Title: Born Blue
Author: Han Nolan
Genre: YA fiction
Summary: You know what, I am finding myself at a loss to summarize this, so I'm just going to grab part of the Publishers Weekly summary: "[Born Blue is] the saga of an emotionally disturbed teen, whose life-affirming passion for music constantly conflicts with her self-destructive tendencies. Abandoned by her mother, neglected by her foster parents and later kidnapped and sold by her mother to a drug dealer, Janie finds her only source of happiness when she hears "the ladies" Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan sing. Janie is white, but she identifies more with the music, culture and rhythms of her African-American foster brother, Harmon. When, at a young age, she discovers her own remarkable singing voice, Janie changes her name to Leshaya, dedicates herself to music, and begins getting the attention she so desperately craves. Her talent proves to be both a blessing and a curse, however, bringing her opportunities and, at the same time, magnetically pulling her into a world where fellow musicians use drugs and sex to heighten their performance."
Why did you get this book? I was looking for a book to exchange When Dad Killed Mom for. This looked better.
Did you enjoy the book? I did. And it's weird, because, you know, if ever a book has had a kitchen-sink problem, it's this. I mean this is like seventeen Lifetime Movies rolled into one, this plot. But it was saved by two things: 1. Nolan's prose hooked me 100% from page one, and 2. the character really worked for me. The situation was melodramatic, but what sold it for me is that the author's take on it wasn't melodramatic. You don't have a sense of some affluent woman, fresh out of a creative writing MFA program, clucking her tongue sadly at those poor, poor people who live like this and all of the terrible things they have to face. Leshaya feels real. And though I'm writing this several weeks after I finished the book, I'm finding that she's still crystal-clear in my mind. That's good writing.
Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? Yes, she's new to me. I do plan to read more by her; I'll probably move on next to Dancing on the Edge, for which she won the National Book Award. (Though, as I noted in a previous post, in my own recent reading, YA awards have lately been a *really* poor indicator of quality literature.)
Are you keeping it or passing it on? Keeping.
Anything else? I thought the book's take on racial issues was interesting. Too much to get into here, but interesting.
Scale of 1 to 10: 8 or 9. I'm an indecisive being.