Title: The Blue Girl
Series: Newford (#15)
Author: Charles de Lint
Genre: YA, urban fantasy
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Goodreads Rating: 3.92
Amazon Rating: 4.5 (US) / 4.5 (CA) / 4.5 (UK)
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
“I’m not so scared of the dark–even as a kid I never was–but tonight the shadows seem all wrong.”
– Charles de Lint
I recently finished reading The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint. I had heard nothing but praise for this author and his work and the synopsis for the book looked promising, so I went in with high hopes, fully expecting to enjoy this one. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. I think the worst part about it for me was knowing it had so much unrealised potential; all the components for a great story were there but none of it came together the way it should have. The unnecessary sexual remarks about the female characters (and only the female characters) scattered throughout the book did nothing to help me warm up to the writing or the story.
This book started out with a lot of potential. Within the first few pages, I had a really good feeling that I was going to end up loving this book. It had witty dialogue, an eccentric female protagonist, and a promising plot involving one of my favourite supernatural creatures; faeries. Unfortunately, by the time I was 1/4 through the book, I could see everything unraveling and falling apart. For me, I think it was a combination of subtle (but damaging) sexism thrown in without any good reason whatsoever, unlikable characters that the author clearly wants you to like and a complete lack of urgency despite the main characters being told numerous times what grave peril they’re in.
I assume we’re supposed to like the character of Adrian and I normally identify with the marginalized dork types but his woe-is-me attitude and his refusal to take responsibility for any of his immaturity just became more and more annoying as the book went on. He does have a nice moment at the end but I don’t feel like it’s enough to redeem him. I also didn’t appreciate how he was rewarded with the affections of a woman who previously despised him just because he thought about doing a selfless act (that he didn’t follow through with). Men being rewarded by women simply for meeting the bare minimum requirements of human decency is always a big let-down for me in both literature and film.
There are also a lot of unnecessary sexual remarks that served no purpose other than to be entertaining, which I dislike a lot as well. One of the characters frequently violates the privacy of adolescent girls. He’s clearly a sexual predator but the other characters just seem to laugh it off with a “boys will be boys” attitude and his actions are never addressed except when the other characters are talking about how funny/benign it is. Adrian does have a problem with it but never takes it upon himself to actually do anything about it, which only added to my dislike of him. The female characters are also described with an unwarranted amount of emphasis on sexualised physical features in a way that none of the male characters are. These are things that are really problematic in young adult fiction aimed towards adolescents.
Both the protagonists fall in love but I found myself not really caring about that because all of the relationship development happens “off-screen” which is bizarre for a book written completely in the first person. Maybe this was deliberate and if it was, then I can’t fault that, perhaps it just wasn’t a decision that personally resonated with me. As for the plot, as I mentioned previously, it had so much potential and I started out quite excited about it but because none of the characters seemed all that bothered by anything that was happening to them, the danger they were supposedly in never felt real or imminent. I never got the sense that Imogene and Maxine were facing any kind of deadly threat at all, even though numerous mentor figures keep repeatedly stressing to them that their lives are at stake.
It’s a shame, really, because without these problems, I may have rated this book 3 or maybe even 4 stars. It had a great concept steeped in a lot of research on faerie lore and an intriguing protagonist. Young adult fantasy is normally right up my alley, but the more I read, the more disengaged I became. I know this author is highly praised as being a pioneer of young adult urban fantasy so I may be willing to try another one of his books in the future. Maybe this just wasn’t a shining example of his best work and I like to give authors second chances but The Blue Girl is really not something I would recommend.