Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (2016)
YA Fiction | Contemporary | Paranormal | Folk
“Devil-at-the-crossroads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale.
Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.
Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.
In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.” -Goodreads
Expected Publication Date: May 17, 2016
pooled ink Review:
Devil and the Bluebird – a raw melody laid bare. This is the perfect story for an Indie film and I mean that in the best most award-winning way possible. The cadence, the strife, the journey, it all rocked and rumbled with a deep resonating power. Blue made a deal with the devil but what she discovered was a muse. She was a lost, lonely, angry girl running running running and as she traveled from state to state reaching out the world kept knocking her back.
This story chilled me like rain in the city, soothed me like hot cider on a snowy winter night, opened me like dry cracked desert clay, and lifted me like feathers on the wind. Blue went on a life-changing, life-discovering journey letting her boots lead her from coast to coast and as I witnessed her pains and growth a little bit of me reached out and bared that with her. Devil and the Bluebird tells it like it is. The good, the bad, the inspiring, the dejecting. All of it. The world is a complicated place and the author does not shy away from that, nor does she try and sensationalize it. The world is a complex mix of melodies, sometimes we stumble into people whom crash into our song with its unpleasant discordant sounds, but we keep playing because every once in a while we find souls whom harmonize and build us up lifting our delicate solo into a fierce and beautiful ensemble.
The author did a wonderful job exhibiting skill with her writing as a whole and particularly faced with the challenge of her protagonist being mute. This folk-esque tale was a perfect balance of contemporary with a tinge of the unearthly. Blue journeyed to many different places ranging from surprising to concerning to delightful to horrifying. More importantly Blue collided with people from varied walks of life. One cannot truly know what sort of effect they may have on someone else, even a stranger, and this is demonstrated poignantly within this story. But both the heroes and the villains helped shape Blue and while some memories I’m sure she would prefer to tuck away and forget, even those moments have strengthened her in some sure way.
I fell in love with the illustrations in this book. Not literal illustrations in the sense of drawings, but illustrations composed of words. The places, the people, the emotions, the choices…they were all spun with such understanding that I could picture each moment easily. Reading books and watching movies are not the same thing but occasionally they don’t seem quite so far apart. I shivered with the cold, I smiled at the librarian, I swayed with the music, I screamed with no voice.
Several aspects of traveling are covered throughout the story (hitching rides, hopping trains, walking) but more than that the story delves in true with the choice of being a traveler including the people one meets, the challenges, the dangers, the highlights, the lessons, the gifts, and the journey as a whole. The plot’s headline may be about Blue’s deal with the devil but what her journey really shows us is that there are several ways to sell one’s soul and several different reasons why. With each stop along her journey we catch a glimpse of that. We witness in sad horror the different ways people sell their precious souls.
“Success is what you define for yourself.” -Tish
The music, oh the music! The music in this book simply brought together a familiar tale and spun it into something…something that made my heart ache just a bit. It’s a common and very old story, musicians traveling the country or even musicians making deals with the devil, and while it’s a familiar concept it didn’t flatten the story, rather it gave it some depth, some wisdom, and some experience. Just a girl and her guitar running from her demons with the devil on her tail and stumbling into a world with her music as her shield. Music is old magic. Music soothes the pain, chases the monsters, tickles the laughter, and coaxes a connection. This was a beautiful, hard story and without the music it would not have taken flight and soared as it did.
Devil and the Bluebird is a painful but inspiring story of life and the journey one must walk to get there. Warm as fresh cornbread, true as an arrow, and sonorous as a symphony written for the lost, this story is one that should not be skipped but rather taken in, heard, and then helped on its way.
Purchase here: Devil and the Bluebird
P.S. If you enjoyed this book then might I recommend some complimentary stories? The movie Jackie & Ryan (2014) starring Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes (if you enjoyed the musicians and travelers in this book); The book Can’t Get There From Here by Todd Strasser (if you’d like to read more about teens who’ve left home); The songs “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band, “Southbound” by Ben Barnes & The Stay All Night Rounders, “Long Way From Home” by The Lumineers, “Cold Blooded” by Ellis Dyson & The Shambles.
I myself am a musician, I play the piano and I sing but I’d really love to learn the guitar and violin, and so the companion of music and its power connected with me. But something Blue thought also really connected with me. My friends would rather play for friends and family than they ever would for strangers but I am the complete opposite and as small as it might be I am glad that at least Blue understands me:
“If she’d played for strangers, she could play for Tish. Only, the logic was flawed, because who cared what strangers though? She’d have to face Tish every morning until she moved on.” -Blue
Meet Jennifer Mason-Black!
Jennifer is a lifelong fan of most anything with words. She’s checked for portals in every closet she’s ever encountered, and has never sat beneath the stars without watching for UFOs. Her stories have appeared in The Sun, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction, among others. DEVIL AND THE BLUEBIRD is her first novel. She lives in Massachusetts.