Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Corner of White
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: April 1st, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
At first glance, this cover looks like just another contemporary romance but, after finishing the book, I can appreciate the little touches.  Madeline's outfit is exactly as described in the book - a whimsical plethora of colors.  I also love the sparkle and light that gives an ethereal quality to the letter and the wonderful colors reflected in the falling leaves.  The one thing that I do miss is a reflection of Elliot, but perhaps that is just because I preferred his side of the story to Madeline's.  It is also worth taking a look at the actual hardcover underneath the book jacket - it is covered with the colors of Madeline's jacket and boots and is imprinted with the image of the umbrella and falling leaves.  These touches are beautiful and unexpected. 

The Gist:
Madeline and her mother have run away from their privileged life for one of struggling to make ends meet in Cambridge.  Elliot lives in the mysterious Kingdom of Cello and is on a desperate search to find his missing father.  The two begin communicating through letters that they fit through a rare gap between the worlds and weave their two lives together in ways they never imagined possible. 


I will admit, A Corner of White was almost a did-not-finish for me.  This book got to a very slow start.  Almost the entire first half was a sluggish slog.  At about this point, I went back to the reviews on Goodreads and saw that most reviewers had commented on this and said to hang in there.  So I did, and, I am so happy for it.  In the beginning, the writing style took some getting used to and the characters were quirky if a little too well informed for their age.  This type of book will require a patient reader and not all teens will fit this bill, however, the payoff in the end is entirely worth it.

Moriarty's characters endear themselves to you slowly.  At the beginning I wasn't particularly fond of Madeline and I didn't entirely see the point of Jack and Bella.  By the end, I enjoyed their strange obsession with aura's and horoscopes and could see the important role that they played in Madeline's growth and development.  Incidentally, I really hope that their peculiar interests are incorporated into Cello's world in further books.  Even Madeline had outgrown her whining and become a character that I could continue to follow through this series.  I enjoyed Elliot from the very beginning.  He was strong and independent while holding an important place within his community.  I was very glad that the relationship between him and Madeline never crossed into the romantic and I hope that is something that does not change further into the story. 

Jaclyn Moriarty is certainly an author who shows rather than tells.  While this is an admirable trait among writers it also means that it takes quite a while to get a clear understanding of the way that the world of Cello works, particularly the threat of Colors.  She occasionally pushes our understanding forward through the inclusion of newspaper articles, books or police reports.  I will admit, I still don't quite understand the mechanics behind catching and using spells, but I assume this will be revealed in the next installement.  One thing that I did love to see was the incorporation of scientific knowledge and history into the storyline.  It would be interesting to see the reactions of my grade 8 students were they to read this book while studying our Optics unit which covers light and colors.  A Corner of White also featured an unexpected twist or two that were refreshing and kept me engaged for the second half of the book.

As I noted previously, this novel gets off to a slow start but ends with a resolution that is satisfying while also successfully setting up for the next book in the series.  Unfortunately, I cannot discuss too much of what makes it such a good ending without spoiling the entire plot, I only wish to tell you that if you are reading this review while in the middle of the book, as I did, keep going.  If have not started yet, remember to let the story develop around you - it is worth it. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up (readers must be patient enough to get through the slow beginning)
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence:  "Color" attacks that maim/kill
Inappropriate Language: Ass
Substance Use/Abuse:  Underage Drinking, Smoking, Discussion of Alcoholism


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