I enjoyed Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series (my thoughts) quite a bit and I was eager to see what she would do with a fantasy book. What she did is amazing. A Corner of White is absolutely wonderful. It is a combination of contemporary and fantasy that does both well and brings to life a cast of characters that you want to know and love.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
This is a tale of missing
persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life,
under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of
Cambridge (in our world).
Elliot, on the other hand, is in search
of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead.
The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that
Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics
teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find
both his dad and the truth.
As Madeleine and Elliot move closer
to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across
worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries.
But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap:
dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination
with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance
could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses...
Madeleine is a girl of The World. She has lived in many exotic locales,but now lives with her mother in Cambridge and they don't have much money. Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello where there are attacks by antagonistic Colors, magic, and strange happenings in the political landscape of the Kingdom. When a crack between the two worlds opens up the two begin writing letters to each other. Elliot knows of The World. They study it in Cello. Madeleine thinks Elliot is a fantasy nerd with too much time on his hands but she plays along. Sort of. One of the brilliant things about Moriarty's construction of this novel is that she has Madeleine challenge the fantasy world she created. Through her she mocks it, points out the nonsensical in it, and therefore makes it all the more believable. Ingenious. There are times in the book when the town of Bonfire and its inhabitants seem more real than Cambridge.
The first part of the book is a bit confusing and not much is clear. I couldn't help being drawn into these characters lives and their story even if I didn't fully understand what that story was at first. Moriarty has strong control over the narrative and the style of her writing had me eager to keep reading until all was clear. In the meantime I was falling in love with both Madeleine and Elliot in all of their confused uncertainty about their lives. They are very different but have the same essential struggle. Both feel the void left by their missing fathers and both are shying away from facing the harsh realities before them. Their letters to each other are a mixture of complaint, advise, and friendly banter that are delightful. The supporting characters are all fascinating and complex too. Both Madeleine and Elliot have hard things filling up their lives. Things that any reader can identify with, yet the tone of this book remains lighthearted and fun. The hard things are there, but life is still happening and Madeleine and Elliot both embrace life with wholehearted enthusiasm.
There were a few elements of the story I questioned while I was reading. Why is this here? This seems unnecessary. But then the end comes and I knew. It is all necessary. All of it lays the foundation for the end which took me by surprise and in a most delightful way. It made me love the book even more. I absolutely can not wait for the sequel. I am satisfied with this ending, but as soon as I finished I wanted more. I didn't want to leave this world or Madeleine and Elliot behind.
I read a galley received from the publisher via NetGalley. A Corner of White will be available April 1, 2013.