Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh


Maroh, Julie. Blue is the Warmest Color. Vancouver, CAN: Arsenal Press, 2013. Print.

Genre: Graphic novel

Summary: A courageously tender and mercilessly honest love story. Clementine, 16, comes to terms with her gender identity. She feels the pressure to date boys, all the while having delicious fantasies about the blue-haired girl she passed on the street. Eventually, she and the blue-haired girl, Emma, meet. They fall madly in love and wind up living together when Clem’s family disowns her. When they are in their thirties, Clementine commits adultery and dies from a drug-overdose. (Not a spoiler. The book opens just after Clem’s funeral.) Her death almost serves as a reconciliation for her parents and Emma. The book turned movie in 2013.

Critique: Sepia-toned ink drawings. Masterfully depicted and rendered. Detailed. Anatomically very correct, especially during sex-scenes. Blue is just about the only color that emerges throughout the book. Hair, shirts, or symbolic items.

Be prepared for the narratological pole vault in the middle. One moment, Clem is a teenager getting kicked out of the house, then with the turn of a page, she’s thirty-something, cheating on Emma (with a male partner), and addicted to prescription drugs. The ending also feels less than satisfactory because Clementine’s death does not unite any of the text’s themes. It does not help Emma grow as a character — she was already okay with her identity. Nor does it bring about a true reconciliation with the family. and her drug addiction comes out of nowhere. As such, the text can almost come across as a cautionary tale: Parents, accept your children’s gender identities or else they will wind up a wreck like Clem! 

That aside, Maroh remains faithfully attentive to the issue at stake: is love wrong when it’s not hetero?

The love story she crafts forms a passionate, authentic, and breathtaking answer to that question.

By jenmichellemason

Jenny is a story hunter. She has explored foreign countries, canyon mazes, and burial crypts to gather the facts that make good stories. Once, she sniffed a 200-year-old skull...for research purposes. Jenny received an M.Phil from Trinity College Dublin and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She has authored nearly 20 STEM books for young readers. Her inquisitive and funny nonfiction articles have appeared in Mountain Flyer, Cobblestone, and Muse magazines. Jenny also works as a freelance copy writer for nonprofits and small businesses.

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