Cover of Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block. An ouija board strewn with flowers

About the Book

Title: Teen Spirit
Published: 2014

Cover Story: Oui? Ja!
Drinking Buddy: It’s an Obscure Drink, You’ve Probably Never Heard of It
Testosterone Level: I’m Growing Breasts
Talky Talk: Paranormal Romance (Page 50 Spoiler)
Bonus Factors: You’re Not My Real Father
Bromance Status: I Like This Book Ironically

Cover Story: Oui? Ja!

Did you know that’s why Ouija boards are so named? The French and German words for ‘yes’.

It’s a book where Ouija Boards play a major role. So there’s one on the cover. Kind of makes sense, I suppose.

The Deal:

When Julie’s beloved grandma passes away, her life begins to fall apart. Her mother loses her job, stops caring, and takes up with an aging rocker. To top things off, Julie sometimes sees flashes of light around people, which makes her question either her eyesight or her sanity.

It’s then that she meets Clark, who is such an enormous hipster that…ah, you wouldn’t understand. But they bond over a love of Bufffy the Vampire Slayer, hats, and Indian food.

One night, they attempt to contact Julie’s granny via a Ouija board. It’s then that we realize that Clark also is missing someone in his life. Someone who really wants to come back to the world of the living.

Drinking Buddy: It’s an Obscure Drink, You’ve Probably Never Heard of It

Two pints of beer cheersing

Listen pal, I drank Pabst before it was cool…because it was cheap. And I don’t like Clark. He’s too much of a damn hipster. Oh, he’s super funky and cool, and eats exotic Indian food he carries to school in a clay pot, he makes Julie a mix CD of all of Francesa Lia Block’s favorite musicians, and he wears zany hats in a ‘I’m so cool I don’t have to dress cool’ fashion.

If I were a sixteen-year-old girl, that might impress me. But I’m not.

Testosterone Level: I’m Growing Breasts

Seriously. Though maybe it’s because I went off my new year’s diet in January, this book caused me to grow boobs. Julie is practically throwing herself at this guy and he just kind of shrugs it off and turns on the TV. I kept expecting the big gay reveal, which would have turned Clark from a hipster stereotype into a homosexual stereotype, but it never happened.

Also, they mention Buffy the Vampire Slayer–no exaggeration–every tenth page. I understand it was a quality show, but I’ve never seen it. So all the references were lost. And what kind of YA reader is going to catch references to an obscure show that’s long off the air?

Oh, yeah…hipsters.

Talky Talk: Paranormal Romance (Page 50 Spoiler)

So Clark is occasionally possessed by the ghost of his dead twin brother, Grant, who was killed by a drunk driver. I kind of saw that coming when Clark insists on writing a school paper about teens who die in drunk driving accidents. At any rate, it’s the Ouija shenanigans that bring him back, and he wants to stay. In Clark’s body. Forever. And Julie…well, Clark is all talk. Grant…he wants to kiss her. Like, right on the mouth. And touch her girl parts. Under her underwear.

Julie is kind of titillated by the idea. After all, Clark isn’t her boyfriend. And even if he were, hey, it’s still his body, so it’s not cheating, right? Right?

At any rate, Clark and Julie go around visiting Chinese and Native American mystics to try to drive out Grant and learn about the auras she keeps seeing. Because all Indians and Asians are, like, so in touch with non-traditional spiritual stuff, right?

Strangely, no one seems to be interested in the afterlife, the secrets of the universe, the great beyond, etc. And Clark doesn’t seem to miss his brother. I guess. We don’t know a lot about their relationship.

I make it a point of honor to finish every book I review, though this was not a labor of love.

Bonus Factor: You’re Not My Real Father

Darth Vader reaching out to Luke Skywalker, proclaiming 'I am your father'

So Julie’s mom is a wreck and soon takes up with Luke, a drunken, middle-aged-though-still-younger-than-her metal head. Brings him over at all hours. Spends time in mom’s bedroom.

And even worse, he listens to POPULAR MUSIC.

Bromance Status: I Like This Book Ironically

I know this book is kind of cliché, and short, and has a huge typeface, but it’s not like the books the other kids are reading. Check it out, I’m deliberately reading this book because it’s NOT cool. See, aren’t I just the hippest thing you’ve ever seen?

FTC full disclosure: Free copy from Harper Collins, no money.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.