Wednesday, August 21, 2013

True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

I frequently buy books based on their covers. I feel no shame about this. That, after all, is what covers are for; to attract readers, to hook them on the book. I pride myself on knowing what covers will grab kids' attention and convince them to pick up a book. I can't always tell you how I know a cover will work, but when I first saw this one I knew it would. Something about the colors, the girl's stance, and the animals and I could tell you

  • This is historical fiction
  • Set in a small town, probably in the rural south and the girl will have some kind of quirky name
  • The girl has probably lost her parents but might just have family issues
  • A certain subset of 9-12 year old girls will fight to grab it off the shelf.
When I received a review copy, I quickly discovered that I was right on all counts except the geography - it's Vermont. The story is set in the 1950s, Blue, the main character, was a foundling and wants to know what happened to her mother, and the copy I bought for the library has been flying off the shelf all summer.

Is the story cliched? Heck yeah. You've got the girl with the quirky name, in a small town where everybody knows each other but they're hiding secrets. Blue's adoptive guardian isn't demonstrative but you know by the end she's going to realize how much she loves her. There's even the stereotyped "simple" man that animals naturally love and who is so gentle he never fights back, even against the stereotypically bad boys whose nasty father never stops their cruelty. There's the required natural disaster and the grand denouement, when Blue realizes that all the family she wants is right there in town.

Is there anything wrong with this? Nope. Well, except for the "brain-damaged/simple people are naturally good with animals and will never hurt anyone" stereotype, which really, really annoys me. The point is that that's why kids, and people, love genre fiction. You know what to expect and it's comforting to fall into the familiar tropes of the story. Just because it's not unique and doesn't have any unexpected twists (I'm not talking about the "big secret" at the end of the story - that's part of the expected tropes) doesn't mean it's not well-written, interesting, and fun to read.

Verdict: I long ago outgrew this particular genre and was never a big fan to start with, but as I said earlier, there are plenty of kids who will eat it up. This is a pretty good example of the genre and would make an excellent addition to any library.

ISBN: 9780375860997; Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

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