MMGM and #IMWAYR: Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz (plus the Summer 2021 Book Giveaway!)
I hope everyone is doing well today! For Thursday Thoughts last week, I wrote about books and the passage of time—take a look if you're interested!
Today I am excited to be recommending a book I've been looking forward to for a very long time: Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz! And I'm also holding the Summer 2021 Book Giveaway, with details at the bottom of this post!
Review of Everywhere Blue:
|Seriously, is this not the best book|
cover EVER?! (And it matches my
blog!) The art is by Elena Megalos.
Looking back through my blog's archives, I've been looking forward to Everywhere Blue since March 2020, just before the pandemic (here's proof)! And the reason is very simple: Joanne Rossmassler Fritz runs the book blog My Brain on Books, and although she is currently taking a break from blogging (as most people would once they release an actual book), she has been an active member of MMGM for years and has participated in #IMWAYR a few times as well! Fritz has been a wonderful supporter of my blog, always leaving friendly comments and even adding my blog to the blog list on her sidebar (which I will always appreciate), and so I couldn't possibly be more excited that her debut novel in verse, Everywhere Blue, came out this past Tuesday! I ignored all the other books waiting on my bookcase to read this one, I utterly loved it, and I am thrilled to be recommending it now!
Just like her family, Maddie lives by a lot of rules. Things have to be organized, odd numbers of anything mean trouble, and the quarters of her sandwiches have to be separated by exactly a thumb's width. Maddie is comforted by order, and her rules follow her through life: through her advanced high-school geometry class, through her weekly oboe lessons, and through her home and school lives. But suddenly Maddie's life is thrown into disarray, the very thing she's worked so hard to get rid of, when her older brother Strum disappears from his college campus. Maddie knows Strum cared about the environment and climate change, and she knows he hadn't gotten along with their father for a long time—but no one is sure what to make of all that, and Maddie has to get through everyday life wondering where Strum is or if he is even alive at all. But more than that, as family troubles become apparent in her father's yelling, her mother's sorrow, and her older sister Aria's bad attitude, and as her rules start to look more and more like obsessive-compulsive tendencies, Maddie learns that there might be more to solving her and her family's problems than just finding Strum.
This book is really wonderful! And to be clear, I'm not just saying that because I am excited for Fritz as a fellow blogger—I seriously enjoyed reading this book, and I am definitely impressed (though not surprised) by Fritz's writing talent! There's a lot that I want to talk about without giving too much away, so I'll start off by just describing this book's "vibe" and writing. Everywhere Blue definitely sounds like a depressing story, considering the missing sibling, the resulting grief and worry, and Maddie's obsessive-compulsive symptoms. But I have to say, Fritz does a truly impressive job depicting painful things without them taking over the story or making you want to stop reading. Now, this book isn't a frenetic or upbeat MG novel either. It's more of a gentle, peaceful story that you can sink into, absorbing details and learning about the characters. And I like that about it! Fritz's writing is quite impressive—her free verse is quite poetic but also reasonably believable for the first-person narration by Maddie, with simple yet rich descriptions and meaningful motifs and figurative language. I also really enjoyed that, unlike many novels in verse, Fritz actually includes a few poems in stricter forms, such as a beautiful villanelle on page 110. (If you don't know what a villanelle is, read this one.)
I want to take a minute to talk about Maddie. Maddie—short for Madrigal, which, like her siblings' names Strum and Aria, is a music term—is an impressively compelling protagonist. One of this book's blurbs, by the author Caroline Starr Rose, mentions "Maddie's quiet courage," and that phrase really couldn't be more apt. Maddie is a quiet girl who would much rather be reading, practicing oboe, or working on math problems than roaming around making new friends. But with all of the stress placed on Maddie throughout this story, she really does rise to challenges despite her fears, standing up for what she believes in and even for what she herself needs to thrive. And I think the phrase "despite her fears" is particularly important—it's not that Maddie is fearless, it's that she can see when her fears are getting in the way of what needs to be done. As someone with diagnosed OCD (which I discussed a bit last Thursday), I felt that Maddie's obsessive-compulsive symptoms—which include compulsive counting, fears that odd numbers will result in real-world tragedies, and intrusive thoughts and worries—were depicted realistically. I particularly appreciated that Fritz illustrates how Maddie's symptoms seem rational and harmless to her (as they often do for me as well)—I think people find it hard to believe that such irrational behaviors can seem rational to anyone, and yet they can indeed! And the symptoms never drag the story to horribly painful places—they are just one facet of this impressively multifaceted story.
Two major themes of this story are music and climate change, and I want to touch on both of those. Besides the three siblings' music-inspired names, music influences this story in a lot of ways as well. Maddie's Maman is a voice coach who loves to sing, and her Daddy tunes pianos for a living and writes compositions as well. Maddie herself loves the oboe and the classical music that she plays on it. References to classical pieces and their context are sprinkled into the story, as are musical terms that set the stage for the different sections of the book. Maddie is committed to practicing enough to get a solo in her school's concert, but she finds herself a bit stymied by how to inject emotion into her playing now that her mechanics are solid. (As somebody who plays the piano but is not terribly invested in it, I can attest that playing notes correctly and playing notes with feeling are COMPLETELY different.) You might be surprised how much depth and how many layers music adds to this story! And it is the same regarding climate change. Maddie's brother Strum and best friend Emma are both quite concerned about climate change, endangered species, melting Arctic sea ice (which I learned in this story has decreased by four-fifths in the last few decades), and other related issues. Through Maddie's flashbacks, we see how Strum gets invested in these issues, in spite of his father's angry denial of climate change, and we also see how climate change might be connected to Strum's disappearance. Maddie's friend Emma is also concerned by these issues, and intermixed with the two girls' typical middle-school friendship drama and first crushes are explorations of environmental issues and suggestions of what kids can do about them, both of which are valuable in and of themselves but also contribute greatly to the story.
The last thing I want to mention about this story is its exploration of family. I feel like a lot of books, particularly MG novels, include family as a minor component of the story. But in Everywhere Blue, family really is the front-and-center issue. This book explores what happens when conflict and bitterness begin to take over both the individuals and the relationships in a family, and what happens when this goes on for so long that it seems like nothing can be done about it. After Strum disappears, Maddie recalls the growing conflict between him and their father, which is not aided by their father's anger issues—he tends to yell and even to start conflicts with Strum himself. (I must say, he is not a terribly likable character, at least to me—though I loved the children's mother, or Maman.) In addition, Maddie is the youngest of her siblings, with Aria the middle child and Strum the oldest, and Maddie starts to see how her family has perhaps a tighter grip and a stricter set of rules than might be necessary, leading to resentment on Strum and Aria's parts. In particular, because Aria is present in the story, we see Aria's own messy struggles for independence and freedom, and her resentment toward rule-bound Maddie (who struggles to understand how her older sister has changed so much). I really liked the addition of Aria in particular, both because she ultimately grows in some really meaningful ways and because she acts as a thoughtful depiction of how sibling relationships can be strained or changed as people grow and develop. The end of the story gives hope for the family's future and cements Everywhere Blue's depiction of family as a meaningful one.
I think, regardless of how Everywhere Blue turned out, I would have been utterly thrilled for Fritz making her debut in the published-novel world and spreading her writing and ideas to a whole new audience. But having read Everywhere Blue, I can safely say that I'm also just utterly thrilled with how wonderful this book is! Between excellent writing that keeps you coming back and turning the pages; meaningful explorations of topics like music, climate change, and family; a likable protagonist who changes and grows throughout the story; and other details I didn't even have space for in this review, Everywhere Blue is a home run of a story that will resonate with readers of all ages!
My rating is: Really good!
It hasn't been terribly long since I held my last book giveaway, but I'm holding one now for two reasons. One: I wanted to give away a copy of Everywhere Blue! And two: I have signed books that I keep meaning to give away but forgetting to! Between those two reasons, I figured I could just expand the giveaway into a whole shebang, and thus the Summer 2021 Book Giveaway was born!
I am giving away six books for this giveaway, four unsigned and two signed by the authors. They are:
- Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz, an MG novel in verse (review above)
- Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, an MG novel in prose (and my personal favorite MG book I read this year!) (review here)
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, a YA novel in prose (and my personal favorite YA book I read this year!) (review here)
- Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden, a YA graphic novel (and my personal favorite graphic novel I read this year!) (review here)
- Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson, an MG graphic novel/illustrated novel in prose (with the fifth book in the series, Truly Tyler, having just been released, getting a head start on this series is a good idea!) (review here)
- Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, a YA novel in prose (Note that I have NOT read this book and cannot vouch for its quality or contents.)
(Random tidbit: Did you know you could actually upload images, like book covers, directly into the Google Form so they are displayed right where you all have to choose the books you want? You learn something new every day!)
And now for the rules of the giveaway! (Sorry there have to be so many!)
- If you win an unsigned book, your book will come to you directly from Amazon. If you win a signed books, I will mail you the book myself.
- Each entrant is only eligible to win one (1) book.
- Entrants must have mailing addresses in the United States or Canada. (Please note that, in my previous experience shipping to Canada from Amazon, it has been ridiculously slow—I am more than happy to do it regardless, but just be aware.)
- Enter using the Google Form below, NOT the comments.
- Please only select the books you are interested in—that way, I can make sure that other people win the stories they are interested in as well. If you do not select a book, you will not have a chance of receiving that book.
- Winners will be selected randomly.
- You must enter an email address so that I can contact you via email for a mailing address if you win. I will not keep or share your email address or mailing address.
- Please, please, PLEASE give me an email address that you check regularly (including spam/junk), as I will choose a new winner if you do not respond to my initial email within 48 hours.
- You must also enter a nickname for me to post on my blog if you win; it does not need to be your real name (although it can be if you want).
- I have included a place to enter a blog or website URL that I will link to if you win, since I know many of my entrants are fellow bloggers! Please note that such a URL can be identifying information, so leave this place blank if you do not want such information shared with my audience. Also, I will not link to any blogs or websites with objectionable content.
- The last full day to enter this giveaway is Monday, June 14, 2021, as I will close the form the morning of Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
- Once you submit your form, scroll to the top to see the confirmation message (otherwise, the form will look like it just disappeared). Update: And if the form looks grayed out, scroll up to finish the CAPTCHA.
- Google Forms should send you a confirmation email once you submit your form.
- If you are reading this post in your email, click the "Read post in browser" link at the bottom to see the entry form—in your email itself, the form will not be displayed (or if it is, it will not work correctly).