This book sounded so intriguing when I read about it on the Book Smugglers months ago that I went around and entered multiple giveaways… I might be embarrassed about that now. I didn’t win, but luckily my library got a copy, so I was able to read it in my usual manner.
A Corner of White. The Colors of Madeleine Book 1. by Jaclyn Moriarty.
Here’s the wonderfully concise Official Summary of the book:
“14-year-old Madeleine of Cambridge, England, struggling to cope with poverty and her mother’s illness, and fifteen-year-old Elliot of the Kingdom of Cello in a parallel world where colors are villainous and his father is missing, begin exchanging notes through a crack between their worlds and find they can be of great help to each other.”
Madeleine has a life that seems interesting enough, with close relationships to her mother, a couple of good friends, and a homeschool program her mother has cobbled together for them, being tutored in various subjects by colorful neighbors and the odd relation. But she can’t help remembering the larger-than-life father and the extravagant lifestyle she left behind when she and her mother moved to Cambridge. Now, her mother sews hours a day to pay for their one-room apartment, practicing and failing at quiz show questions, while Madeleine, instead of being the toast of parties, she has just two friends, Jack and Belle. It’s not that she dislikes her new life – she just can’t help going back to the “what if” of staying in her old life.
Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello, a parallel world where colors are often-dangerous beings. You might have a cloud of Reds fly by that simply make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but many more of the colors are deadly. Elliot has been spending the past year traveling, putting himself in danger, trying to track down his father, who was kidnapped by a violent Purple. It’s been long enough that his mother has decided to rent out their electronics repair shop to another couple, the Twicklehams, who have a small and silent daughter. Now, though, people keep urging him to stay in his home town of Bonfire, where he’s the star of the local sports team, a role he’s not quite comfortable with.
The people of Cello know about Earth, while Earth, obviously, does not know about Cello. That means that when letters start appearing – stuffed in the seam of a broken parking meter for Madeleine – it takes a long time for Madeleine to believe that Cello is real. But even though Elliott knows that failing to report a crack is a crime and both Elliott and Madeleine are developing romances with friends in their own world, they keep writing more letters. (I really appreciated a story where a teen boy and girl could be drawn to each other just for friendship, without the need for the central relationship to be romantic.)
Madeleine looks bright and whimsical on the cover of the book, and she and the book are very wonderfully so. But there’s plenty of adventure to go along with the whimsy, from Madeleine’s struggles with her family in Cambridge to Elliott’s more dramatic struggles in Cello. And there is a lot of heart behind all of it, as both of them are realizing that they might not get their fathers back, and musing about the nature of the universe, especially displayed in the Cambridge teens studying of real-world Cambridge figures Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, and Ada Lovelace. The characters are complicated, appearances are extremely deceiving, and there is a lot more depth to everything than first appears. It has solid teen appeal, without anything offensive for advanced younger readers, and plenty of draw for older readers as well.
It’s the first of a series, and I will be tracking down the second book as soon as it’s out next March.