Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So much going on, all good, but so hard to do justice.
Blanca and Roja, the del Cisne sisters, born into a cursed family. Two sisters are born, and one is always turned into a swan. Always.
This is a world set in the present, with cars and ice cream and high school bullies.
It is a world of magical realism, where girls can turn into swans and boys into bears.
It is a retelling of fairy tales: retelling, re-imagination, reinterpretation.
It is a story of families and competition and rivalry, and of love.
It is a world with prejudices and suspicion.
Blanca is fair haired and light skinned; Roja's hair is red and her coloring darker. Blanca is the good girl, the princess; Roja is tougher, the witch. They are close and vow to be the set of sisters who both survive, where neither get taken. But then the swans come and it becomes clear, one must be taken, and will this turn the sisters against each other?
Two local boys disappeared earlier this year: Barclay Holt, from one of the richest families in town. Page Ashby, whose family owns orchards. Best friends. Barclay had a fight with a cousin and went into the woods, became part of the woods, became a bear, and now is back. Page followed into the woods, and also now has returned. Barclay fled his family because of lies and violence. Page because Page isn't seen as they want to be seen: Page is a non-binary trans boy, tired of having to explain, of not being seen.
Blanca is told that she can save them both if a blue eyed boy falls for her. Barclay is blue eyed. But Page, Page is the boy Blanca has been in love with despite never talking, the boy Blanca wants.
And Roja: Roja knew Barclay as a yearling bear, still calls him yearling.
And so much more! How blue eyed is viewed as better than brown. How the sisters are treated in school, how Roja is treated differently than Blanca because she is the darker sister. How they love and compete. How their parents see them, how their town see them.
Can these two girls win? Or will the swans?
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