The Blue Girl: Or, why Talking to Ghosts Can Be a Bad Idea
Charles De Lint is probably my third favorite writer (after Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett), so I was expecting to like this book, a young adult novel set (as most of De Lint's fiction is) in the fictional city of Newford. And I wasn't disappointed.
"The Blue Girl" concerns the adventures of Imogene Yeck, a high school aged girl who's just moved to Newford with her older brother and mother. Imogene has always had a bit of an independant streak to her, and in fact at her old high school was a bit of a juvenile delinquent. However, she's decided to reform herself and shape up, while still keeping the attitude to always be herself.
This is why she approaches the shy and alienated Maxine on her first day at Redding High School, hoping to find a kindred spirit. To her joy, she does, discovering an intelligent, driven, and caring young woman who's basically retreated inside herself thanks to a tyrannical mother and constant bullying by your typical assholish cheerleaders and jocks. Through Imogene, Maxine is able to gain an example in how to always be proud of who she is, and to slowly but surely come out of her shell.
It was around this point that I was beginning to wonder if I had picked up a novel by another writer by mistake. This story was good, and I loved the way Imogene and Maxine played off each other, but it seemed odd having a Charles De Lint novel with so little supernatural content. However, at the introduction of the third viewpoint character (the story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of its three leads), I found the supernatural elements I was looking for. The third main character is Adrian, a young boy who went to Imogene and Maxine's school several years before, who died mysteriously and now haunts the school. Imogene starts seeing him, and eventually gets him to tell her his story.
Adrian, for whatever reason, discovered one day he could see the house fairies that inhabit the school. As they were comparatively nice to him, they became his friends, teaching him all sorts of things. It was during an ill-advised attempt to learn to fly that Adrian fell off the roof of the school and died, and he has haunted the school ever since.
As Imogene can see Adrian but not the fairies, she disbelieves him. Wanting her to believe him, he asks the fairies to do something to allow her to see them. Unfortunately, whatever they do attracts the attention of more than just fairies, and soon Imogene is being threatened by some very dangerous entities that appear to be attracted to her like a beacon...
Although this novel was slow to take off, once it did it was very good. As I mentioned, both Imogene and Maxine work very well together as characters, and they work well alone also. Both go through significant changes, and I loved getting into the minds of both of them. I want to see them in future Newford books, especially Maxine, whose career in Newford should prove interesting if it goes the way it looks it will at the end of the book. Pelly, Imogene's imaginary friend from when she was younger who suddenly starts appearing, very much real, is also a very interesting character who turns out to be much more complex than he initially appears, and although we don't get enough focus on him in the novel (we're never even told exactly what he is), what we do get is very interesting. Adrian as a character is significantly weaker, possibly because he's not supposed to be as sympathetic as the others, and I found him signifcantly harder to like. He's so pathetic, makes so many bad decisions, and in general is such an imperfect character that I did not look forward to his chapters as much as I did the other two viewpoint characters.
This book's main problem is that there is too much going on. There are ghosts, and angels (not literal angels, but dead people who have postponed their own passing on to help those dead who are floundering, who refuse to pass on), and the dark creatures which make up the main antagonists of the novel, and fairies, and whatever Pelly is. It all gets rather overstuffed, and that's not even dealing with subplots involving both heroines' romantic prospects, or Maxine's mother, or Imogene's past. Although what we got was good, sometimes bits of it distracted from other bits.
However, it was a good story, with a climax that had me on the edge of my seat, and warm characters that i really wanted to get to know. I most definitely loved it, and I would suggest it to any Newford fans out there, as well as anyone who wants a good story with solid characters. Read it if you see it!