Charles de Lint,
The Blue Girl
(Viking, 2004)

When we meet 17-year-old Imogene, newly moved to Redding High School in Newford, she is not, in any sense of the word, blue. She's fiery, fiesty and free-spirited, a rebellious teen who finds herself shifting back to the tamer style of wild in her new surroundings. A key factor in her transformation is her new best friend, Maxine, whose prim and proper attitude conceals a spark of independence that needs only Imgene's gentle prodding to blossom.

But The Blue Girl, the latest urban fantasy novel by Charles de Lint, is not your average young-adult story of teen angst and the perils of fitting in with a new crowd.

Like any new student, Imogene runs afoul of the "beautiful people" who consider themselves superior to the groundling students in their midst. Unlike most students, however, she also encounters a ghost. And that ghost -- Adrian, the miserable remnant of an unhappy student at her school several years before -- has fair-weather friends among the fairies ("when house brownies go bad"). So, when Imogene readily accepts the existence of ghosts but balks at believing in fairies, Adrian decides to prove it to her -- and that brings Imogene to the attention of more malevolent spiritual forces.

The Blue Girl is a stand-alone story in de Lint's canon of Newford tales, although one recurring Newford character does make a few appearances and a handful of others are mentioned in passing. Even more interesting, a beloved character from de Lint's Tamson House (Ottawa) days also makes a couple of cameo appearances, of a sort. (How many long-time de Lint fans have wished there was some way to bring Tamson House to Newford, after all?)

While the lead characters sometimes suffer from Dawson's Creek syndrome -- their vocabularies and mannerisms are a bit more mature than their supposed 17 years -- the book largely reads true. And, to be honest, the elevated maturity of the young protagonists makes the book far more readable to its adult audience while not pushing it past the ken of its younger target crowd.

The Blue Girl is an excellent starting point for newcomers to Newford, and for long-time fans it's a welcome addition to the Newford mythology. While it's always a pleasure to read about the new adventures of Jilly, Geordie and other Newford regulars, it's a treat to be introduced to new, fully realized characters in this exciting, mystical city. I hope we'll see Imogene and Maxine again soon.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 19 February 2005

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