Monday, July 29, 2013

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Beginnings are everything. Some can be fabulous, others terrible, and others just plain boring. The beginning of A Corner of White (Panmacmillan Australia, September 2012) was a bit...quirky. Some might have dropped the book before really getting into the plot, because the main character had a bit of an unbelievable life. The book is told from two perspectives, one person in the real world and one in a fantasy one, and I almost thought that both were fantasy because the real world one was so strange. People were reading other people's auras and such. But once you get past that, A Corner of White is really quite a good book. 

In the real world, Madeline lives in London. She wishes she could return to her former life as the daughter of a rich man who had everything she ever wanted. Somewhere other than this earth, Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello, where attacks from colors are becoming more and more frequent. (These colors are physical things that I thought of as clouds of violence. They don't actually come wielding knives and other weapons, but the results are the same.) One day, both Madeline and Elliot discover a crack between their worlds, and begin a correspondence that sparks something in both Madeline herself and Elliot's entire world.

It's very important to me when I read a novel that it has a plot that isn't copied from other novels. If it has concepts that are imitations, it feels fake and half-baked. This was definitely not the case with this book. The plot and settings were like nothing I have ever seen before. (I say settings because the story goes back and forth between two different worlds). There was such creativity in the characters, especially in the composition of Madeline, one of two main characters. She is sort of the queen of quirks. She always wears colorful clothes, and has lived almost every exotic place that you can think of, even though she now resides in an "attic flat". She wasn't very nice, either. She was pleasant and polite, but it didn't really come from the heart. That was something that, ironically, made me like her, because she was imperfect. So many main characters are perfect, and it was nice to find someone who needed corrections here. Here's an excerpt: 

"She told them the memory while they ate scones under the apple trees, deck chairs slung low to the ground. 
      "I was riding a skateboard -- we were all on skateboards -- going down a hill."
      " Where was this?" said Belle, eyes closed. 
      "Genoa. In Italy. We were there for a summer. I was going fast -- I was ahead of the others and the hill was steep. The road swerved and suddenly there was an intersection with cars flying in both directions. So I jumped off the skateboard. And that was when I realized how fast I was going. I did that thing where your feet go --" 
She stopped and drummed her fists on the table. 
     "No. Wait. It was faster than that, more like --" 
This time she drummed her fingers instead, fingernails clicking like a typist, fingers tangling and tripping one another. 
     "You know, when your feet are in a panic, trying to catch up with your body." 
She paused. 
     "I came so close to falling," she said. "But I didn't. I saved myself."
She broke a scone in half, spread it with jam, and took a bite. 
     "That's it? That's the memory?" Belle sat up, and nearly lost control of her deckchair.
     "No. There was a six-car pile-up. While I was saving myself, my skateboard rolled onto the highway."
     "Oh, all right, then." Belle regained her chair's composure, and closed her eyes again. Jack hit the side of Belle's head. "Oh, all right then? A six-car bloody pile-up? Oh, all right, then?
Madeline laughed, then looked thoughtful. 
     "Nobody was hurt," she said. "Except the cars, I guess."

I don't know, but I think that if I caused a six-car pile-up (even a one-car pile-up, for that matter), I would feel at least a bit guilty. Certainly more guilty than "except the cars, I guess". These are the flaws that make her likeable to a reader, if not her friends: she doesn't know anything of the world's troubles, or even anything of empathy. She's so likeable because you get to watch her change throughout the story. On a bit of a different note, I think that I would have liked to learn more about Elliot. His world was so interesting, and I think that he was a very complex character. Maybe in the next book of this trilogy we'll learn more.

If you hate fantasy, don't read this book. However, if you like interesting characters, than you should give it a try. It is a great book about how people can change, with a very intriguing plot. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm off to search for a crack in this world. 

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