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I Was a Teenage Fairy

I Was a Teenage Fairy

4.5 70
by Francesca Lia Block

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Maybe Mab was real. Maybe not. Maybe Mab was the fury. Maybe she was the courage. Maybe later on she was the sex . . .

A tiny fairy winging her way through the jasmine-scented L.A. night. A little girl caught in a grown-up glitz-and-glitter world of superstars and supermodels. A too beautiful boy with a secret he can never share . . .

From the


Maybe Mab was real. Maybe not. Maybe Mab was the fury. Maybe she was the courage. Maybe later on she was the sex . . .

A tiny fairy winging her way through the jasmine-scented L.A. night. A little girl caught in a grown-up glitz-and-glitter world of superstars and supermodels. A too beautiful boy with a secret he can never share . . .

From the author of Weetzie Bat comes a magical, mesmerizing tale of transformation. This is the story of Barbie Marks, who dreams of being the one behind the Cyclops eye of the camera, not the voiceless one in front of it; who longs to run away to New York City where she can be herself, not some barley flesh-and-blood version of the plastic doll she was named after. It is the story of Griffin Tyler, whose androgynous beauty hides the dark pain he holds inside. And finally it is the story of Mab, a pinkie-sized, magenta-haired, straight-talking fairy, who may or may not be real but who helps Barbie and Griffin uncover the strength beneath the pain, and who teaches that love—like a sparkling web of light spinning around our bodies and our souls—is what can heal even the deepest scars.

Editorial Reviews

Fans of Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series will delight in this short mystical fable about Barbie Marks, daughter of a frustrated Beverly Hills beauty queen who is determined to find success for her teen model. Barbie is named for the famous doll and her last name is instantly shortened from Markowitz. Sadly, her father deserts the stage mom and teen duo and Barbie's life unfolds for us in situation comedy style, with fast-lane Hollywood scenes and a touch of ebonics vocabulary thrown in for flavor. A teeny imaginary fairy named Mab acts as Barbie's pal, alter ego, confessor and spiritual guide. Contemporary themes are explored, including broken families and the sexual abuse of this eleven-year-old, and then the text travels five years forward, when Mab counsels as a Muse for luck in relationships. Male characters, Todd and Griffin, move the plot but are flatter than Barbie in her whirl of fashion and action. I always come away from Block's stories feeling the magic tempo and wanting to believe in her heroines. This is a thoroughly enjoyable fairy tale for the millennium. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, HarperCollins, 188p, 18cm, 98-14598, $7.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Nancy Zachary; YA Libn., Scarsdale P.L., Scarsdale, NY, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
Children's Literature - Heidi Green
As with her previous works, Block's strength is in her language, both the powerful language of pain and of love. This novel is the grimmest of fairy tales: parents lead their children into the monster's lair and ignore their suffering. They abandon their children and refuse to acknowledge them. The handsome prince has a sordid past, and the heroine feels trapped in her situation. And yet, there is magic. In this case, the magic is Mab, the bold fairy companion of the heroine. In this tale, love is not without history. It is a story about people making their "happily ever after" even when there was abuse and pain before the "once upon a time."
Cathy Young

Once upon a time stories were magic. Storytellers spun words into gossamer-soft webs, capturing the imagination of their listeners, transforming those lives with tales that shimmered golden but also held bottomless, frightening mystery. Once upon a time, fairy tales had the power to change lives, because they embodied both the dark and light in our worlds and in our psyches. Storytellers didn't merely entertain their audiences...they invited listeners on journeys.

Francesca Lia Block reawakens the ancient power of storytelling in her latest novel, I Was a Teenage Fairy. Anyone who giggled over her slinkster-cool Weetzie Bat stories about hip, savvy young adults in Los Angeles will be mesmerized by the grace in this new work. It's gritty, hilarious, edgy, and dangerous in all the right ways.

Though also set in Shangri-LA, I Was a Teenage Fairy leaves Weetzie, Secret Agent Lover Man, Cherokee Bat, and some of their friends in the dust. In this new novel, readers will visit a different realm -- a world dusky in ways reminiscent of The Hanged Man, alienated as only Witch Baby could be, lonesome like La from Girl Goddess #9: Nine Stories. Put simply, the deeper and darker Block goes, the better she gets, and I Was a Teenage Fairy reveals the wisdom she -- as storyteller -- has won by her own brave journeys into the more confusing and complicated zones of adolescence.

"Maybe Mab was real. Maybe she was the fury, the courage, the sex."

On the shimmering surface, I Was a Teenage Fairy is the story of how Barbie responds to her mother, who -- much like an impatient child forcing her Barbie doll back into its case -- dresses, parades, and stuffs Barbie into a too-early career of modeling. Barbie hates modeling. Her mother doesn't care. She blindly pursues fame and even refuses to protect Barbie when a photographer molests her. Frankly, the more zombielike Barbie becomes, the better her mother likes it. After all, models just have to look good. They don't need to think or say anything.

Barbie might have given into her mother's plan. She might have extinguished the quiet flutter of rage and humor that still beat its wings against the cage of her heart. Barbie might have drowned her imagination and hope. She might have done all of those things if she had never met Mab -- an opinionated, hormone-driven, lively fairy who sparkled into Barbie's world one night.

"Maybe there really are girls the size of pinkies with hair the color of the darkest red oleander blossoms and skin like the greenish-white underbellies of calla lilies... But it doesn't matter if Mab is real or imagined, Barbie thought, as long as I can see her."

Here is the magic that Block weaves. Over and over again in her books, Francesca Lia Block shows how lives are transformed when people (Weetzie, Dirk, Duck, Witch Baby, La, and others) listen to the quiet voice of truth inside themselves, when people trust love. In a recent interview, Block said: "I think, when you express yourself in writing, the things that you believe in come through all on their own. I believe that love and art are healing forces."

Never before, though, has she woven a story that so deeply probes the mystery of the Muse. In I Was a Teenage Fairy, it becomes achingly clear that Barbie's survival depends on Mab -- a rowdy little sparkle, a secret friend that no one else can see. Mab helps Barbie believe in herself and see the truth about the people around her. Yet, hanging out with Mab isn't easy. A far cry from fuzzy Tinkerbell, Mab is impatient, mean sometimes, and -- well -- honesty stings. Mab embodies both light and dark, hope and danger. She's unpredictable, but life-giving too...just like the creative sparks within us all.

Block encourages us to trust that unpredictable spark. Recently, the author discussed her own dances with the Muse: "Writing feels like dreaming to me. Rather than trying to make it happen, the stories and characters are already there, and I just go inside it all."

When asked if she ever gets afraid of what she will find when she enters that realm, Block says, "No. Actually, I get more scared when I am not in that place. It's the safest place I can go. No matter how dark it gets there, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it gets.... In fact, I remember that, when I was writing Missing Angel Juan, I was stuck in my apartment with some health problems. It was very painful to be writing that story because it explores such dark themes, but it was more painful to not be writing it."

Like Barbie, Block trusts the Mab who visits her. She allows herself to believe in things unseen. Francesca Lia Block gives in to the Muse's enchantment, entering willingly into the power of the story. I Was a Teenage Fairy is a richly complex tale, spun bravely by a storyteller unafraid of the bottomless, frightening mystery that some stories reveal. With this novel, Block invites us all on a journey to discover our own Mabs -- or, at the very least, to befriend the hidden parts of ourselves.
— Cathy Young, barnesandnoble.com

Kirkus Reviews
Unique language and characters turn a problem novel into romantic comedy in this tale of a molested Valley teenager and her sharp-tongued, pinky-sized companion. Groomed relentlessly for the role of beauty pageant queen, meek Barbie Marks makes a fierce wish, and meets a fairy named Mab; despite the gossamer wings and a "glimmersome twinkle," Mab could eat Tinkerbelle for lunch. An irascible, challenging confidante, she is still around five years later when Barbie, a successful fashion model, meets Todd Range, a real "biscuit" in Mab's approving estimation, made even more appealing by his meltingly vulnerable roommate Griffin Tyler. Time-honored complications ensue, but Barbie's ultimate realization that Todd is The One gives her the courage to confront her domineering mother with the fact of her molestation by a photographer years before. Cut to Barbie (now Selena Moon, a new name to go with her newly independent spirit) and Todd in a cozy love nest, with Mab, having found a biscuit for Griffin, and even one for herself, bidding fond adieu. Block (Girl Goddess #9, 1996, etc.) conjures up some sympathy for Barbie's mother, and even for the photographer, but lines between heroes and villains are deliberately drawn, and the book, with its live-wire sprite, is as bright and focused as anything she has written. (Fiction. 13-15)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part One

Barbie & Mab

If Los Angeles is a woman reclining billboard model with collagen-puffed lips and silicone-inflated breasts, a woman in a magenta convertible with heart-shaped sunglasses and cotton candy hair; if Los Angeles is this woman, then the San Fernando Valley is her teenybopper sister. The teenybopper sister snaps big stretchy pink bubbles over her tongue and checks her lip gloss in the rearview mirror, causing Sis to scream. Teeny plays the radio too loud and bites her nails, wondering if the glitter polish will poison her. She puts her bare feet up on the dash to admire her tan legs and the blond hair that is so pale and soft she doesn't have to shave. She wears a Val Surf T-shirt and boys' boxer shorts and she has a boy's phone number scrawled on her hand. Part of her wants to spit on it and rub it off, and part of her wishes it was written in huge numbers across her belly, his name in gang letters, like a tattoo. The citrus fruits bouncing off the sidewalk remind her of boys; the burning oil and chlorine, the gold light smoldering on the windy leaves. Boys are shooting baskets on the tarry playground and she thinks she can smell them on the air. And in her pocket, whispering secrets about them, is a Mab.

Maybe Mab was real. Maybe there really are girls the size of pinkies with hair the color of the darkest red oleander blossoms and skin like the greenish-white underbellies of calla lilies.

Maybe not. Maybe Mab was the fury. Maybe she was the courage. Maybe later on she was the sex. But it doesn't matter if Mab is real or imagined, Barbie thought, as long as I can see her. As long as I can feel hersitting on my palm, ticklish as a spider, as long as I can hear the cricket of her voice. Because without her then how would I be able to ever go inside?

Inside was carpeted in shag–lime green and baby blue, scratchy and synthetic, creeping insidiously over the floors and even up onto the sink counters and toilet seats in the bathroom. It was a kitchen with cows stenciled on the walls and real cows roasting in the oven. It was pictures of Barbie's mother when she was a young beauty queen contestant and model, flashing big teeth like porcelain bullets. It was Barbie's mother now, jingling with gold chains and charms, big-haired, frosted, loud enough to scare away even the bravest pinkie-sized girls.

Sometimes Barbie's mother came outside, too, to yank her daughter by one skinny arm from under a bush and pull leaves out of hair that was green from swimming too long in the chlorinated pool.

That day, Barbie had been lying there calling for Mab who was being especially obstinate and refusing to make an appearance.

"Barbie! We're going to be late! What are you doing?"

Barbie's mother was wearing her oversized white plastic designer sunglasses and a gold and white outfit. Her perfume made Barbie's head spin in a different and more nauseating way than when she and Mab attempted to get a buzz from sniffing flowers or when they spun in circles to make themselves dizzy.

"Oh my God! You're a mess! And we have to be there in forty-five minutes."

"Where?" Barbie asked her mother's tanned cleavage as she was dragged into the avocado-colored stucco house for grooming.

The agency was over the canyon in Beverly Hills. It had high ceilings, vast glass walls and enormous artwork depicting lipsticks and weapons. To Barbie, it seemed like a palace for the Giants. The Giants were the ones she had nightmares about. It was not that she was so afraid of them hurting her. The thing that made her wake sweating and biting herself with terror was that in the dream she was huge and heavy and bloated and tingling and thick.

She was one of them.

The agency was where the Giants would live.

Barbie wished Mab had come with her. But Mab never left the backyard. She said she was afraid of getting squashed. Barbie assumed that the fact Mab never went anywhere with her was proof that Mab was probably real. Otherwise, Barbie would definitely have imagined her here now.

The agent had a stretched, tanned face, like a saddle.

"Well, you certainly are pretty, Barbie," he said.

"Thank you," said Barbie's mother.

"What do you think of a career in modeling?"

"She's thrilled. She wants to be just like Mommy."

Barbie had noticed the plant when she walked in. It was the only thing in the glass and metal room that she wanted to touch. She got up and went over to it; she always examined plants. You never knew–maybe there were more girls like Mab waiting to be discovered, and in this case, rescued.

"You know I won Miss San Fernando Valley in 19 . . . well let's just say, I was a winner! Not that you'd guess it now!" Barbie's mother patted her hairdo and eyed the agent hopefully.

Barbie patted the agent's plant. There were no Mabs on it. But even Mabless, it was the most friendly thing in the room.

"Well, you certainly have a very lovely daughter, Mrs. Markowitz."

"Marks," said Barbie's mother.

Barbie, still stroking a leaf, turned to look at her.

"What's that?" asked the agent.

"Mrs. Marks."

"I thought it said . . ." The agent spryly shuffled some papers on his desk. He had long, tan, hairy arms and surprisingly small wrists for a medium-sized man.

"That was a typo," Mrs. Marks said. She noticed Barbie and her plant. "What are you doing over there! Come sit back down."

Barbie obediently left her Mabless plant friend and went back to her chair. Mrs. Marks (Marks? Barbie thought) folded her hands tightly in her lap, wiggled her rear end into the chair and glared at her daughter. Barbie folded her hands and wiggled her rear. Mrs. Marks smiled at the agent. Barbie smiled.

The plant, which had never seen a Mab, let alone been examined for one or housed one in its leaves, might have sighed silently from its corner when Barbie Markowitz-now-Marks left.

I Was A Teenage Fairy. 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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I Was a Teenage Fairy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this awhile back, and I picked it up recently and loved it again. Francesca Lia Block writes in a style similar to David Levithan, whom I'm convinced is the reincarnation of Christ. The way she crafts Mab as being sort of a constant and a variable at the same time--the fact that Barbie questions Mab's existence but at the same time Mab guides her life--was painfully clever. I also liked that the name Mab was taken from a fairy in Shakespeare.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It was so absorbing that I read it in one night! It has such beautiful poetic writing and such a deep meaning. I wish I had a Mab! And I wish every girl would read this book! It is so good!
MyndiL 8 months ago
First of all, this book may pose some trigger issues for some people. Please be aware that there are some themes that are not explained thoroughly, but still might cause some emotional distress. That out of the way, I found it interesting that this book used the fairy as a way of helping certain kids cope with things that were too much for them. An overly controlling mother, or a distant father, and of course, the themes mentioned above. Mab helps the humans she connects with to get brave and stand up for themselves and even to move on with their lives. The only criticism I have, is that it read rather choppy. I had trouble sometimes figuring out what had just happened because it skipped from one character to a memory (I think) of another person with no warning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this bok when I was maybe 11-12( I am13 now) and I loved it! It is about a girl who basicly falls in love with a fairy. I am saying this out of my deepest memorys. If I got anything wrong reply to me @ RE : JMASTER TEENAGE FAIRYS RULE! Oh you can also find me on my upcoming youtube acount SKATEJMASTER
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ItsSerene More than 1 year ago
An amazing story :) wonderfully written.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book starts out all over the place, but by part 2, everything in Barbie's life changes and draws the audience in! The detailing and use of vocabulary will make readers love all of the characters! This is my favorite + will always be!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
at first i thought this book would be really dumb. but once i started reading it i fell in love with it.after i finished it i wish that i didnt. i dont know how she makes her books so fantastic!!! I love all of them and i hope she makes more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i also read this bo0k due to the recommendation of a friend. I didnt know what to expect of this bo0k. I thought it would be weird. But this was a bo0k that just to0k me away every time i picked it up. The fantasy point-of-view of it...then on the other side...the reality point-of-view of it just blew me away!!! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!!!