Friday 29 September 2017

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Review: The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia RufflesNetGalleyThe Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles (eProof) - An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman's search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.

'Since I blacked out, the slightest thing seems to aggravate my brain and fill it with fire'

These are the things Lux knows:
She is an Artist.
She is lucky.
She is broken.

These are the things she doesn't know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her dreams are etched in red.

'The nightmares tend to linger long after your screams have woken you up ...'

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux's time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.

If her dreams don't swallow her first.
From Goodreads.

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles completely bowled me over. There were times when I really struggled with it, times when I wanted to give up, but I am so glad I stuck with it, because it's incredible!

Lux is unravelling. Over the Summer, she went to a party, and then blacked out, waking up in hospital. She doesn't remember why she blacked out, she doesn't remember waking up in hospital. But she knows she's different now. Suffering from intense migraines, terrifying nightmares in red, synaesthesia - where the senses overlap, hence the title - and obsessive episodes. All she knows is she wants to get back to who she was before. There's nothing physically wrong with her, and all her doctors and her therapist think she will start to get better if she just remembers what happened. But she has to. If she doesn't start to get better soon, she'll be taken away from everything she loves, her friends and her life at Richdeane, an elitist art school. But those are not the only things she risks losing, as with every moment, she loses more of herself.

I really struggled with this book at first. The way it was written just left me completely confused, in that I didn't know what was happening. The first chapter starts with Lux remembering a party at the beginning of the Summer, weeks before her blackout, and it was just baffling. Not the party itself, but Lux's thoughts. The way she worded her thoughts was just completely bizarre to me. I thought The Taste of Blue Light was going to be one of those arty books you had to be super intelligent to understand, because I was completely lost. Several times, I thought about giving up, because I just lost, but the story itself was so intriguing. I'm so glad I stuck with it, because I kind of got used to the strangeness, and came to realise it's not the writer being arty, it's how Lux is now, as she loses herself.

It was heartbreaking being with Lux as she tries to figure things out, but gets worse and worse. She'll have obsessive, compulsive thoughts - but not how we would generally think of OCD. For example, at one point where she's certain someone or something is after her, that it's in the woods, but she gets it into her head that she has to face whatever it is instead of hide, and so runs into the woods - and runs and runs, terrified, but also certain she will find whatever she's felt that's after her, and once she faces it, she'll get better - and gets herself lost, and doesn't remember afterwards exactly why she was running in the woods in the first place. Or her desperation to connect with former Richdeane student, actor and singer Jade Grace, with this overwhelming feeling that they are the same, and if only Jade Grace would respond to her incessant, obsessive, almost stalker-like emails, she would start to get better. As the story goes on, she just seems to lose her mind a little more, and I was so engrossed in the story, I felt like I was unravelling right along with her. I'd put my book down at the end of my lunch break and go back to work and just feel really strange, because I have to shelve books, but I was just running in the woods with Lux, it was just such an odd feeling. And it was so hard, so unbelievably upsetting, to see Lux slip away when she tries so hard to hold on. She is just so unwell, and she doesn't know how to make herself get better, and her therapist just keeps on at her to remember. She is struggling, drowning and not knowing which way is up, and it's just heartbreaking.

And then she remembers. It was a punch to the gut, reading about what caused her to black out. It was emotional, and it hurt. It was so upsetting, because this book is just so, so timely. It's horrific, and you come to completely understand why her mind would want to protect her from this, and why she would unravel, even thought she couldn't remember. I just got it. I've never experienced what Lux did, but we all have experience of reacting to such events when we hear about them, and with my anxiety, I have felt like I was hanging on by just a thread, and I've not even lived it. So for Lux to have reacted to what she went through the way she did, it was just so completely understandable, and I just wanted to give her the biggest hug. I just wanted to hold her and cry with her. Even now, I'm writing with tears in my eyes, because it just affected me so much.

I'm not the biggest fan of the ending, though. I understood why we had the ending, the purpose of the ending, but at the same time, I didn't really enjoy it. I think I would have preferred the book to have finished around 30% earlier. Those last few chapters just felt unnecessary to me, simply because of the time scale. I just thought it wasn't very interesting; I know I don't like books that have the climax, and then end abruptly, but for me, this felt like it was dragged out a bit too much. I don't think Part Two was necessary as it was. It just didn't work for me, but I can see other people enjoying it.

This book is absolutely incredible. It's not the easiest of reads, but it's such an important one. It's upsetting, but it's powerful and moving, and really, just a triumph. Such a wonderful debut novel.

Thank you to Hodder Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 7th September 2017
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
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