Book Review: BLUE, by Lou Aronica

 

 

BLUE, by Lou Aronica, was slow getting started, and I have to admit upfront that it took me quite some time to get through the beginning. It didn’t take too long for the story to finally pick up though and I was hooked from that point on. Let’s look at the good and bad of this book:

CHARACTERIZATION:

The characters, at first especially, seemed flat; I couldn’t find much sympathy for the teen protagonist, Becky, and the mother seemed to have little redeeming qualities to her. The divorce is one thing, but the attitude she had toward her ex-husband, when she is supposed to love her daughter so much, just never rang true to me at all.

Then there was this Gage character. I don’t know who Gage is. I don’t really CARE who Gage is. I hated the riddled way ‘he’ talked, that I still haven’t figured out if it was a riddle or not, since there was nothing to ‘figure out’ that we didn’t and couldn’t know without Gage. I also really disliked the lack of use of personal pronouns and overuse of Gage’s name, in an effort to ‘mystify’ Gage as genderless. It was unnecessary.

THE PACING & PLOTTING

So the Not-so-Good part is that if I had not been reading this book specifically to do a review, I might not have finished reading it. That would have been a travesty, though, because once the slowness and the tedium of the beginning was past, the story picked up and was much better. I would have missed what ended up being a good story. A very good story.

That said, I feel the author could have done a better job culling this. The story was overly long, unnecessarily so, with a lot of stuff that could have been removed that did nothing to further the plot. For example, long descriptive scenes of cooking, both on the mother’s and father’s side of the story, that didn’t further the plot. These could have been cut back and still had the impact.

Another problem was the believability and consistency of the characters. I also believe as several other reviewers on Amazon.com have said that the author tries to tackle too many deep themes in this book, and as such, it feels that none of them get fully resolved or get the attention they deserve. One or two deep themes and situations are enough, but this one tried to have divorce, remarriage, visitation, cancer and possible death of a child, survival of a world, problems with teenaged dating and friendship, father daughter relationship, mother daughter relationship, teenaged angst, etc. There was just ‘too much’ in the beginning to set all this up that was just backstory and boring.

Now, all that said, once the backstory was out of the way and the real story actually started, it was soooo much better. I loved the parallels drawn between the fantasy world and the reality world, and how the two are interlinked and perhaps dependent upon each other.

PLOT & MINOR SPOILERS:

Before I get to any spoilers, here’s the basic plot: Becky and her father, when she was a child and had leukemia, invented a childhood storytelling game in which they created a fantasy world called Tamarisk. This world had many of the same qualities as the real world, but in grander, more fanciful and artistic ways. The storyline in this fantasy world would parallel the real world, in that Becky would put elements of her real life into the fantasy she and her father created together.

When Becky’s parents get divorced, after she goes into remission from the cancer, in a fit of frustration and resentment (typical of a child of that age during a difficult divorce), Becky decides she’s done with Tamarisk. She and her father stop creating their stories, and though she thinks of the world now and then, it is nothing more to her than the memories of a sick child.

So life goes on, Becky spends time with her father one night per week and on certain weekends while he lives in an apartment across town. She lives with her mother who has since remarried, a man who doesn’t get much screen time in the book, but who seems okay. Then, one day, Becky starts to experience symptoms similar to those she had experienced when she had cancer before. She keeps it to herself for too long,because she’s afraid what it will mean, how it will change things, and how it will impact her life–and the lives of her family.

The diagnosis comes, and then things start to really change…

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: Becky, through her mind (or at least so she thinks), visits Tamarisk after she becomes ill again. Perhaps it was a dream, but it felt real, and different than a dream. One of the difficulties I have with this plot is that there was not more disbelief of the events by the characters in the story. I can see maybe Becky believing, but it was too pat, too easy, for Chris to accept. I’d rather have seen less cooking, less chit chat and backstory, and more talk about how and why this was happening. Perhaps a visit to the doctor to see if there’s a reason her mind might be playing tricks on her. Though partly, the father’s acceptance is explained by saying that perhaps it doesn’t hurt to let her have her fantasies, all things considered with her illness.

Tamarisk is beautiful, and Becky learns that though she has neglected Tamarisk, it has continued to live on and developed and change with her creating stories for it. Yet, even so, she finds she has the ability to make certain changes to Tamarisk once she accepts what is happening and starts telling the stories with her father again. The images drawn of that world were well done, in fact, probably were the best part of the novel. We begin to see the lines that connect Becky and Tamarisk, and how the two seem dependent upon each other. We watch changes in each: when Becky is sick the first time, the world experiences the blight; when Becky’s parents divorce due to the stress and problems related to the cancer, we see Tamarisk’s parents die due to the weakness on a bridge caused by the blight; we see the cancer come back, and the blight returns. We see the Queen suffering and we see Becky suffering, and the only time anything feels right is when the two worlds are connected as one, through Becky.

As for what many have said about the blanket at the end… I think this was the only way that the mother could believe, and I think that the mother needed to believe. It’s a fantasy novel, after all, and I’m okay with a fantasy that the mother and the father were able to get along and make peace, whatever the reasons.

CONCLUSION:

Tamarisk sounds beautiful and would make a great kid’s fantasy movie. The book has potential that was untapped, and perhaps needed a bit more work to cull the fat from the edges, but even so, it’s a good book, with a good storyline, good morals, good connections between the worlds. The last 1/3 of the book kept me staying up late reading and turning pages as much as the the first 1/3 of the book dragged.

But in the end, it WAS touching. It was sad but happy too. It did what a book should do: entertained me. I would recommend the book to anyone who likes fantasy, especially in the 11-25 year old age range, for those who enjoy young adult. I’m an adult and don’t usually do YA, but this one I did enjoy. My daughter is twenty-four and she loves fantasy and while she said it was a little ‘young’, she really enjoyed it and cried at the end. She has since recommended it to friends who have also loved it.

If you can pick this one up, it’s worth the read, even with the not-so-good stuff that goes with it. The good stuff does, in my opinion, outshine it.

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