Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published on October 9, 2018 by Feiwel Friends
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
It is very likely that Blanca & Roja will be the book that is the hardest for me to review this year. There was so much that I learned from it and so much that I liked about it. Unfortunately, the things that I didn't like were things that I abhorred. This may be a book that I have to go back to and read later in life, after some serious consideration and growth on my end.
What I Liked
- I adored the relationship between the two sisters. It can be very difficult for an author to authentically write about sisters without adding jealousy over boys or making the girls sound so unrealistically catty. McLemore did it right. Is there drama over boys? Yes. But that drama is portrayed in a believable manner, not just for the sake of adding it to the story because that's what books about sisters "need." My sister and I would do just about anything for each other and it was wonderful to see Blanca and Roja sharing that same kind of bond.
- Page intrigued me. Although I am a teacher, nonbinary individuals are not commonly seen in our building. I had absolutely no experience with them before this novel. I will not act like Page helped me to completely understand them and know everything about them, that would be foolish and arrogant. I will admit, however, that Page has brought the subject to light in my world. I enjoyed having my eyes opened to a new way of life.
- McLemore knows her way around atmospheric writing. She truly brings all of the aspects of this world to life with a writing style that definitely sets her apart from many other authors. I was entranced by the way that the world around Blanca and Roja changed as they went through different parts of their story.
What I Didn't Like As Much
- McLemore tried to hard to do too much with this book. There were at least four different fairy tales that she mushed into one novel. Alone, that would have been fantastic. But then she added drama in the Holt family and a very confusing relationship between Page and Barclay and I was lost. I was simply overloaded with information. I wish that she had just spent her time focusing on the girls and writing about Barclay taking down his family in a later novel. That way, there would have been some resolution of the Holt story as well as the girls' story.
- I spent so much of this novel being confused. I thought that it was set in a much earlier time period for most of the book, and then there were debit cards and jeans and gas pumps?! Even after finishing this piece, I have no idea when it took place. It would have helped if McLemore had clearly stated the year or if she had given more clues as to when it was taking place.
- While I appreciated that Blanca's relationship had some resolution, I hated that Roja's relationship had none. Roja's relationship was the one that caused the most drama. It was the one that I cared about the most! And, there was nothing. Loose ends must be wrapped up and woven in.