Book Review: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

A Corner of WhiteA Corner of White
The Colors of Madeleine Book One
Jaclyn Moriarty
Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-39736-0

The story revolves around the premise of two worlds that apparently collide. The world of Cello is a fantasy place where the characters have pronounced personalities, wear colorful clothes, have odd names, and perform various jobs in the city.

At the sound of a warning siren, the people all race for cover as they are attacked by a COLOR. It is vaguely explained that this COLOR kills and maims and in some cases kidnaps living beings and drags them off to a damp cave in a scary part of the kingdom for some unexplained reason.

The main character is this fantasy world of Cello, is a teenager, Elliott, whose pastime is playing an imaginary game involving green balls and drinking coffee with friends. He leaves home from time to time to search for his missing father who was apparently taken by a COLOR, though he is suspected by many to have run away with the school teacher and perhaps killing Elliott’s uncle.

In the real world, Madelaine lives with her mother, an eccentric and apparently mentally disturbed woman who is obsessed by trying to answers quiz show questions. Madelaine apparently finds a letter in a crack in a parking meter. The crack seems to be a conduit between the real world and Elliott’s fantasy world and they begin to correspond through the crack.

On the plus side, Ms. Moriarty has a lovely command of words and often creates a stunning description, almost poetic. …the moonlight…skirted ships in harbors, mingling with lighthouse beams, then blinked in surprise at blaze after blaze of city light. Farther south, it caught the buckle and harnesses of night shift workers,.. it hushed along the cobblestones and lampposts of the seafaring villages…

Fascinated by such ability to turn a phrase, I wanted her to create a story that would capture me and hold me spellbound to the last word, but such sentences were combined with others… In Cello, snowmen lasted as long as the winter, and winters could be anywhere from an hour to a couple of weeks. (Once, there’d been winter for just over a year, but they’d torn down all the snowmen eventually, in protest…

The story is apparently intended to be a YA fantasy, and from that viewpoint, it may have merit, as at least it would expose a young reader to some beautiful writing skill. I found much of the book to be vague and not understandable.

Whether Madelaine’s mother ever answers a quiz question correctly, or whether Elliott ever finds his father shall remain a mystery to me, as I wasn’t compelled to stick with it and didn’t finish the book.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, June 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.