2013 · 4 stars · fantasy · ya

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine #1)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty (website)
Pub. Date: April 1, 2013 (US)
Source: Publisher
Summary: 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…
Genre: YA, Fantasy

“Okay, I’ve decided to start simple and work back. So, I am, now formally telling you, as your mother, that I want you never to become a smoker, never to own your own motorbike, never to get a chess board tattooed onto your face – and never ever to write to an imaginary friend in a parking meter again.”

Three hundred years ago gaps bridging our world with another were closed. Deadly plagues were wiping out millions of people in our world and Cello’s citizens decided it was for the best if the cracks between the two worlds were wiped out as well. Since then any cracks discovered must be reported to authorities immediately and anyone discovered communicating with anyone in our world is sentenced to death.

Madeleine Tully and her mother have recently set up house in Cambridge after having run away from their lavish lifestyle. Now they live in a tiny apartment with leaking ceilings and patches of mold on the walls. Instead of skipping off to various countries and spending all day at the spa, Madeleine’s mother now sits inside all day sewing and watching game shows while Madeleine receives schooling lessons from a few neighbors. A far cry from what they’re used to.

Elliot lives in the town of Bonfire, a farming community. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, and is a star athlete. The Kingdom of Cello is a mirror image of our world save for one difference: Cello is victim to deadly Color attacks. A warning system alerts citizens to incoming attacks of Yellows or Purples and each color is deadlier than the last. A Purple is to blame for the death of Elliot’s uncle and he’s convinced the Purple then carried off his father. There have been rumors throughout town that his dad ran off with a teacher, but Elliot refuses to believe it. He’s convinced his dad is still alive and is willing to risk his life to bring him back.

One day Madeleine notices a tiny slip of paper sticking out of a parking meter and allows her curiosity to get the better of her. It’s a cry for help. Someone is trapped and they want to be rescued. Madeleine decides to play along and writes back. With each note her world turns upside down and she begins to suspect there is more to this world than she realized.

“I didn’t have to become Byron,” Jack added, “because I already am him, or anyway exactly like him. But without the poetry. Also, girls are not falling over themselves to have my children. As far as I know. If they are, they need to do it more loudly. Apart from all that, I’m just like Byron.”

Before reading A Corner of White I had heard amazing things about this book. Much to my surprise – and delight! – I received a review copy and couldn’t wait to sit down with it. A good portion of the novel deals with Newton and Byron. As part of their history lesson, Madeleine, Jack, and Belle each chose a name out of a hat and had to research that figure. As the story progresses – and as Madeleine and Elliot communicate further – Isaac Newton comes more into focus and I was pleasantly surprised by how large of a role he wound up playing.

Jack and Belle are Madeleine’s neighbors and her only friends in Cambridge. I personally didn’t care for Belle much at all – especially once she started her bullying. Jack, on the other hand, was great. He was a good guy with a huge crush on Madeleine. In a bout of frustration and homesickness she winds up hurting him deeply and that was a painful scene for me to read. While I enjoyed Madeleine’s character, in the end, I came to know Jack better and saw him as the sympathetic character.

“Cut it out now,” said her mother. “I’m trying to think. I need to get my thoughts in order and present them in an incisive, persuasive way. Because I’m the one with the answers today, which won’t always be the case – for instance, if you were weeping about a mathematics problems, well, I’d be clueless and we’d both end up weeping. Not that you were weeping, of course.”

Elliot’s world, well, confused me at times. I never got a real feel for the Colors and their attacks. I kept reading passages about their waves of destruction and how there have been times where these colors would take hostages, but I just couldn’t picture these scenes. Other than that, however, Cello was a lovely world.

Interwoven with Madeleine’s & Elliot’s stories was that of the Butterfly Child. Every twenty years, a Butterfly Child appears somewhere in Cello. She has amazing powers, capable of growing crops and healing sickness. At first I wasn’t too impressed, but she grew on me.

Between the Butterfly Child, family problems in both worlds, and multiple mysteries, it felt like there was a lot going on, but it worked. I never felt overwhelmed and enjoyed A Corner of White an awful lot. The ending was perfectly set up for the next book and I’m looking forward to it!


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