Saturday, January 15, 2011

Arty -- Lucy Doesn't Wear Pink by Nancy Rue

It's my firm belief that any serious reader must, at some point, abandon all the well-meaning but tediously thoughtful, serious Eragons and Hunger Games that so permeate the YA market. Thinking is good for you, of course, but sometimes you just have to stop contemplating the meaning of life and be a kid again. Or, still. Or whatever. Hence, Lucy Doesn't Wear Pink.

Lucy Rooney, obviously, does not like pink. She doesn't like anything girly. All she wants to do is play soccer and take care/be taken care of by her blind father. (Her mother was killed when she was seven in the same explosion that blinded Dad.) Oh, and make lists of her problems/issues/whatevers in the book she found that was her mother's.

Then... well, pretty much her life falls apart. Her pseudo-evil Aunt Karen decides that blind Dad isn't fit to raise Lucy. Lucy's class gets a new teacher who turns school - and soccer at recess - upside down. And Lucy's best friend, J.J., starts having even more problems at home than ever.

I didn't hold out much hope for this book. After all, a young girl's Christian novel - how could it be any good? Sadly, those don't have the best reputations. But Nancy Rue managed to surprise me. I couldn't wait to finish the book, to find out how everything fell into place. Because, honestly, I couldn't see how.

I think the best way to sum up the pleasant surprise of Lucy is how much restrain Rue uses, especially in regards to her characters. Arguably none of them were pure black and white. For example, I hated Lucy's new teacher, Mr. Augustalientes, at first. He made them call him Mr. Auggy, for one - that's just wrong. Naturally, he grows more personable, more understandable. But I never quite liked him. It was a curious reaction to a character and I have mountains of respect for Nancy Rue just for that one reaction. She doesn't make you love every single 'good' character and hate every single 'bad' character. It was a balance of grays.

I just have to mention the sort-of villain, Aunt Karen, while I'm on the subject of grays. I loathed her. She had pride and control issues oozing out of every pore. But every time I hated her most, she would do something strange - good or bad, it didn't matter, but it gave her a little bit of ambiguity. I honestly couldn't figure her out, and I felt bad for hating her. Props to Rue for the most confusing antagonist since Ariel from Eyes Like Stars.

The biggest flaw in the book is, of course, the Christian theme. It's devilishly hard to distribute that theme in any book, and I don't think I've found a book that accomplishes it perfectly, unless you count allegory (Narnia, anyone?). Lucy doesn't break the record. But it does a much better job of it than most novels even dream about, and that's another thing I applaud Rue for.

I'm sure Lucy isn't a book for everyone, especially not with the Christian subplot. But if you like it/don't mind it, then I'd say go for it. (Also try out her Sophie series - also good and very original in the same vein.)

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