Friday, March 29, 2013
ARC Review: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Title: A Corner of White
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Release Date: April 1st, 2013
It always pains me to have to write a review for a book that I know very few others will truly come to love. I don't deny that there are those who will pick up A Corner of White and persevere on through its slow start to eventually like this book, but the amount of readers who will possibly enjoy that slow beginning, the way I did? Few and far between. Nevertheless, A Corner of White is a splash of color in a genre suffering from cliches; a genre where originality has become a thing of legend. As such, although it is not a book everyone will love, it is a book I firmly believe everyone should read. Or at least try to.
A Corner of White is the tale of two teenagers, both who have lost their fathers in different ways, but both who feel lost in their own worlds in the same way. In Cambridge, England, we are introduced to Madeleine, a girl who used to run away often until, one day, her mother ran away with her; away from their rich father and into the cramped flat they now reside in. For much of the novel, Madeline remains an enigma. In fact, what we do learn about her, we learn from best friends Jack and Belle. Jack, who has a massive crush on Madeleine, sees her as a spirit who won't be tied down, as someone who adds color to the world. Belle, slightly more cynical, is quick to call into question the opulent past lifestyle that Madeleine used to lead, along with her strange-named friends who seem unreal. Yet, all Madeleine really aches for is the familiarity of her father and she detests being tied down both to England and her mother who seems to be half-crazed at times. Although she is an avid fact-collector, the fact that her mother attempts to be the same - unsuccessfully - in the hopes of winning a game show competition, frustrates her. As things in Madeleine's life slowly begin spiraling out of control, it is the letters she writes to a boy named Elliot who lives in Cello, a world she firmly believes in fake, that keep her from cracking.
In Cello, a parallel world, Elliot has just returned from another fruitless search for his father. In Elliot's world, Colors are dangerous creatures that can either attack or cause the inhabitants of the towns they pass to feel a multitude of emotions. Only a few years ago, Elliot's uncle was found dead, torn apart by a Purple, next to their truck and Elliot's father and the high school physics teacher found missing. Although many townspeople believe that Elliot's father ran off with the teacher, Elliot refuses to let go of the belief that his father is being help captive by a Purple. Now, back in his town, Elliot finds that his father's shop has been rented out to the Twinklehams, that the famed Butterfly Child is due to arrive in a jar any time in Cello, and that the Princesses are on a grand tour. In the midst of this, though, Elliot finds a letter in a small crack in the sculpture his friend made and thus begins a correspondence between himself and Madeleine. Although neither of them take their initial letters too seriously, with time, their bond of friendship and trust deepens until, surprisingly, they become the solution to each others problems.
A Corner of White has so much going for it that I hardly know where to begin. Each chapter of this novel alternates between Our World and Cello with the third person narration of Jack and Madeleine or Elliot and the Sheriff of Cello. Additionally, within the sections concerning Cello, Moriarty uses excerpts from Tourist Guides to explain her world and magazine clippings written by the Princesses on their tour to give us full insight into the political system present in her fantasy realm. Surprisingly, this method worked very successfully, mostly because it was used sparingly. Nevertheless, through it and the letters Elliot sent Madeleine, Moriarty was able to paint a thorough image of Cello in our minds, astonishing me with the depth of her world-building.
Yet, what makes A Corner of White such a special novel are the characters themselves. Madeleine, as I've said before, is a protagonist we are rather unsure of at first. As we slowly glean more glimpses into her life, however, our hearts go out to her. A Corner of White, it will surprise you to know, is a classic find-your-way-in-the-world novel, only in an entirely different way. What I love is that Madeleine has been running away all her life, unable to realize who she is or discern the harsh realities of her past. Only now, through strong friendships, bonds with the mother she never truly knew, and a grounding home is she able to look into herself and see the blessings she's been bestowed in life. Madeleine, in particular, enjoys metaphors and when she is assigned a project to become Isaac Newton, she begins to see him in every aspect of her life. Although I am never one for enjoying extended school assignments, especially in novels, the facts dispersed throughout this novel about Newton only served a greater purpose and the clever allusions and larger metaphors all came back to pleasantly blow my mind.
Along with Madeleine, though, Elliot too is lost in his world. Despite being the "star child" of his town, Elliot doesn't know who he is without his father or without the purpose of finding him. Yet, though Elliot is revered in his town, we can see that he has a bitter side to him as well. Using his wit, Elliot manages to sabotage any business the Twinklehams attempt to begin in his father's mechanic shop. Very cleverly, Elliot and his tight group of five other friends offer to fix broken items themselves or take them, free of charge, to the stores of other mechanics. As such, we can see that Elliot is not as perfect as he seems to the world. Moriarty shows us the dual sides, the depth, to her characters in such subtle ways that we continue to love them, but in the back of our minds, these alternate personalities still linger.
If you thought that was clever, though, just wait till you get to the last page of this novel. Although A Corner of White is a slow story, with Elliot and Madeleine simply living their lives and dealing with the problems that life throws at them, all while writing to each other, it does have a greater plot thread that emerges towards the end. And, trust me when I say that the wait is worth it. A Corner of White reads suspiciously like a set-up novel to a great series - and it is one - but as a stand-alone too, I find myself to be utterly in love. It is, very honestly, a strange novel, but it is one that is so easy to understand and resonate with, without even trying, that you cannot help but utter only one word when you're all finished with it. Beautiful.