Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Although fantasy is not usually my genre and the opening chapters of A Corner of White didn't hook me, Steph Su's review encouraged me to keep readingand I'm glad I did. This quirky novel alternates between real world Cambridge, England and the fantasy world of Cello. Author Jaclyn Moriarty is Australian but got a doctorate in law from Cambridge University, where she also started writing young adult fiction.

Following a few backstory chapters, the narrative launches with a note in a parking meter. After discovering a tiny opening between their worlds, two teenagers start corresponding via handwritten notes. Amusingly, Madeleine in Cambridge assumes that Elliot is either delusional or is writing a fantasy book. To his frustration, she critiques his world building, but they also forge a wonderfully supportive friendship.

Like Madeleine, I found the attacks of color waves in Cello an innovative concept and wanted more explanation. Had I been sending notes to Elliot, I would have critiqued his wish-granting fairy and the use of magical spells. Those traditional fairytale elements lacked originality and made the story better suited to readers younger than teenagers. Focusing so much on parents further tilted the narrative toward younger readers. Also, if you create a world of erratic seasons (which change weekly, sometimes daily) do not set your story in a farming community. The author admitted the validity of this problem in her acknowledgement page.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this whimsical story, which I read while visiting England. Moriarty is a master of the pen. Good writing and creative use of scientific principles made the odd juxtaposition of worlds believable. Situational irony was was well exploited for humor.  A Corner of White was a fun, easy read but still had clever plot twists and educational content. There's a great sense of place in both worlds:
"The door to the tea room opened again and another group of rainhuddled tourists rushed inside." 
"The tiles in the kitchen are an unbelievably disgusting mottled pink, like a salmon that got old, died and ate boiled beetroot." 
"...the floorboards more cracked than a stick of celery." 
"Farmers are the most endearing bunch of muffin-baking, pastry-making, fiddleplaying folk you'll ever meet. (Blahdy, blahdy, hooray for Farmers! Blah, blah, pumpkin pie! etc.) (seriously, though, if you're short on time, give the Farms a miss.)" 
"Within moments, the doors, security gates and shutters had all shut. Scarves and bags were left scattered alongside upturned snowman. At the station, the train almost stopped."
I'd recommend A Corner of White to fantasy fans and to tween readers especially. Other than the mention of adult drug addiction and teen drinking, the book is quite innocent for YA Fiction. It would be a good choice for middle schoolers (ages 11 to 14) and for advanced readers in elementary school. Don't you love the cover?

Cambridge, England on New Year's Eve 2007, my photo.

Reviewer's Disclaimer: I received a free digital galley from netgalley before the book's release in April 2013. It is the first book in the Colors of Madeleine series.

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@Barrie Summy


Rose said...

I don't care for fantasy either, but it's certainly popular with teens and tweens, so this book should be a hit. I think the cover art would be more appealing to tweens as well.

Hope your writing is going well, Sarah!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I love those tiny openings into other worlds.
Happy to have you back!

Barrie said...

Have you read The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie? It was brilliant. Based on that and your review, I'll be looking into this book. Oh, and I felt with with Bindy Mackenzie that it sometimes felt like a younger read. I wonder if this happens more in Austraian YA????

Unknown said...

Clever premise! I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but my son (11) loves the genre. This might be a fun one for him...

Great review! :)


Sarah Laurence said...

Rose, I wonder why it wasn't marketed as upper MG because it's really well suited to that age group.

Pamela, I'm back to blogging weekly but won't have time to blog visit until next week probably. I've missed you all!

Barrie, thanks for hosting. This is the first book I've read by this author. I've read 2 other Australian YA authors and their books were on the more mature end of the genre.

Alyssa, the chapters alternate between a teen boy and a teen girl, and I preferred the boy narrator. It's nice to have a YA book that isn't gender specific.

All, I'm mostly offline this week. My son is graduating from high school. Looking forward to catching up with your blogs next week!

Ellen Booraem said...

I DO like fantasy, as you know, so I'm glad to learn about this one, Sarah! I'd never heard of it. It sounds like an interesting premise, although I'm a little doubtful about starting with a lot of backstory.

Thanks for the review!

☆sapphire said...


The book sounds interesting! Thanks a lot for the review!! "Farmers are the most endearing bunch of muffin-baking~you'll ever meet.”This is so captivating even though I only caught a glimpse of Cello. I 've always been interested in portals to another world and I'm very curious about the tiny opening between the two worlds..

I'm so glad you found the right agent for your book!!

A Cuban In London said...

Like you, I have gone off fantasy but I did enjoy your review. I was missing your posts. I hope everything is all right at your end. I know that you were quite tied up with thesis and what have you. Regards to you and your family.

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

Ellen, since you read more fantasy than I, I’d be especially interested in your reaction to this book.

Sapphire, it is a fun premise. Thanks, I’m really pleased with my new agent.

ACIL, thanks for being so understanding about my absence. I’m looking forward to catching up on your blog soon.

Alyssa, I enjoyed your review too but by the time I visited, the post was closed to comments. Sorry, it has been too long!