I received a copy of Devil and the Bluebird as an ARC in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley and the publisher, Amulet Books.
I’m gonna be honest with you – I clicked on Devil and the Bluebird to start with because of the cover art. The doodled style on the cover is echoed throughout the book, and I loved it. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read anything that dealt with the crossroads devil folklore, so this book intrigued me from the start, and it definitely didn’t disappoint me.
Devil and the Bluebird begins with 17-year-old Bluebird “Blue” Riley standing at the crossroads with the devil in the red dress, asking for the chance to save her sister’s soul. Her sister, Cass, had left town less than a year after their mother died of cancer, leaving Blue alone in the care of their aunt Lynne. The devil gives her six months to find Cass in exchange for her voice, and sets Blue’s hiking boots to point her in the right direction.
With her charmed boots, her mother’s guitar, and a bag of childhood memories, Blue sets off on a cross country trip where she expects to find her sister, but instead learns more and more about herself, the world, and family as she travels west.
I found this story charming, but suspenseful enough to be taken seriously. Devil and the Bluebird is marketed as a YA novel, due to the protagonists age, but this would be great for all ages because of the great lessons it teaches.
Blue pretty much travels across the United States – by hitchhiking, by bus, train, and even walking when she had to. Blue was a sweet, stubborn and slightly naive 17-year-old. She had a very small amount of street smarts, but it seemed to me that she’d grown up without meeting very many strangers. She kind of trusted everybody she met, until she felt a twinge in her gut that said she didn’t trust the person she was talking to. She usually had good reason, but just like in real life, she learned that you can’t always trust everyone just because they seem nice.
This was truly a coming of age story more than a supernatural story, because Blue learned so much throughout it. One quote from the end really speaks to what she learned in a way that I could never recreate.
“She’d given it away once; she never would again. Life took things from you: mothers, friends, sometimes even choices. But that wasn’t the same as giving parts of yourself away. It was her voice to use: to say no and yes and “I love you” with, to sing with, even to hold silent. That night at the crossroads, her voice had meant so little to her. Not just her voice. She’d ignored so many parts of herself, the ones that could be brave and loving, that could hurt and survive and become something more. The woman in the red dress had taken from her at the crossroads, but she’d given her the chance to become… herself.”
I want to applaud the author for working a diverse cast into Devil and the Bluebird without forcing it. There are homeless characters, several LGBTQ characters, and characters of a variety of races, although many were minor, due to the traveling nature of Blue’s story. They were all written in a way that it just seemed absolutely natural for them to be who they were, which I absolutely loved.
Devil and the Bluebird is Jennifer Mason-Black’s debut novel, though her writing has been featured in places such as The Sun, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. It is due to release in hardback on May 17, 2016, so if it sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend it.
I leave you with another quote that I really loved from the end of the novel.
“Maybe the answer was as simple as this: maybe every voice has a role to play, a song each could use, a way to keep making things better. Maybe what seemed like the best was only the beginning.”
I really enjoyed this novel, although it got a little moralistic at times, so I’d rate it on the high end of a four star rating.