Posted by Venus on Saturday, June 15, 2013
Labels: Young Adult Review
Twelve-year old Basil has a secret, one that he has never shared with anyone, not even his well-meaning grandmother. Whenever Basil sees a number he associates that number with a color. After being homeschooled since he was small, Basil finds school to be a lonely place, until he meets Tenzie. Tenzie is annoying and overly talkative, but she too has synesthesia and Basil finds himself drawn to someone like himself. When Basil's estranged mother returns, she throws everything into chaos and Basil is forced to find truth and happiness, just like colors, are not always black and white.
This book truly felt like two different books. The first half, dealing with Basil, his grandmother, and Tenzie read like a very nice book about friendship and understanding. Tenzie is a latch-key child whose parents always seem to be away. She immediately begins calling Basil's grandmother Grams, which annoys Basil and begins inserting herself into his life. She sits with him at lunch even though he does not want her to, stands up to bullys for him, and takes over the special times he used to share with his grandmother. The synesthesia is an interesting element to the story, but takes a back seat to the plot, which is important whenever presenting any kind of disorder or disability into a book. And then....
Then Basil's mother shows up and this becomes a completely different book in tone and plot. Quickly, the story shifts into love, forgiveness, righting wrongs, finding the truth, and understanding ones place in the world. The second story was admittedly far more interesting to me, but rather jarring in comparison to the first half of the book. Basil's mother, Carly, is a wholly selfish woman, whose primary concern is for herself. Her inability to care for or even show love to her son is heart-wrenching, made even more so by Tenzie's absolute desire to escape her own life and become an actress like Carly. (a failed actress I should add)
I waffled back and forth as to whether I liked this book. One the one hand there are the typical stereotypes and tropes. Homeschooled kid doesn't know how to make friends and is a loner. As a former homeschooler, I absolutely hate this image. Not that these kids don't exist, but this seems to be the only image of homeschoolers I see in fiction. Basil complains about the children in the neighborhood beside his, never coming outside to play, yet it doesn't appear that he ever did either, because even suburban kids do go outside sometimes, crazy as that sounds.
Carly is your atypical neglectful mother. As far as I could tell, she has absolutely no love or compassion for Basil, even reaching the point where she would abandon he and Tenzie with no money. This made her flat and a terrible villain and an unforgivable character in my book. I am not saying mothers like this do not exist, but it sure made it easy to hate her, which seemed to be the only reason she was around.
On the other hand, Basil's search for the truth and for Carly's affection was engaging and honestly, if the whole book had been like the first half, I probably would have stopped reading. So I think I am going to middle of the road with this one. It was a 2.5 out of 5 stars for me. As for the disability...this was interesting element, but didn't add or take away anything from the story, and yet whenever I think about it, it will always be that book about colors. I am still unsure as to whether that is a good or a bad thing.