ARC provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
“If I wanted to, I could believe it was our colors that decided Blanca would be the gentle sister, pure and obliging, and I would be the cruel one, wicked and difficult. She would be the blessed daughter, the one the swans would spare. And I would be the one the swans would take. But my sister saw our story ending another way.”
Blanca y Roja is the best retelling I’ve ever read in my entire life. The way Anna-Marie McLemore reimagined Snow-White and Rose-Red was perfection in every sense of the word. This story is so beautiful and is a bright shining star in 2018 literature, and now one of my favorite books of all-time. No one weaves words and magic like Anna-Marie, and no other book this year has impacted me the way Blanca y Roja has. Please, friends, pick this masterpiece up upon release.
“There will always be two daughters. But we will always take one back.”
This book stars two sisters, who were born into a family where each generation of women birth two girls, one of which gets taken away by swans after her fifteenth birthday. Many sisters form a rivalry, so that the swan will pick the other one, but these sisters want to trick the swans into not knowing which one to pick, therefore, hopefully picking neither. But this story follows four people, all feeling a little out of place in their own bodies; all for very different reasons.
➽ Blanca – Light skinned, fair hair, soft, sweet, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her sister away.
➽ Page – A transboy, who uses he/she and him/her pronouns, and currently hiding from her family who supports that she’s trans, but can’t understand why she would still like she/her pronouns.
“Him and her, I kinda like getting called both. It’s like all of me gets seen then. Doesn’t usually happen, though. Most people can’t get their head around boy and she at the same time, I guess.”
➽ Roja – Dark skinned, hair so red it looks black, hard, angry, and doing everything in her power to make sure the swans never take her away.
➽ Yearling – A boy who has a terrible home-life. He is constantly physically fighting with his cousin, being egged on by his entire family, and because of it he is suffering vision loss in his left eye. Content and trigger warnings for physical abuse. Yearling wants to escape his family, their last name, and a secret that he knows, and he goes into the woods wanting to be something else. And the woods listen.
“The day I went into the woods, it was the story that chose me.”
And these four characters’ paths all cross with one another, and this becomes a story about self-discovery, unconditional love, and sacrifice. And two romances start, and they are both so equally breathtaking. All four of these characters are so expertly created that they all carved out little pieces of home in my heart. And they will live there forever.
Like I said above, this is a reimagining of Snow-White and Rose-Red, but this is Anna-Marie’s ownvoices, Latinx, queer, magical realism version. And it is everything. Everything. This book emphasizes respecting people’s gender and sexuality journeys, because gender and sexuality can both be so very fluid. This book proves how easy, but how important, it is to ask and respect everyone’s pronouns. This book highlights how we don’t have to be what our families, our communities, our world want us to be and that we can break broken and toxic cycles. This book shows how everyone will handle pain, grief, and trauma differently and that it’s okay. This book reminds us how powerful kindness can be and how the bonds of family, both blood and found, can change every story.
“That was the cruelest thing about the señora’s words, the truth it had left us: In my hands, the blue-eyed boy’s heart was currency enough to buy my survival. In Roja’s, it was worth nothing. And now she was the one who held it.”
And this book really is a love letter to the bonds of siblings. And not to make this review about me, but I’m very open about 1.) my brother being my best friend and 2.) me being very white passing. But my brother isn’t white passing in the slightest. Black hair, dark eyes, dark golden skin all year long. I’ve had long-term interactions with people who never knew I was Filipina until they saw my brother. And I will always acknowledge my privilege of my biraciality being white passing, but I will always love and honor my family’s culture and heritage. And like Blanca, I would give, do, and say anything to protect my little brother. Okay, I don’t want to get too sappy. But this book really is about loving all the parts of yourself; not just the physical ones that everyone can see at a glance, or the ones that everyone expect you to love. This book was perfect, but certain aspects of Blanca and certain aspects of Roja just really tugged at all my heartstrings.
“They had seen in me the softest, weakest part of my heart where I held my sister. They knew I would do anything, give up anything, if it meant my sister keeping her own body. And now they wanted me to prove it.”
Overall, no one writes and crafts like Anna-Marie McLemore. Every book I’ve read by her has rendered me speechless. I’ve never closed a book of hers that hasn’t left me with tears streaming down my face because of its beauty. Her words have healing powers, and her books remind me why reading is magical. And her author’s note is a five star read all on its own. I don’t know what the world did to deserve Anna-Marie McLemore, but we are all truly blessed to have her stories, and I’m forever grateful.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.