I don't often get a chance to read a book before my librarian friends hit it. True fact: they are some voracious people with a book. I saw a couple reviews for this going by in my blog and Twitter feeds, and did my best to not see them until I had had a chance to read and digest this work for myself, and -- wow. WOW. As a writer of color, I find this book honest, tremendously brave, and cutting edge in a way that many of us don't yet have the courage to write. To me as a reader, SEE NO COLOR is a powerful, difficult book and it is beautifully painful. The novel ends with a splintered jaggedness to the protagonist's life that is a lot like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope; constantly shifting, but coming together to create something beautiful.
Summary:Alex Kirtridge, sixteen, believes she's made for baseball. It consumes her as it consumes her father, a Minor League player whose dream of the Majors was taken from him, but which he's passed along to his kids. Alex works hard to catch hold of the dream, but a packet of letters shared by her sister, Kit, reveals a family secret. Once brought out into the open, this secret pulls other, uglier things she's been able to ignore into the limelight. Suddenly, every single incident of not blending in, fitting, or belonging to her self or her family seems enormous. Alex - neither fish nor fowl - doesn't have the language or the knowledge to help her navigate this new sense of her identity -- and neither the boy she's beginning to love, nor the family she's beginning to wonder if she really knows. The novel doesn't provide easy answers - or any answers, as readers grapple with the reality of who Alex thought she was, who she is as a transracial adoptee, and who she will become - yet still provides a achingly hopeful conclusion.
Peaks: Just. Too. Many. Good. Things. The language, the graduated awareness of the protagonist, the confusion, the longing, the realistic highs and lows of her emotional state -- this character just jumps off of the page. The father's deferred dreams. The rules of the game. The HAIR. Also very real and significant, the continual specter of the discomfort of her adoptive family -- the way they privilege their right to ignore pieces of her identity, the novel's articulation of the discomfort which people of color often encounter just by existing, and how it is shown to shape what Alex allows herself to see about herself, and how she behaves. Each of us goes through a painful tearing down and building up of our essential selves in adolescence, but possibly people lacking whatever privileged labeling do it more than once. Finding out you don't is like being knocked down to your foundations, all over again. We don't see Alex being entirely rebuilt in this novel, but we see some pretty darned strong re-bar and a sure foundation.
And while my comments on this are more from very technical perspective, I would feel comfortable handing this to a teen reader (heck, ANY reader), knowing that they would come away with a great many emotions and thoughts that would take them new places.
See also Hannah's thoughtful review.
Valleys: No valleys. I am not a baseball player, but that really is the only thing that caused me to need to read more closely, to follow baseball-ese. This did not deter me.
Conclusion: Simply a powerful narrative of identity, its loss, and the triumph of deciding who you are for yourself. While necessarily a shorter review than usual, to prevent spoilers in this very short novel, I nevertheless say this novel is worth its shiny Kirkus star, and needs to be read by and talked about by many readers.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. After November 1, you can find SEE NO COLOR by Shannon Gibney at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!