Monday, April 1, 2013

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Age: Young Adult
Series: The Colours of Madeline #1
Interest: NetGalley/ Pretty Cover/ Cool Idea
Source: NetGalley


This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses... (summary from Goodreads.com)

I was given a free copy of this book for review from Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

I'm quite sad to report A Corner of White as the first official DNF* for My Summer Girl Books. I read about 96 pages of A Corner of White before giving up. I gave it a  fair shot to wow me.

*DNF= Did Not Finish

What I loved about the novel:

The writing- Moriarty writes some lovely passages in A Corner of White. She tends to characterize by decisions and outside forces. For instance, Madeline choosing to wear loads of bright clothing all the time or Elliot recreating the pumpkin pyramid that fell over are key actions which describe the character.. They lightly characterize without blatantly announcing themselves. The writing was done so well that I kept reading long after I felt I wanted to stop, simply because I wanted more of Moriarty's words.

Madeline's old life vs her new one- I really enjoyed the contrast of Madeline's old pampered life and her new poorer one. It was set up so well! It didn't fall into the trope of a spoiled rich girl adjusting to a life as a poor person. No, none of that was brought up. It was made clear Madeline missed her old life, but not in a whiney way. She simply kept doing what she could and refused to cry or complain about it. I adored that side of her.

Madeline and her mother's dynamic- This is a relationship based in trust and a lot of lying. I feel like Madeline is more the adult than her mother. Perhaps Madeline didn't want to permanently run away with her mother, but felt like she needed to look after her on some foolish trip. Both women appear to laugh so much and never take anything seriously, yet in one particular scene Madeline yells at her mother to see a doctor. It is obvious Madeline has a few seriously repressed feelings about her mother that I desperately wanted to explore.

The editor's notes on the princess' letters- This is a very specific point to pick out but it made me laugh. I loved the editor working on the princess' columns. He made the kingdom's royalty look like utter fools by pointing out their ignorance and selfishness. He called them on their obliviousness without fear. I love to root for a person like that.

What I didn't like about the novel:

Slow- This novel was one of the slowest I've ever read which gives me conflicting opinions. I liked all the writing and story but felt like absolutely nothing of consequence was happening. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for something very interesting to happen. Yet when a sufficiently exciting event occurred  it unfolded in a much blander way than I anticipated. It's a testament to Moriarty's writing that I still read on after that.

Constant head hopping- This may be a consequence of the third person narration, but it was like I was constantly head hopping in the book. One passage in particular kept on flicking back and forth between Jack and Bella at a cafe and Madeline and her Mother in their flat. It became very frustrating after a while to be unable to finish either scene because they kept interrupting each other.

Random acts of magic- I didn't mind that The Farm was a magical place. It was the way that everything magical was introduced I had a problem with. The attacks of color were interesting. Yet they were minimally explained by a guide book. After that, the attacks sort of disappeared until the phenomenon could be conveniently snuck into conversation. The same thing occurred with The Butterfly Child. It was mentioned, partially explained and then forgotten until it was easy to bring up again.

Why were certain scenes present- I didn't understand how it was important to add in a scene of Jack, Bella and Madeline eating scones under a tree. I liked the Twicklehams arriving in Bonfire, but what exactly did that entire scene accomplish except for going into a little more detail about Elliot's father's disappearance, which could have come up in another spot.

No meshing- I liked Elliot and Madeline's stories, but I liked them separately. When reading Madeline's parts, I wished Elliot's didn't exist. Vice versa happened when Elliot was running the story. A Corner of White felt like two different books trying to mesh into one and it simply wasn't working for me.

Even though this book was DNFed, I still feel like it could be an excellent story for someone else to read. Madeline and Elliot are compelling characters with interesting relationship dynamics. A Corner of White would be good for a reader who doesn't mind a slow start and loves parallel universe stories.

Teaser Lines: "You need to go," she said, and the words surprised her when she said them. She thought they would stay at the calm, even level, at the level of the laughter, but they didn't. They surged up into a terrible kind of shriek: "You need to go and see a doctor!" and she slammed the door behind her.

The slam ate the last half hour of laughter.

Happy Reading,

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