The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint – Review

The Blue Girl

Book Jacket:

Seventeen-year-old Imogene’s rebellious nature has caused her more harm than good – so when her family moves to Newford, she decides to reinvent herself. She won’t lose her punk/thrift-shop look, but she’ll try to avoid the gangs, work a little harder at school, and maybe even stay out of trouble for a change. But trouble shows up anyway. Imogene quickly catches the eye of Redding High’s bullies, as well as the school’s resident teenage ghost. Then she gets on the wrong side of a gang of malicious fairies. When her old imaginary childhood friend, Pelly, actually manifests, Imogene realizes that the impossible is all too real. And it’s dangerous. If she wants to survive high school – not to mention stay alive – she has to fall back on the skills she picked up in her hometown, running with a gang. Even with her new friend Maxine and some unexpected allies by her side, will she be able to make it?


Charles de Lint was a name I’d heard of (after all, he’s one of the Big Names in urban fantasy), but beyond that I really knew nothing about him or his books – and so The Blue Girl made for my first, rather blind foray into his extensive body of work. And for me, this book was something of a contradiction – on the one hand, it was lovely storytelling in many respects, and on the other it was a rather dissatisfying read.

But first off, what I truly, truly loved about this novel were the characters. Imogene, our heroine, is just awesome – funny, tough, caring, unrelentingly authentic and unafraid of being her weird self, Imogene is basically the super-cool offbeat friend we all wish we’d had in high school. Her snark in particular is wonderful in that never once does it feels like she (or the author) is trying too hard, or being catty or precious – no, Imogene is just effortlessly original and amusing, and all in all gloriously ballsy when it came to being herself, especially in the face of bullying and social ostracization. Basically Imogene alone is more than enough to make this book worth a read.

Second on the character front, I also really enjoyed how the core relationship of this book wasn’t a romance but rather a friendship between two girls, Imogene and Maxine. Now Maxine does tend to stray into Imogene’s shadow a bit – she’s a quieter kind of character, a good girl in every respect – but I loved how the friendship blossomed between the two of them, and how they saved each other. Imogene helps Maxine break out of her paralyzing, overly controlled life, and Maxine helps Imogene brake her impetuousness, helping her to keep from going too far, and together they both end up becoming better versions of themselves – and that, that I loved. So while yes, there are some boyfriends floating around in the background of this story, in the end this is a story of true friendship, and that was just lovely to see.

And thirdly, oddly enough I think the character I respected most, in terms of de Lint’s writing, was Adrian – and interestingly it was because of just how much Adrian annoyed the crap out of me. Adrian, our teen ghost, is pretty much a wet dishrag in every respect – and while I did feel for him, due to his tragic past, I also couldn’t help but be annoyed by him, particularly by how his rather stupidly selfish desires end up endangering Imogene. And so Adrian was a character that grated on me endlessly, and yet I still felt sympathy for him, despite wanting to slap him on a regular basis – but then, given his past history with being bullied, I also felt kind of awful for wanting to slap him – and therein lies the brilliance of de Lint’s character work. And so while Adrian is far from my favorite character of this story, I think he is a fantastic testament to de Lint’s skill at characterization.

But, much as I loved the characters – and can I just say how much I also loved Imogene’s mother and brother, who were very much present in her life and who both turned out to be unexpectedly awesome – when it came right down to it, I thought the plot of this book was underwhelming. The fairies of the story are of the randomly evil variety, the big bad lurking behind them is stupendously vague, and aside from Pelly, overall the mythology was just standard-issue blase (fairies and angels and ghosts, oh my). And worse, the way it all ended up playing out, the story just all came down to coincidence, over and over again, particularly and most egregiously when it came to the blue of it all – and so the plot just never went much of anywhere at all. Now to be fair, could my being a complete neophyte when it comes to Newford (a locale which spans fifteen of de Lint’s books) have something to do with it – was I just missing something? To be honest, I don’t think so. There were definitely Easter eggs for the series fans – I could see them passing, even if the characters and references meant nothing to me – but I think the plot problems were endemic to this story, which it to say it was just flat, with nothing earned or built to. And for me, a string of coincidences does not a satisfying plot make.

So in the end, I was equal parts beguiled and vexed by this book. The character work was utterly fantastic, no question – everything from Imogene and Maxine’s friendship to Adrian’s redemption was downright wonderful, and reason enough to read this book – but the plot did limp haltingly towards a rather underwhelming finish. And for me, the wonderful character voices just couldn’t quite overcome the lack of story.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Read in a Single Sitting says:

De Lint is to me the equivalent of a literary bubble bath, a sort of comfort reading I’ll undertake with somewhat guilty gusto when some bookish palate cleansing is required…While The Blue Girl is certainly a fun read that allows the reader to while away a little time in the magical city of Newford, it’s not one of de Lint’s strongest. Readers familiar with de Lint’s work will enjoy the familiarity of it, but new readers may wish to seek out some of de Lint’s other work as an introduction to Newford.

Sarah on Goodreads says:

For a story that has lots of ‘stuff’ happening, there’s very little going on.

Kirkus Reviews says:

Fairies like the evil twins of the wee free men, Imogene’s not so imaginary childhood friend Pelly, and a shadow world impinging on this one conjure up satisfying elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – there’s even a helpful British librarian named Ms. Giles. And yes, the tattooed and pierced Imogene does turn spectacularly blue in one of the many page-turning plot points.