I’m often intrigued when I find a book with a unique concept or perspective at its core and from reading the synopsis, this book definitely held that initial appeal for me.
Jasper is a 13 year old boy with synaesthesia (his type meaning he can see colours associated with sounds) living with his widowed father who retired from the Royal Marines to care for his son following his wife’s death from cancer. Life with Jasper is not easy – he also suffers from face-blindness, meaning he can’t recognise faces at all, even that of his father and this has led to him developing his own personal techniques to help him identify people – usually to do with what they are wearing, the tone (and colour) of their voices and use of certain words. He remembers his Mum as colbalt blue, and this is obviously a comforting colour for him.
He adores art and tries uses colour to tell stories, the stories of what happens to him in his day to day life, but they just look like a mess of colour to most people.
One day, Bee Larkham moves into the street after inheriting her mother’s house. She’s sky blue to Jasper, which isn’t quite the same as his Mum, but close enough that that he becomes quite obsessed with her. Much to the chagrin of her grumpy neighbours, Bee starts to feed and encourage the wild parakeets that have taken up residence in her garden and tree. Jasper is delighted by this as birds, especially colourful birds, are his other big obsession.
After a series of unfortunate events, Bee has gone missing and Jasper becomes convinced that she’s been murdered – and also that he and his Dad might have been somehow involved. This leads to all kinds of struggles on Jasper’s part to deal with everyday life and the world that’s going on in his head, including his inability to be a reliable witness to the police due to his conditions (it’s implied that he’s autistic from a book that his Dad is reading). Throughout all of this, he’s constantly trying to figure out how to save and protect the parakeets.
This book is very unusual, it’s a difficult read at times because Jasper’s descriptions becomes quite repetitive and frustrating, but that’s surely a reflection of what’s going on inside his head? One of my biggest gripes was that as we started to understand what kind a of person Bee really is, there was a big reveal, the nature of which I’d guessed a long time earlier.
I did finish this book, and I really enjoyed the first half, but I’ll be honest, from just after the half way point I should probably have just flipped to the final chapter to find out what happened at the end! Beautifully written, and a very clever idea, but unfortunately not for me.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.