On My Bookshelf: Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

March 14, 2016

n Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black, Blue's mother is deceased, her father was just a sperm donor, her sister Cass took off two year ago, her former best friend doesn't understand her and her old boyfriend is no longer of interest to her. When Blue hasn't heard from Cass in far too long, she makes a deal with the devil, trading her voice for the ability to track down her sister, a journey that will take her across the country and into contact with an array of characters, some good, some evil, and some somewhere in between. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: 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 up to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a captivating depiction of loss and hope.

Why I liked it: Devil and the Bluebird centers around a plucky, determined seventeen year old girl, Blue Riley. Her mother is deceased (cancer), her father was just a sperm donor, her sister Cass took off two year ago, her former best friend doesn't understand her and her old boyfriend is of no interest to her anymore. When Blue hasn't heard from Cass in far too long, she makes a deal with the devil, trading her voice for the ability to track down her sister, a power vested in Blue's hiking boots. She heads West from Maine, but her boots seem to lead her more toward trouble than toward finding her sister.

n Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black, Blue's mother is deceased, her father was just a sperm donor, her sister Cass took off two year ago, her former best friend doesn't understand her and her old boyfriend is no longer of interest to her. When Blue hasn't heard from Cass in far too long, she makes a deal with the devil, trading her voice for the ability to track down her sister, a journey that will take her across the country and into contact with an array of characters, some good, some evil, and some somewhere in between. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.As Blue hitchhikes across the country, she has one brush with danger after another, sometimes just narrowly escaping it and sometimes not. This is all attributed to her deal with the devil, a deal whose rules seem to constantly be changing. As a result, an bused woman is found by her abusive husband, Blue and a fellow traveler are almost sold as sex slaves, and Blue is picked up and nearly killed by a serial murderer.

Thankfully Blue's boots seem to lead to lucky coincidences just as often as they lead her into trouble. Blue ends up in the barn of Tish, her mother's former lover and band member, during a blizzard. Blue reunites with a lover interest of her own, Dill, just as she is about to hop on board a train. Lou, the same truck driver who picked up Blue at the start of the novel and offers her advice about hitchhiking, takes Blue to her final destination, to LA to finally find her sister.

The novel borders on the genre of magical realism, an unusual genre in young adult literature, but one I very much enjoy (I'm a big fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez). A few of these moments in the book are when Blue makes a deal with the "devil," spends the night listening to a famous (dead) musician, wakes to find that the bus she rode is sitting in a junkyard, and is guided through a snowstorm by the souls of a serial killer's victims.

Classroom application: Because the novel has elements of different genres, it would be interesting for students to try to classify the book and then make a case for why they assigned it to the genre that they did. The book also has wonderful imagery, making it an excellent mentor text. There is nothing cliche about the author's descriptions. Finally, the novel has some LGBT themes (Blue's mother and Tish were partners in life and their band; Blue travels with Steve, a transgender youth cast off by his religious family) and would add to the diversity of your high school classroom library.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Devil and the Bluebird for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here. This title will be released on May 17, 2016, but is available for pre-order now.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:


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On My Bookshelf is a monthly reading link up hosted by The Literary Maven. Share great books you have read for personal pleasure, for development of your teaching skills, or as additions to your classroom library.

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