This is not at ALL what I expected from a book that seems to evoke rainbows from the name and colour.
I was inspired to read this most of all by the concept of seeing colours more vibrantly and associating colours with mood and people. I’ve always been interested in the concept of synesthesia which is difficult to define but commonly explained as where people have sensory associations with stimulus from letters, numbers, names etc such as colours, tastes, scents, a sense of time and so forth.
Coral has a sort of synesthesia in that colours dominate her interpretation of the world and it is the shade and tone of colour she notices perhaps more strongly than others.
On the outside it looks like a ‘life knocks you down but you find what you’re made of and get up’ Story which in some ways it actually is- but, it is infinitely more complex and darker than this with the macabre surpassing the family drama.
Coral’s grandmother has died, and Coral is frightened that everyone will find out its her fault. She is also convinced that her horrible neighbour Miss Mirk has stolen God, the beloved family cat.
Beside herself with guilt, Coral is made an offer she can’t refuse, the chance to speak to her grandmother’s spirit before she passes over in return for collecting three macabre items. At first she is hesitant but when the initial offer becomes a demand and a hostage situation she has no choice but to fulfil the impossible task which will awaken Muckle Red a sadistic child murderer hellbent on collecting hearts.
With the company of a Poltergeist and a worm fanboying over Red, Coral must battle witches, ghosts, and dark sides of humanity to get her last goodbye, and apology to Gran.
“I’m afraid what I’m going to say will be extremely upsetting.” Lyart paused. “For a very long time Halloway graveyard has held a secret.”
Ok I’m going to admit my cynical klaxon went whoop whooping when Lyart initially asks Coral to collect the very things the Bad guy needs to resurrect himself…. hmmmmmm this of course couldn’t go wrong in any way shape or form could it?? (A cornucopia of side-eye)
But I was prepared to plough on because this book had been recommended heartily.
And my goodness I’m so glad I did because this twisted little book in all its technicolour gothiness (yes an oxymoron but you’ll understand) is all the dark side of my soul wanted to see in an MG book- just teetering on the brink of darkness and safety, a hand and safety rope to edge out into the beyond.
It’s pure genius in the eccentric team of a girl who sees beyond the natural spectrum of colour teaming up with a poltergeist who possesses a menagerie of randomness and a worm who drank the Kool-Aid about the Heart-Collector having changed. With bickering between Moonzy & Skaw adding genuine comic relief amongst the darkness of evil witches, cannibals and child-murdering spirits.
I adored the allusions to folklore and legends as central to the plot, especially with a nod to the legend of Sawney Bean as the basis for one quest.
Under the Chic Lime leaves, I could only spot a pigeon preening itself. When the rest of the kids in art drew pigeons, they always coloured them in Elephant Breath, as though they couldn’t see the shiny Amethyst Reflections or Green Genie in their feathers or their Orange Squash feet.
The references to colour throughout may be jarring to some but this continued punctuation of colour names I find gives us a deeper understanding of Coral and how she views the world, where some would bumble down a garden path at night and not notice anything, and others may notice the snails and slug trails, Coral notices the exact colour of the trails as matching Looking Glass on her charts. This ability to see beyond the mundane is what gives her the ability to see the ghosts of the graveyard, but also tells us about the careful and organised way she views the world- and helps us begin to make sense of her decisions.
The immersion in the tale is intense with heart stopping breathless moments as Coral faces danger because of her consuming guilt, a guilt that is realistic and heartbreakingly truthful to how children’s minds work.
This epic and twisted adventure is strangely life affirming amongst the darkness and the despair. It’s a treat for fans of quests and a delight for horror fans and those who enjoy the more twisted side of stories, but I’d certainly like to have my own Glamp for when I’m feeling glum.
The True Colours of Coral Glen by Juliette Forrest is published by Scholastic