Publisher : Feiwel & Friends | Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult | Magical Realism
Page Count: 384
Synopsis :The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts. (From Goodreads)
TW: Physical assault, non-consensual kiss, gunshot, fatphobia, panic attack, misgendering.
I HAVE FINALLY READ BLANCA & ROJA and if you couldn’t tell by the all caps it did not disappoint. By Anna-Marie Mclemore fashion, this book went above and beyond my expectations. Everytime I read her latest book, I just get more assured that she *indeed* is my favourite author. Hands down. No questions asked. Gimme her grocery list, to-do list, and I’ll read it all. I just need more of her lush writing in my life. Anyway, enough yelling and let’s get into the actual review.
As per classic Anna-Marie Mclemore fashion, the writing is breathtakingly stunning, it feels so soft and gentle while simultaneously packing a punch of feels. It also flows so smoothly that it gets you flipping page after page until you reach the end of the book without even realizing it. All her books read like a fairytale but this one even more, I don’t know what about it makes it stand out more than the others, maybe it’s something about how the writing is both eerie and magical at the same time, maybe it’s because it’s a retelling in and of itself (of both Swan Lake and Snow-white & Rose-red) but I kept forgetting that I wasn’t reading an actual fairytale written ages ago.
And here’s another thing about Blanca & Roja that it also has in common with all the other releases, it feels timeless. While reading it, I felt like it could have been set yesterday or half a century ago and I would be okay with either, in fact I’m more than okay with the fact that the book isn’t really set in one time period, I love that about it. Phones are mentioned, but other than that, no indicator, and it honestly does not matter because it adds to the general darkish whimsical atmosphere of the book.
The narration alternates between four different POVs, the two main ones, that have a lot more page space are obviously Blanca & Roja, but we also have Page and Yearling who are their respective love interests. And that was a nice surprise, since I expected Blanca & Roja to be dual perspective. The four POVs approach is perfect for what the book does, it gives us a 360° view of everything that is happening at all times, as well as how events affect the characters differently, even when said events don’t seem to be connected a first glance.
Blanca is the older sister and the one everyone is head over heels for, she’s soft spoken, soft mannered, soft dressed and even her appearance is what people around them call softer on the eye, which makes her easy to love by everyone. In everyone’s eyes, she can do no wrong, she doesn’t raise trouble and only wants to protect her younger sister. Roja is the complete opposite, she has brown skin, red hair, she’s loud and has a tempter, is full of anger and everyone, including herself, thinks that she will be the one the swans take. And to be completely honest? I would die for Roja.
I loved how close the two were and how eventhough on a surface level they were opposites, once you get to know them they’re more similar than they let on. Roja might be rough around the edges but she has a soft inside too, just like Blanca might seem calm and soft but she also has anger simmering inside of her. Another thing I appreciated is that Anna-Marie Mclemore explored a lot of pressure girls have to deal with through the contrast between the two girls, including things like the way we’re told we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to like, as well as colorism and fatphobia.
Then we have Page, who’s a genderqueer boy (he/she pronouns, gendered male language, no gendered female language). He’s such a soft boy who just wants the people he loves to be safe and happy and would not hesitate to get his hands dirty to ensure that those things happen. He’s out to his family but the way his parents tiptoe around him makes him uneasy and sad and he basically just runs away from it and doesn’t want to deal with it, which is fair, because when you come out you want to accepted and the people around you to stay the same. I can’t speak for the representation so don’t quote me on this but the bits that explore his gender were done with so much care and respect that I couldn’t help but read them over and over again.
Last but not least is Yearling whose name is also Barclay and he’s just…such a tortured soul, I just wanted to wrap him up and soothe him and tell him everything will be okay. He blames himself for a lot of things that aren’t…really his fault. He blames himself for his family’s dishonesty, for beating up his cousin when he initiated it and was all around an ass, for anything that happens to Page and later on Roja and by extension Blanca. All I could think is “Take a breath, baby boy!!” IT’S TOO MUCH FOR ONE HUMAN. He’s too good for this world.
Just like every other book of hers, through Blanca & Roja, Anna-Marie Mclemore explores a bunch of timely topics with such subtilety, weaved through the narrative, that you don’t even realize it until you reflect on what you read. Before I finish this review, shout out to both Yearling and Page’s gay grandmas’ for giving us the sapphic content we deserve while being badass ladies who would come after you if you hurt their loved ones.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Blanca & Roja? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.