BORN BLUE by Han Nolan
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 14 & up
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Absolutely riveting and incredibly painful is the story of Janie, unable to connect emotionally with anyone, and clutching her incredible talent to sing as all else fails. Neglected by her addict mother, four-year-old Janie survives drowning to find herself in a foster home she calls “stink house.” Despite her blond hair and blue eyes, Janie decides to be black and names herself Leshaya after finding a brother in Harmon, a fellow foster child and comfort from her social worker Doris, both African-American. One day Mama Linda shows up and delivers her nonchalantly to a couple who turn out to be drug dealers who have always wanted a child. Leshaya’s marvelous voice and love of the ladies, Sarah Vaughn, Odetta, Billie Holiday, and especially Etta James convince her that she can skip regular life and become a star. Conning help out of kind strangers and lowlifes who intend to use her, time after time Leshaya’s twisted logic and “me” philosophy ruin things. Incapable of understanding love or compassion, Leshaya pushes away those who try to help her, and moves on, leaving wreckage behind. Nolan’s ability to tell the story from Janie’s point of view without excusing her make the disasters even more affecting. Janie’s singing lets out her pain in the blues, pain she’ll not admit even to herself. Powerful and gut-wrenching, the effect of each succeeding event is like a pile driver pounding all hope into the ground. And yet Leshaya captivates with her strength and determination to succeed even as she shows that she has no idea how to help herself. Writing with an astonishing clarity of voice, National Book Award–winner Nolan (Dancing on the Edge, 1997) has created another fiercely real character who elbows herself off the page. Unforgettable. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-201916-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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