leewind.org
Hailed as, “A passionate, dreamy, brief paranormal, with a breath-of-fresh-air monstrous heroine and enjoyably surreal set dressing.” — Kirkus
“With her characteristic flair and seductive prose, Block makes this tangled story of betrayal and love a standout. Sensuous and heartbreaking, sure to both satisfy and challenge fans of the supernatural romance.”— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Quotes retrieved November 2nd, 2010, from www.harpercollins.com.