Devil and the Bluebird
Author: Jennifer Mason-Black
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Release Date: May 17th 2016
Format: NetGalley ARC / Hardcover
Remember that the devil is the one who tells you to play a tune that’s not your own, and you can drive him right on out into the cold by playing what’s in your soul.
Devil and the Bluebird tells the story of Blue, a young 17 year old girl who has decided to try and locate her sister who she has not heard from in two years. In order to find her quicker and easier, Blue has decided to ask for the help of a mysterious woman at the crossroads. In return for a pair of magical boots that will guide Blue to her sister, she must give the mysterious woman her voice.
What initially captured my attention about Devil and the Bluebird was that it used the traditional folk tale of the Devil at the Crossroads as its underlying story arch. I have seen this classic tale used in other forms of entertainment such as the television series Supernatural, but I have never read a novel that has dealt with the concept.
Devil and the Bluebird is, in its own way, a coming of age story with a slight magical realism feel to it. It is told in the way of a road trip as Blue travels across America to locate her sister and along the way she meets quite the cast of characters. Some good, some bad and some completely evil. It is very much an adventure story in which Blue has no idea who she is going to meet along the way. She has no idea of the lengths that she must go through in order to find her sister. On top of everything, she has no voice to help her find her way. It deals with the dangers of travelling alone, especially when it involves hitching rides from strangers or hopping freight trains, but Blue will stop at nothing to find her sister.
While the writing style itself was beautiful, I found that the story was a little drawn out. It took a little while to get going and when it finally did, I found it to be slightly repetitive. Blue meets stranger, Blue leaves stranger, rinse and repeat. And after finally reaching the final chapters of the story, things happened a little too abruptly. It was like reading two different extremes. First, very long and drawn out and then second, very fast and abrupt. There was no real peak in the storyline and what I think was supposed to be the peak happened so fast that I didn’t even process it.
The characters were okay. I liked Blue but she wasn’t amazing and maybe a little forgettable. I would say that I enjoyed the chapters where Blue interacted with Steve the most. They became such great friends after protecting each other from the dangers of travelling across America on your own as a teen. I found that the interactions between Blue and Dill made me feel slightly uncomfortable and it was very much an insta-love scenario. I really didn’t understand his purpose in the story at all. These moments were not a main plot point of the story. I wouldn’t consider Devil & The Bluebird a romance in any way, which made these short scenes feel even more unnecessary.
I feel like I wanted a bit more from the ending. As I mentioned earlier, it happened so fast that I didn’t really have any time to process anything. Throughout the entire novel everything moved slowly and everything felt so difficult, where the final outcome of the story happened too easily in my opinion. It seemed as though all of the complications Blue came across could have been avoided if she had just turned on a television.
I had really high hopes for a novel revolving using the idea of the Devil at the Crossroads folk tale, but unfortunately Devil and the Bluebird didn’t really meet my expectations. I do still think that the writing itself was beautiful and I loved the idea of a road trip adventure, but I just wish it wasn’t as drawn out. Everything Blue did, everything that made the story feel as long as it did, could have been avoided really easily, making it feel as though all the trouble that she went through was for nothing.