Monday, July 12, 2010

Must Love Black

Title/Author: Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer

Genre:  YA

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Source: Purchased at Borders

Favorite character: Phillipa

Synopsis:  A teenage girl trying to escape her father and his new wife for the summer, answers an intriguing ad to become a nanny.   “Must love black” is one of the criteria, which fits Phillipa to a "t".

Favorite quote:  “Rainbows are for people who don’t know the dark side of life.” “On the contrary, rainbows are for people who do know the dark side of life.  Rainbows come after the storm, remember?”

All in all:  Very good.  Lots of layers.

Please note-This review has spoilers.

What I liked: One of the maine themes of this book is reflections.  The title is mirrored throughout the story with lines such as, “…people who liked black didn’t like being told that they handn’t quite gotten the hang of something yet.” And “I was a nanny who loved black.”

Rienne and Triste, the twins that Phillipa is hired to take care of, have lost their mother and their father has thrown himself into his work.  Phillipa also lost her mother when she was younger and feels disconnected from her own father.   Since she can relate, her goal for the summer is not just to take care of her charges, but to also bring them closer to their father.  Another reflection is that the chapters all start with quotes from her mother’s book, and it is soon apparent that it is a period piece about a nanny. 

Phillipa, or Pippa, as the twins call her, has a lot of humor and I enjoyed her voice.  She is a typical teen in that she feels that no one gets her.  I even remember thinking that as a teenager.  (Okay, I admit that sometimes I still think that.)  Pippa also knows that she shouldn’t do or say things but does so anyway in order to reach a goal.   I do like that she keeps trying and that she finds more diplomatic ways to do things in order to reach these goals.

And what summer job wouldn’t be complete without the love interest?  Geoff is the gardener at the place where she works and she is trying to figure him out.  In the beginning she is tongue tied and awkward around him.  But toward the end of her stay, she is able to look him in the eye and be honest with her feelings.  The whole summer is about her gaining confidence as she sees her plans for the twins come to fruition.  

There was also some symbolism that was interesting.  On the very first page Pippa wonders if there is such a thing as a black butterfly (and is disappointed that there isn’t).  Later in the story when she helps the girls take pictures of butterflies they find a gray one called a Mourning Cloak.  It comes into play a few times in the story as well.  One time it seems to remind Pippa that there is a middle road to take during a confrontation.  (Gray as opposed to black and white.)  The other time was when the Mourning Cloak seems to lead Pippa to the twins when the household can't find them.

What I didn’t like:  I think that the author could have gone a little deeper and opened up some scenes.   There was one scene when they were using the Ouija board, but I think it could have been more dramatic.  Even the decision to use the Ouija board could have been more so. 

Also, a major incident that could have been opened up was when Pippa told Geoff and the twins about her mother’s car accident.  It could have been a powerful, touching scene, but in my opinion it was sort of skimmed over.

I was also hoping the supernatural aspect was going to be developed more, but it never quite got there for me.  The spooky incidents left me with questions.  For example, when Pippa first arrives, there are tables in the game room, one with a Ouija board and one with tarot cards displayed.  But the only time this was utilized was when they used the Ouija board as mentioned above.  Pippa thinks she has a ghostly encounter the first night at her new job.  There is a legend about a sea captain’s wife who haunts the place.  In fact, the twins think her ghost was responsible for their mother's death.  Pippa, follows something through the woods one evening and almost has a deadly encounter, but with all these tidbits, nothing really ever comes of these ghostly encounters.   

I also thought that Pippa would become more accepting of her father’s marriage as she sees the twins and their father grow closer, but this didn’t happen either in the book. 

I give this book 4/5 stars.  Even though I think it could have been more dramatic, Must Love Black is a book worth reading and I feel YAs would really enjoy it.  It could definitely be the source of some great discussions.


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