Title: Devil and the Bluebird
Author: Jennifer Mason-Black
Published: May 17, 2016
Length: 336 pages
Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.
Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.
Thank you so much to Amulet Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! I was so intrigued by Devil and the Bluebird after reading its synopsis – music and a pact with a devil. Definitely my type of thing.
I really like the cover art for this book – I loved the fact that there’s so much detail in the guitar, and so many objects in the design that are only significant after reading the book.
I had issues with the writing style of this book – while it flowed well, the pacing of this book was just very problematic. I thought the beginning and the ending were both extremely rushed (I had more of an issue with the ending, though – more on that later), and that the rest of the book could be dragged out more than necessary.
The writing could also be very flowery – I found it to be littered with metaphors, and actually pointed it out to Makayla @ Invisible Reads while I was on FaceTime with her. This didn’t bother me too much, but it could definitely get distracting – especially in the beginning. The dialogue of this book could also feel forced at times, in the sense that things felt like they were forcibly written to be profound.
Something that really, really, genuinely annoyed me about this book was the way that Blue communicated – since, as we’re told in this book’s synopsis, her voice is taken from her, she’s forced to communicate with a pad of paper. My issue was this was the WAY she wrote her notes – there were frequent smiley faces and sad faces used, and this just irritated me. Who the hell bothers to write down smiley faces when they’re mute and depending on a notepad to communicate? It was through this dialogue that I really got a sense of how immature she could be – there was literally a scene where a sweet woman told Blue a heartwarming story about her own father, and then offered her shelter and safety for the night… to which Blue responded with something along the lines of ‘K, Thanks! :)’. I just couldn’t deal with it, and this was honestly my biggest peeve about this book.
The minor/secondary characters were definitely my favorite part of this book. I LOVED the trans representation that was provided (!!!), and I loved the vibrancy of some of the secondary characters, and the thought that was put into their creation. To name a few, I loved reading about Steve, the librarian, and Andrea. I found their stories, and Blue’s encounters with them, to be really thought out, poignant and occasionally very moving. I found myself really wanting to find out how they turned out, and I hope everything went okay with them.
However, there were some characters that were (barely) introduced that I found to be, overall, very insignificant to the storyline – such as Teena. Teena was shown to us once, but was mentioned every 2 pages (slight exaggeration) during the first 150 pages – more than either Blue’s mom or her sister was mentioned. I felt like this unnecessary repetition was meant to drill into our heads that Blue was feeling very abandoned and lost – but Teena didn’t advance the plot in any way and I couldn’t care less about her, and I thought it was a little ridiculous that everything Blue saw reminded her of Teena.
With Blue herself, I didn’t find her to be the most mature character, in her train of thought, her actions, and her communications (… the smiley faces). However, she definitely improved during the last half of the book, and I found her growth and journey to be very satisfying.
I love the concept of this book so much – the premise was what drew me in when I read the synopsis, and I was imagining a lot of magical realism and supernatural events that comes with making a deal with the/a devil. But on the other hand, that’s not exactly what I read – Devil and the Bluebird was more coming-of-age with a few touches of supernatural events here and there rather than a magical realism book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not entirely what I expected, and I would have appreciated more supernatural encounters that you would expect to occur after making a deal with a devil at the crossroads.
I really enjoyed the supernatural events that DID occur, however – there were some parts of this book that were deliciously creepy, and I was really impressed at the way Jennifer Mason-Black was able to convey them. I also loved an idea that was brought up in this book – the idea that people’s souls sound like music. I can think of very few things that are more reminiscent of people’s souls – besides books, obviously!
While I wouldn’t classify Blue’s minor romance with <spoiler> Dill </spoiler> as insta-love, it was a little rushed for my taste – this wasn’t too big of an issue, though, since the romance was really not a focal point of the book at all. If anything, I would say that it wasn’t even necessary, but its existence doesn’t detract from the book itself, and allows for a few cute scenes.
I also felt as though the ending was too rushed – the entire book worked to set up the plot and paint us a picture of Blue’s life, as well as her life with her mother, sister, and Tish, and sets up a resolution within the last 25 pages. I would’ve enjoyed it if there had been more time taken with the ending, and more work put in to wrap up all the loose ends – so basically, I thought that this book could have had better pacing. On the point of pacing, I would have liked for there to have been more of a sense of urgency in this book – Blue was running on a 6 month timeframe before she and her sister were to lose their souls, but you wouldn’t know it from the way things kept dragging out, and there were basically no indicators of the time.
I decided to give The Devil and the Bluebird a 3 out of 5 star rating. Overall, I did enjoy this book (albeit some aspects more than others) – I would never say that I didn’t like it, just that I felt like a few things could have been done better. I think this was a really solid work, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Jennifer Mason-Black in the future!