My rating: 0 of 5 stars
**Thank you to ABRAMS Kids and Amulet Books for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purposes of review**
Did I ever mention I love stories with Faustian deals? Well, I love stories with Faustian deals. And here we have a YA novel that not only opens with our protagonist literally making a deal with a crossroads demon, but perfectly executes an introspective tale about the many winding journeys we take in life.
Let’s start with the opening, because it was the entire reason I picked up this novel, especially given that it’s the “hook,” as it were, that’s used on the dust-jacket to tempt a potential reader. And, oh yes, it works wonderfully. First off: the crossroads demon is a woman. I love that, because it really, for me, enhanced the kind of LITTLE MERMAID-esque vibes that I was getting from the details of the deal Blue had to make with said demon. Also, it probably doesn’t hurt that I was imagining the female crossroads demons from SUPERNATURAL, and that’s always a good thing.
Not only that, but the demon has Blue perform “Man of Constant Sorrow” in one of the greatest moments of literary irony I’ve ever seen at a YA-book’s outset. I mean, guys, this the opening sequence! I’m already getting this much, and I hadn’t even gotten past chapter one. And music is a theme which continues on throughout the novel. After Blue gives up her voice as part of the deal with the devil, she learns to use her guitar as a means of speaking and I cannot stress enough how much I absolutely loved this idea. As a musician, I know all too well what it means to use music as a way to speak, and Mason-Black captures it so beautifully that I could have sworn I heard the music of the novel while reading it. (Speaking on that point: soundtrack, maybe? That would be nice!)
As Blue is searching for her sister, Cass, this novel is, at its surface, a road-trip story. Blue travels through the Northeast on this quest, meeting a wide spectrum of colourful characters along the way. And I do mean a wide spectrum: through Blue’s journey, we see the best and worst of humanity and everything in between, and we see how Blue deals with all the unexpected challenges that crop up throughout her quest. This is, after all, a deal with a devil, and so this journey was never going to be as “easy” as it seemed. And, yes, easy gets quotes around it because, in truth, the task seemed hard enough to begin with, throw in the loss of Blue’s voice, and I’m already looking at this search in terms of Herculean levels of difficulty.
But, as with any good road trip, it’s about the internal journey of the wanderer; it’s about what happens with Blue. Here is a girl who has lived in the shadow of the her mother’s legacy and who, in searching for her missing sister, is actually searching for herself. She’s trying to find not only where she belongs, but what kind of person she is when divorced from that musical legacy. And this book is wonderful in emphasizing not only unconventional families, but the families we make by choice. The ones who we let into our weird little orbits and make a part of our own souls, whether it be by chance or by necessity.
A lyrical piece of magical realism, easily and eclectically smashing together contemporary fiction with fantasy, this novel was an absolute delight. I’ve never read something quite like it, and I look forward to whatever Mason-Black has for me next.