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The Blue Girl

by Charles de Lint

With The Blue Girl, Ottawa fantasy writer Charles de Lint has written his first young adult novel since 1991’s The Dreaming Place. Imogene is the new girl at Redding High School, having moved to Newford, a town that will be familiar to readers of de Lint’s adult novels. She’s a girl with a past: good at heart, with admirable pluck and an eclectic fashion sense, but a history of discipline problems (including gang affiliation) at her old school. She quickly befriends Maxine, a fellow outcast, and draws the attention not only of the school’s fashionable elite (who delight in tormenting her and Maxine) but also of Ghost, the unhappy spectre of Adrian, who apparently killed himself at the school several years before. When Imogene befriends Ghost, she is introduced to a spirit otherworld, where creatures of darkness feed on the soulful light given off by people like her and Maxine.

Within this urban fantasy context, de Lint deals with issues of bullying and self-esteem without sugarcoating the realities of adolescent life. Though some of the references are anachronistic, and the dialogue is occasionally unrealistically high-toned, de Lint generally has a decent grasp of his adolescent characters and milieu. It is reassuring that not everything ends well; some triumphs are offset by sadness and parting.

The storytelling style and motifs are in keeping with de Lint’s adult fiction. In The Blue Girl, however, they are simplified for younger readers, so much so that the novel feels like dumbed-down de Lint lite, with simpler conflicts, rushed resolutions, and reams of dialogue that relentlessly tell rather than show us. Though The Blue Girl is a worthwhile read, YA readers could be directed toward de Lint’s adult titles, such as The Little Country, with its feisty young heroine, and Dreams Underfoot, a good introduction both to de Lint’s short fiction and to the setting of Newford itself.