How to (Un)cage a Girl

How to (Un)cage a Girl

4.5 10
by Francesca Lia Block

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A celebration of girls and women in a three part poetry collection that is powerful, hopeful, authentic, and universal.


A celebration of girls and women in a three part poetry collection that is powerful, hopeful, authentic, and universal.

Editorial Reviews

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“There is something for everyone in this short, beautifully written collection…poetry lovers or not, readers will find a wonderful read.”
Publishers Weekly

In what reads like confessional verse, Block (Weetzie Bat) explores her trademark themes (like not feeling pretty "in [a] city of movie-star beauties") and more individual concerns (such as the nameless speaker's father's cancer diagnosis and her divorce). As Block's admirers expect, she expertly blends reality and fantasy: she references L.A. locations and real-life celebrities, and she also sprinkles in mystical creatures, such as a vampire who convinces two eager girls that his life "might look fun, but actually it kind of sucks" and a young woman born with a fish's tail. Mostly, though, these are women's stories: the author recounts the transformation from teen to mother, and shares others' stories, real and imagined. Block names the pressures that girls face growing up and, particularly in a section called "love poems for girls," imparts advice: "expectations are for what you yourself create." Fans of Block's work are best positioned to appreciate her credos; they will be awed by Block's consistently fertile imagination and her honesty in illuminating the dark moments of girls' and women's lives. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

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Children's Literature - Gail C. Krause
A poem collection in free verse, which takes the reader into an adolescent girl's deepest thoughts and wonderings about life, self, love and sex. Award-winning author Block successfully touches the inner soul of every teenage girl at the moment when she recognizes she is growing up. These poems follow a girl from child to adult in a three-part collection of high emotion. The book celebrates the innermost feminine feelings of a growing girl as she blossoms into womanhood. Some pieces are shocking. Some are sweet. This collection successfully exposes all the self-doubts, creativity, love and beauty of a young woman. Reviewer: Gail C. Krause
VOYA - Ed Goldberg
In what appears to be a semi-autobiographical collection of poems, Block skillfully articulates the insecurities and emotions of a girl growing up in Hollywood. Divided into three sections, the first chronicles life from thirteen to nineteen, the hell of junior high school, cruising the punk scene streets, wondering about what makes a girl popular, and the first sexual encounter. The second section expounds on the uniqueness of Los Angeles and the glamour life of Hollywood, how it can suck in and spit out the likes of Winona and Sofia. Finally in the third section, a more mature Block muses on life-love, marriage and divorce, children, the death of a father from cancer, and the insecurities that plague adults. One underlying theme is that the culturally defined image of beauty is warped and individual beauty is a treasure. There is something for everyone is this short, beautifully written collection. Titles like "Popular Girl," "Toxic Blond," and "Pain Is Like an Onion" are sure to attract readers and they will not be disappointed. Having two daughters on the cusp of adulthood, "Forty Five Thoughts for My Daughter" and "My Virtual Daughters" made this reviewer teary-eyed. Interestingly the emotions described by Block are not solely the domain of girls. Boys, too, feel the insecurities about being popular, the heartache of love gone awry, and pain caused by the death of a loved one. Block's legions of fans will devour this collection. Poetry lovers or not, readers will find a wonderful read. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

These poems traverse the steep climb from girlhood to womanhood while unearthing the hard truths hidden within this journey. Divided into three parts-"years at the asylum," "in the hair of the toxic blonde," and "love poems for girls"-the collection touches on anorexia, self-love and loathing, parental relationships, superficiality, losing one's virginity, rape, and love and loss. Block celebrates womanhood, but not in a bubblegum, girl-power way. Plathian symbols abound, from pervasive father issues to Nazi comparisons to insane asylums, real and imagined. The poems feel simultaneously autobiographical and universal. While the death of the narrator's father in "a myth of love for girls" colors her search for a partner, the universal struggle of women to escape or find their father's image in future relationships is aptly captured. The final selections cross into the territory of life lessons learned well beyond the teen experience and perhaps ring too much like motherly advice, but the raw authenticity of the narrator's voice throughout overshadows any later departure. Teenage girls, especially sophisticated, angst-filled poetry readers, will devour this insightful and powerful collection.-Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT

Kirkus Reviews
Free verse, somewhat surprisingly, makes a better framework for Block's plush imagery than does prose, as this spare collection of poems about women young and old demonstrates. Three brief, multiple-poem chapters comprise this work: "years at the asylum," "in the lair of the toxic blonde" and "love poems for girls." The implied audience of these Plath-aspiring verses seems not to be young women, however, but more mature ones. "love poems for girls," in particular, presents youth as something to remember and learn from. One poem celebrates a woman who's been married twice, has two children and teaches middle school, while another begins, "remember college." Still another first-person poem runs from 1970 to 2007, with a verse that begins "i am about to turn forty-five." The poems that cherish adulthood are this collection's real wealth, while those that attempt to speak to youth, such as the penultimate "forty-five thoughts for my daughter and my virtual daughters"-peppered with such flavorless lines as "plant a tree" and "tv is a depressant"-lack spark. (Poetry. YA & adult)
“A stirring exploration of female suffering and empowerment.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

How to (Un)cage a Girl

thirteen: the little oven

i thought my teacher was a nazi
with hair slicked to the side
short and germanic
he lectured about hitler
in his voice
boys with greasy scalps
drew cartoons of me
with a witch's nose
my body was so thin
i had chopped off
my pretty brown hair
my skin charred and blistered
red bumps broke out
there was blood between my legs
is this junior high school?
or somewhere worse?

How to (Un)cage a Girl. Copyright © by Francesca Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Francesca Lia Block, winner of the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, is the author of many acclaimed and bestselling books, including Weetzie Bat; the book collections Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books and Roses and Bones: Myths, Tales, and Secrets; the illustrated novella House of Dolls; the vampire romance novel Pretty Dead; and the gothic werewolf novel The Frenzy. Her work is published around the world.

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How to (Un)cage a Girl 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Sarah7498 More than 1 year ago
*4.5* This is the first book I've read by Francesca Lia Block, and it won't be my last. Not many people have heard of How to (Un)cage a Girl, but its great nonetheless. Although it is short (128 pages) I still found myself satisfied with the overall affect of it and the poetry. It's not a novel written in verse but more of a collection of poems that tie together to tell a story. The only problem I had with it was that some of the poems did not have the punctuation they needed and therefore made it kind of hard to understand. I loved this book, but for different reasons than most. In How to (Un)cage a Girl we follow the author, Francesca Lia Block, through her life as a young adult and a grown woman. Divided into three parts, Years in the Asylum, In the Lair of the Toxic Blond, and Love Poems for Girls, How to (Un)cage a Girl is a captivating and honest tale of growing up. Each section was full of lovely poems that touched me in one way or another. I also loved reading the extras in the back, such as the origin of the cover art and the play list that went along with the novel. If I could, I would carry this book with me everywhere I go. I would pick it up whenever I'm feeling sad or depressed and read it to help make me feel better. This is a perfect novel for any girl or woman who has ever felt unworthy or like they don't fit in. We are all our own beautiful person, and this book celebrates that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago