cover image Missing Angel Juan

Missing Angel Juan

Francesca Lia Block. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (138pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023004-3

After nearly stealing the show from her almost-sister Cherokee in Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys , the tormented photographer and drummer Witch Baby returns to star in her own adventure. Devastated when her boyfriend/muse Angel Juan leaves Los Angeles for New York City in order to find himself, Witch Baby takes her savings and heads east, where she plans to spend her high school's Christmas break hot on her lover's trail. With some supernatural assistance provided by the ghost of Cherokee's grandfather, the snarly-haired heroine rescues herself and her beloved from the clutches of the villain Cake, and learns what it means to love and let go. This odd and moving novel shares the super-hip aesthetic of its predecessors and avoids, as have all of Block's books, rehashing what has come before it. The rather formal, stylized folklore structure which characterized the earlier books seems to have been abandoned; instead, the seemingly artless text drifts from the concrete to the surreal and back again, offering spooky fantasy along with a meditation on mourning and loss. Magic and the rich world of fairy tale are, perhaps more than ever, distinct presences. Cantankerous, loving and persevering, Witch Baby calls to mind classic heroines, like the girl in The Snow Queen , who, in undertaking epic quests, discover their own courage. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)