Famous paintings, fantasy and wish-fulfillment romance blend in contemporary Paris.
French teen Julien feels merely adequate, but his privileges and abilities are improbably golden. As his mother runs the Musée d’Orsay and wants to bribe the art-loving Julien into getting better grades, this 17-year-old has unrestricted access to the world-famous museum, even after hours. Despite the present-day setting (iPods; texting), museum security is presented as (as Julien explains) “a myth,” with no electronic or technological surveillance to inhibit his night roaming. He’s first to see when a “peach falls out of a Cézanne” and a girl “dance[s] her way right out of a Degas.” He perceives Renoirs inexplicably losing their color before anyone else does. Soon, at the Louvre, paintings are flooding and burning themselves. From a long-lost Renoir springs a girl to share heady romance with Julien. She’s Clio, an Eternal Muse. Julien’s sure special, from his authority over the Louvre’s assistant curator to his unique status as human muse, the only human an Eternal Muse has ever loved and the only being who can fix the fading Renoirs. To readers unbothered by preposterous premises, implausible explanations and some overblown prose (“She was a revolution and she staged a coup d’état in my heart”), Whitney offers Muse dust, delightful sartorial quirks and the ghost of Renoir.
An oh-so-slight flight of fancy. (author’s note) (Fantasy/romance. 12 & up)