Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves 2010
Simon & Schuster
IQ "I was biracial and bi cultural-a walking billboard for adaptation." Hanna pg. 23 (there are so many awesome quotes in this book, it was impossible to pick just one. I didn't want it to be spoiler-y or too long)
Hanna may be crazy, but just like everyone else, she wants to be loved. Her father has died, so she sets out to find her mother. She knows that her mother, Rosalee Price, lives in Portero, Texas. Hanna spent many years of her life in Finland with her Finnish father, she's never connected with her African American mother. When she arrives Hanna's mother is more than reluctant to accept her, especially when she finds out that Hanna hallucinates and has manic depression, but it's OK because she has lots of medicines and when she remembers to take the medicine she's fine. Really. However, Portero may be even crazier than Hanna. It's filled with secrets and terrified people and no one will explain to Hanna the history of the town or what is going on. All Hanna wants is to be accepted by the people of the town and most importantly, her mother.
Hanna is a fantastic character! She's pretty and self-assured and she's not afraid to play up her beauty. She enjoys torturing boys by showing them what they can't have and while her vanity borders on being obnoxious, it never fully crosses the line. The author does a good job of keeping Hanna from ever getting annoying by showing her vulnerable and some-what odd side. Also, it was most refreshing to see a YA heroine who doesn't see having sex as a big deal. She's open to having sex, she uses protection and she enjoys it (*gasp of horror* ha). Even with all this, the sex in the book is not graphic, it's handled tastefully. Another thing that was handled well, was having a mental illness. I'm not an expert, but I thought the author was very respectful, she never dumbed down Hanna. Mental illness is not often portrayed in books and I enjoyed this glimpse into the various types of mental illness and the thought process they might go through. The rest of the characters make this book even better. Another rarity in YA: a mother who abandoned her husband and child. I was really curious as to why she left them and if she would ever acknowledge that deep-down she does love Hanna (I think every parent loves their child since they are a part of them. Some parents just try to deny/hide it). My heart went out to Hanna because she tries so hard with her mother and Rosalee is cold. Their relationship is realistic with breakthroughs and setbacks. Wyatt was a sweet-heart, although I had the same first impression of him as Hanna. Shoko was very cool as well and I loved that "she had too much self-confidence to be in high school" (pg. 35), she could be distant but she had a softer side to her as well, much like all the characters.
The world of Portero is a delightfully haunted world. I was so intrigued by everything there and I was so glad we got to experience each new and foreign thing with Hanna. There are monsters and alternate worlds (sort-of) and lots of mystery enveloping the town. It's eerie but not in a nightmare-ish way (trust me, I can't watch horror movies or read horror books), it's compelling. The author has such a way with words "The man's arms were outstretched, his see-through palms flat against a long stretch of window that wasn't nearly as crystal clear as he was. Numerous bloodlike, gelatinous stains pinwheeled hypnotically at either end of the long window, like two giants outside the school had blown their brains out against the glass." (pg. 32) Alluring imagery, I can see exactly what's being described in my mind's eye! *shivers*
Bleeding Violet is a book that you will not be able to put down. The never-before seen creatures, eccentric characters, unique setting and unforgettable heroine (and her fascination with the color purple) all make for a wonderfully bizarre read. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger which I was really happy about and I'm eager to visit Portero again in the author's next book! As for the IQ, can I get an Amen from those who are bi racial/bi cultural or both? ;) It was nice to read a book where the main character just happened to be bi-racial, there's not a huge deal made over Hanna's heritage (with the exception of the pronunciation of her last name Jarvinen, with an : over the a). Hanna is so different with her background (raised by a single father), mental illness and incredibly poised and confident along with self sufficient (she sews her own clothes). I love the tagline "Crazy never looked so beautiful" and the cover is exquisite. I love this book.
Disclosure: Bought it, one of the best purchases of my reading life :) Definitely a top read of 2010
PS Stop by tomorrow for my interview with the fabulous Dia!