Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review and Tour Stop: Blue by Lou Aronica

Blue by Lou Aronica
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 394
Date Published: January 2011
Publisher: The Fiction Studio
Source: I received a free copy of this book for review through Pump Up Your Book Online Book Publicity Tours.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book description (from Pump Up Your Book!):
Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life. 
Becky is Chris’s fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who has overcome enormous challenges to become a vibrant, vital young woman – and now faces her greatest obstacle yet. 
Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little, a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own and now finds itself in terrible, maybe fatal trouble. 
Together, Chris, Becky, and Miea need to uncover a secret. The secret to why their worlds have joined at this moment. The secret to their purpose. The secret to the future. It is a secret that, when discovered, will redefine imagination for all of them. 
Blue is a novel of trial and hope, invention and rediscovery. It might very well take you someplace you never knew existed.

Becky and her father, Chris, created the fantasy world of Tamarisk when she was a child undergoing cancer treatment. Their Tamarisk stories stopped when Chris and his wife Polly separated and divorced. Becky is now a teenager, and as she struggles with normal teenage issues, her strained relationship with her father, and some alarming physical symptoms, she suddenly finds herself transported back to the land of Tamarisk. But things are different. Tamarisk isn't just a story this time but a real world, and it is in danger of being wiped out by an incurable blight attacking the world's plant life. Becky wants to help, but she also has to face a more personal battle at home, and she begins to wonder if there is anything she can do to save the world that she created and has come to love.

Blue takes on several emotional themes--divorce, cancer, illness, and death--and how all of these issues affect family relationships. Chris struggles with his diminished role as Becky's father after his divorce and her becoming a teenager. He tends to overthink things and lets his feelings get hurt too much, and his inner turmoil affects his relationships. Becky is also having a hard time dealing with the power struggle between her parents, the emotional burden of their divorce, the way it changed her relationship with her father, and the spectre of illness that haunts her. The re-emergence of Tamarisk in their lives gives them a chance to re-connect. It gives Becky something to hope for and provides an unexpected escape from the stresses of her life. It gives Chris hope that their relationship can be healed from the damage done by the divorce.

The story focuses on several characters, but mostly on Becky, Chris, and Miea (Miea is the Queen of Tamarisk). There is also a seemingly omniscient character present (Gage), who is observing the different threads of the story and apparently influencing it. The Gage portion of the story is confusing at first, but by the end I think I had mostly figured out what his role was.

Throughout the story, I kept wondering whether Tamarisk and Miea were real or if they were just part of Becky's imagination. There are various points in the story where different characters wonder the same thing, including Chris and his ex-wife Polly. But eventually I became a believer, and, trust me, by the end of the story you will want to believe that Tamarisk is real too.

The layering of the different universes within the story was challenging and thought-provoking. There was some great world-building going on here. Tamarisk was imaginative and interesting, especially as Chris and Becky tried to understand the confusing scientific principles they had unwittingly created there through their stories.

I think this book has potential cross-over appeal for both adults and teens. YA readers would probably enjoy this story as much as adults will, especially since a good portion of the book centers in on Becky's feelings and experiences. And adults (especially parents) will probably find a lot in Chris and Polly to relate to as well.

I really liked Blue, and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever wished that their childhood fantasy worlds could come to life.

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