Today, I'm posting my review of Shelley Coriell's Goodbye Rebel Blue! I had the honor of reading an ARC several months ago, and I'm so glad everyone else will finally be able to read this book!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
Format read: E-ARC via NetGalley
Through Rebel Blue's decision to take on the challenge of fulfilling the tasks on a deceased classmate's bucket list, she learns that everything she once thought was out of her control, actually isn't. And at the end of the day, she's not as out of place as she may once believed.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
What I didn't expect though, was how thoughtful and intriguing the book would turn out to be. Instead of the typical YA story of a quirky girl who eventually finds herself, Coriell has actually written a thoughtful, meditative look on how teenagers begin to learn the difference between destiny and self-determination for the first time.
Things that worked:
I’ll be honest: when I noticed that the girl on the cover had blue streaks in her hair, I kind of made a face.
Outside of Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’m generally not a big fan of fictional characters who use hair color to define their personality.
However, I quickly realized that all of my concerns were for naught. Coriell made Rebel so much more than someone who solely defined herself by her hair color. She was snarky and mouthy in the beginning, but she was also sad, unsure and broken.
In many ways, Coriell’s portrayal of Rebel’s state of mind made me begin to see the hair color not as a way for her to be contrary to bug her aunt/cousin, but a way for her to continue the status quo of the life that she had before her mom’s accident. She literally doesn’t know anything else, so she sticks with what she knows – which is both sad, thoughtful and touching.
As for the secondary characters – you don’t necessarily get to know them as well as you would in a standard YA book; more on this later – but I liked what I did learn about them.
Coriell did an especially good job of having readers sympathize with Rebel’s cousin. She could have easily come off as someone who was just jealous, bratty and the antithesis to Rebel’s heroine, but Coriell presents valid reasons for why the cousin is behaving the way she is.
* The writing/plotting and pacing/world-building
The writing, plotting and world building were short from a general length perspective, but what we did get was lovely and beautiful.
Coriell writes with a practiced hand now, helping readers get into every crevice of Rebel’s mind. Even when we see Rebel doing things that we may not personally agree with, Coriell helps us understand the rational behind her actions, and in many ways, how everything was really just coming from a well-intentioned place.
Plotting wise, Coriell does a good job of drawing the reader through the novel, including enough questions and revelations to make us wonder what’s going to happen next.
The same goes for pacing – everything felt extremely organic. From Rebel’s first meeting with Kennedy, to the news about Kennedy’s list, to her burgeoning developing relationship. Things unfolded at a pace where I could easily see the same thing happening in real life.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
While I agree that the secondary characters weren’t as developed as they normally would be in a standard YA novel, I would also argue that this was a very smart move on Coriell’s part.
At the end of the day, Goodbye, Rebel Blue is about a girl using a classmate’s bucket list to come to terms with her own past. Through the act of carrying out all of Kennedy’s tasks, Rebel begins to realize that she won’t always be defined by the earlier years of her life, and she’s still free and capable of making her own future.
It’s very much a journey of self-discovery, with the key emphasis on self.
If Corriell had decided to have Rebel focus on her burgeoning relationship with Nate, at the expense of figuring out who she truly is and what she wants, it would have not only felt disingenuous, but would have also lessened the overall impact of the story.
By relegating Nate to the sidelines, Corriell didn’t make the easy choice, but she certainly made the best one for the story she was trying to tell.
This is very much the period in which teenagers realize that they’re no longer completely defined by what their teachers or their parents tell them, and they’re about to start making adult choices that will impact their future.
While Rebel’s circumstances are out of the norm, her journey is a very universal one, and I think that readers will really appreciate it.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of Goodbye, Rebel Blue from Abrams, via NetGalley. Thank you!
About the author:
(Courtesy of Shelley's website)