A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine Series #1)

A Corner of White  - Jaclyn Moriarty So, let’s talk about why this book didn’t work.There’s actually a lot of reasons why, most of them small and rather ignorable. Having a cast of identically ‘quirky’ characters is rather bland, but to a reader who likes their quirk, it’s enjoyable and ultimately harmless. And if a few concepts here and there aren’t explained well enough to actually understand them, well, sometimes that’s okay, too.No, the problem with A Corner of White is the plot.The absolute, utter, total, complete lack of a plot.This book was nearly 400 pages of people just existing. Quirkily. Normally, I judge what the plot is (or should be) by the summary given on the book jacket. Sometimes I’ll be pleasantly surprised by a different plot, or a plot that goes off in a different direction, but when a book like A Corner of White comes around, the summary works as a guide to what the book wanted to be.The book wanted to be about two people having two different stories: Madeline having her coming-of-age story, and Elliot looking for his long lost father (and coming-of-age in the process). Along the way, the two exchange letters.Frankly, the letters thing bothered me. They were the only thing connecting the two stories, and I mean the only thing. Madeline and Elliot wrote to each other, and then had absolutely no influence on each other until the last couple of pages. The stories did not cross or affect each other. This was a book of two completely different stories, just occasionally one character would think about the other for a few pages.But you know what? I could even deal with that if I had to. Clearly the two will cross more in future books, so as a set up, it’s annoying but it’s fine.The problem is that Madeline’s coming of age story flopped like a frat boy at a pool party, and Elliot never bothered to get off his ass and look for his father.Really. Madeline’s story is particularly hard to follow, because all she does is sit around and think quirky thoughts while drinking coffee with her quirky friends and going to classes with her quirky teachers. Quirkily. She certainly has the potential to have some personal growth and learn some life lessons, but she doesn’t. Instead she has a very (very) bland romance with her friend that kind of sputters to a stop and then is never resolved. She breaks up with Jack (quirkily!) and then realizes he was a good person worth dating all along, and then…uh, the book ends. And she comes to this realization suddenly. One day, the page turns and the text randomly informs us (in a quirky manner, of course) that she realizes that Jack is a great guy, and then after that a miscommunication breaks them up, and then nothing. Another thing that could have happened was Madeline realizing that her life in Oxford is a-okay and her father isn’t the Santa Clause she thought him to be, but once again, she just randomly realizes this one day. Add to that, she never really seemed to be upset with Oxford in the first place. She whined about it, occasionally, sometimes, but we never saw it in her actions. She was just hanging out with friends and being quirky, and it’s really hard to tell that she was honestly upset through THE INCESCENT AMOUNTS OF QUIRK FLYING AROUND. Seriously, if she hadn’t out-and-out told me that she was unhappy, I would have thought she was just pleased as Marry Poppins to be there, because it’s not like she was acting terribly upset. So in the last few pages she ‘comes to terms’ with her life in Oxford – completely at random, with no effort, it just happens – and then…not a blessed thing changes. Another thing that could have happened with Madeline was her mother’s sickness (also mentioned in the blurb). Oh, good lord, her mother’s sickness. It made a brief early appearance, then Madeline ignored it for roughly 200 pages. Then she decides to finally say “go to the doctor” and that’s it. Holly goes to the doctor. Gets diagnosed. Then OH NO suddenly she’s about to die. What dramatically convenient timing. Good thing she wasn’t close to death in those 200 pages that Madeline spent rambling on about cats. The death-bed thing lasts all of one night and about 50 pages, then gets a complete and total cure, without Madeline’s putting in any effort, without her having to emotionally deal with it, without her even having any guilt over not taking action sooner.So. Madeline had no plot. She had the potential for plot, but she had no plot. She did not take any actions toward any goals, she did not accomplish any feats, and she did not change between the start and finish of the novel. The Madeline on page 372 is no different from the Madeline on page 1.Fortunately, we don’t spend most of the time with Madeline. We spent most of the time with Elliot. Unfortunately, Elliot is just as much of a useless lump as Madeline. Elliot’s dad went missing a year and a half ago, and Elliot wants to find him. When we meet Elliot, he’s just gotten home from a dangerous journey to look for his dad, and he’s about to head out on another one. Then he decides to stay home for the sake of playing high school sports.That’s basically this whole book. People could be doing something interesting, instead they stay home and play games.From the minute Elliot decides to stay home “until the [game] finals,” that’s the end of any advancement he makes toward his own plot. Seriously, the very first time we meet him is when he gives up on his own plot. There’s some stuff in there about how Elliot has to let go of his dad, admit that his dad ran off and didn’t get kidnapped, let it go, move on…once again, all that has potential. Once again, it didn’t really happen. Other people looked into the missing persons issue, other people came to conclusions, other people told Elliot their conclusions, and Elliot spent a couple pages going “aw that sucks” and then says no more on the issue. Oh, and there’s something about a Butterfly Child in there that we retroactively realize is supposed to help him come to terms with all this, but he and the plot both ignore the Child until it’s time for That Special Meaningful Scene, which lasts half a chapter, during which Elliot cries a little, and I guess that’s all the character development he gets because then it’s all over.And that’s it. That’s all that happens. Almost-plots, potential, and quirkiness. There is no substance to this book. If other first-in-a-series books are the opening arc to a shorter, tighter book, then A Corner of White is the prologue that should have been cut.When I went through the reviews of this book, people kept telling me to push through, that it had a slow start, that the ending makes it all worth it. There was some action at the end, I guess. It was unconnected to everything else that had been going on; it was just random action flung at us for the sake of a climax. And there’s set-up for some very interesting things to happen in later books. But again, that’s for later books, it didn’t happen in this book. Because this book is a fucking prologue stretched out to 372 pages.I will say this in the book’s favor, though: it was original. It had some good ideas. It had a lot of potential to be something great. And it didn’t fall into the normal clichés and traps that so much of YA is prone to. It was wholly inoffensive. If you don’t mind reading about people just existing in their quirky and fresh ways, if you want to read something that’s off the beaten path and don’t care that it goes in circles, then sure. Read this. It won’t hurt you.