Color Blind by Sheila Sobel was a fantastic debut novel. I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila last year at ThrillerFest when she debuted. Her one-minute speech about her book, as well as the description in the program, had me hooked right away. Honestly, I wanted to read most of the debut novels. I wove through the signing room, having all of the debuts sign my program and asking if they sold signed copies on their websites because I was running out of room for books in my luggage. I came home with over two dozen new books last year. Woo...was my husband pissed!
Sheila was so sweet. She said that if I wanted to buy her book, she'd sign it, then ship it to me so I wouldn't have to worry about fitting one more book in my luggage. What a doll! I wished I'd had time to chat with her more. She seemed so genuine, so kind, and so personable. But the book was slim enough that I fit it on my purse on the plane. I just couldn't let her spend her entire cut of the profit from that sale and then some on shipping. What a freaking sweetheart for offering, though!
Ok, enough about the author. Let's get to the book!
Color Blind deals with some heavy issues, like death, multi-generational family secrets, racism, and teenage angst. It's all set to the backdrop of New Orleans, Louisiana. April's father suddenly died of an unknown heart condition. Her military mother went MIA the year before and was presumed dead. With nowhere else to go, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to NOLA to live with her mother's younger sister--an aunt she'd never met who never wanted to have kids. Their relationship proves to be rather tumultuous.
Ah...N'awlins, how I've missed you. This book struck a deep cord with me. Even though it is YA and I'm in my 30's, I really loved it. I got completely sucked in and I was transported back in time to 20 years ago when I was a seventeen year old girl who suddenly found myself uprooted from all I'd ever known and moved to New Orleans. But, that's a whole other story. I didn't get to live in the heart of the French Quarter like April and her Aunt Kate. I lived in Terrytown, in the heart of Gretna, across the river from the Quarter. It was a pretty bad neighborhood. But, yeah...I could ramble on for hours about my own NOLA adventures. Another time, perhaps.
By luck, chance, or destiny, April meets a distant relative and puts two and two together when she finds photographs of the same woman in both of their houses. But, it's New Orleans, so Voodoo is involved, of course. The narrative is very character driven and it's filled with fantastic descriptions of the Big Easy and the surrounding area, like the swamps and crossing that wretched 24-mile-long bridge. (I also thought I was going to die while crossing that nightmare of a structure.) This novel was well-researched and I absolutely love that!
Sheila's first novel reminds me of my own in a few ways. It's got moments of drama, but no really overtly threatening people. The one person that everyone else is afraid of, she is not. There isn't a murderer after her, she's not haunted by ghosts, she's not trying to solve a crime. She's just trying to figure herself out and find her place in a world that is suddenly very different from all that she's known before. The conclusion isn't a sharp, decisive moment. It is an end that happens for a while. But, being so character-driven, that's how it works.
I will say this, though--I had to stop reading so that I could clock in for my job. I had two pages left. I was so freaking antsy to get back and finish this book. I didn't know yet if this was the start of a series and all of this was basically an introduction to April, or if this was a stand-alone. The last bit of mystery was addressed in those final two pages.
It took me about a day to read this book. It's less than 300 pages. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who just wants an escape for a day. It's a great beach-read. I actually read most of it while sitting beside a lake. This book is charming and I just loved it. You should go buy it. Find the author's website here and her first novel here.