Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre(s): YA Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: Jan 14th, 2020
Page Count: 320 (hardback)
What I Liked
🌹 The subject of learning to navigate life with an identity that people might not accept or understand. That you might not fully accept or understand.
🌹 The Strausbourg storyline about the Romani and the dancing plague was something I wasn’t familiar with; it’s interesting and educational and I wanted more of it. And I seriously love the author’s decision to tell the 1518 chapters in present tense and the modern chapters in past tense.
🌹 The description of forests. And nature in general. Just…UGH, my heart. I’m convinced Anna-Marie was a magical woodland creature in a previous life. “They’re one body…Something can be one tree, and a whole wood.”
🌹 McLemore has a way of taking small moments–small, seemingly inconsequential moments–and giving them incredible significance and texture. Nothing is without meaning. Even when there’s not much happening with the plot, you still feel like you’re being pulled into the extraordinary.
I read the book a few weeks ago, and there are parts of it I don’t really remember, but I do have a very vivid memory of red shoes dancing along a reservoir edge; wolves slipping past trees; Alifair stripping off his shirt and daring Lala to deny who he is; and so forth. Flashes of images that burn into your mind. And that, my friends, is pure magic.
“We’re aspen trees, you and I”
What I Didn’t Like
🌹 I was never super invested in Rosella and Emil’s storyline. Partly because the 1518 setting was more interesting, but mostly because I didn’t think too much of Rosella and Emil as characters. I loved some of their scenes, which are gorgeous and awash with colour and imagery, and I could appreciate and relate to a lot of their struggles (trying to fit in with your community, deliberately ignoring your family history). But as characters they felt kind of bland. And, I don’t know, I just wanted an entire book of Lala and Alifair.
🌹 The connection between the 1518 storyline and the modern day storyline felt clunky, especially at the end. And the last few legs of the story’s journey didn’t feel very satisfying.
🌹 Emil/Rosella’s chapters end up explaining the message of Lala’s story near the end, which veers too close to spoonfeeding and takes away some of the depth of the ending.
Overall, it’s a beautifully flawed story about self-acceptance and coming to terms with your cultural roots, and the special kind of freedom and power that they offer. It’s my first experience with Anna-Marie McLemore, and though I doubt this is the book that people would recommend from their bibliography, I got a good taste of their style and…I’m a big fan.
(Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review)