A Corner Of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Already a star of Australian YA Fiction and with a voice so original you’d spot it even without her name on the cover, Jaclyn Moriarty is both branching out of and staying put within her old genre. The first in a new series, A Corner of White defies category but for her existing fans it’s purely and intensely Moriarty.
Teenage Madeleine is uprooted from a glamorous life to Cambridge, England. She’s an enigma to the two friends she’s homeschooled with and distant from a mother who obsesses over a television quiz show. A crack in a parking meter, revealing a corner of white paper, launches us into a story told partly in epistolary form.
Madeleine’s correspondent is Elliot from Bonfire, a struggling farm town in the Kingdom of Cello, which becomes almost more real than Madeleine’s world (this despite the fact that death in Cello is caused by tornado-like Colours, and their belief that a miniscule girl in a jar will revive their crops).
Moriarty’s trademark letter-writing style works well here. Quiet, head-in-the-clouds Madeleine becomes forthright and occasionally brattish on paper. That side is foiled by Elliot’s gentlemanly patience but we’re well aware of his private turmoil. Focussing on the lives of teenagers in her unique, comical way fulfils Moriarty’s duties as a YA favourite but I connected more with A Corner of White as an adult. Displacement, self-deception and reinvention were at the forefront of my mind but it’s deliciously open to interpretation.
Whimsical, baffling but always engaging, A Corner of White is like going on a journey while someone whispers cryptic directions in your ear. You have to trust Moriarty, she knows where she’s going. Once publishing has got you where it wants you, it can be difficult to try something new. Moriarty succeeds in blending the qualities expected of her with a broader scope.
Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time. Her other title is ‘Mum’, or more accurately ‘Muuuuuuuuum!’