13 Dec / Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger
From the very first page, you’ll learn that one lover is dead, while the other survives: “My love, when you read these words I will have left this world.” Emma is in transit to Clementine’s childhood home to retrieve Emma’s diaries: “I asked my mother to leave you what is most precious to me on my desk: my diaries. I want you to be the one to keep them. All of my adolescent memories are in the blue one. … Blue has become the warmest color.”
By the fourth page, we’re back in 1994, when Clementine has just turned 15, and she begins her blue “Dear Diary,” a birthday gift from her grandmother. She’s a junior in high school, in the throes of adolescent discovery; she gets noticed by a charming boy, she dates, she goes out with friends, she tries to fit in. But at night, her dreams are something else, of a stranger she happened to pass in the middle of the street – a young woman with blue hair and just the hint of a smile that was enough to cause Clementine to look back and wonder. And so the slightly older Emma enters her life and their love story unfolds …
First published in 2010 in French by a Belgium publisher, Blue deservedly won various important awards in the international comic industry. Mostly presented in shades of grey, black, and white, creator Julie Maroh makes effective, intimate, haunting use of various degrees of the color blue. Her story about first (and last) love is wrenching – honest and open, revealing and extraordinary; I couldn’t recommend it more … but …
Yes, that but … So Blue arrived on my desk as a children’s book submission [technically, that category ranges from the most basic board books to lengthy novels aimed at savvy high school students]. In speaking with a few colleagues who are librarians, one commented that if Blue were a prose novel, she would have no problems placing it on the shelves in the high school library. But as it is a graphic novel, she knows the title will incite protests from adults – parents, administrators, or both; that said, she’s willing to take the risk.
If the title is at all familiar to you, that could be because the recent film adaptation won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2013 Festival de Cannes. As of this week, Blue is up for a 2014 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, undoubtedly with many other important nominations to follow. The film is playing in theaters across the country right now. Out on celluloid, Blue is rated NC-17.
The bottom line, of course, is that parents will need to decide what they deem to be age-appropriate for their own children. But (that but, again!) just a final thought: while the word ‘graphic’ is especially fitting here in describing the love scenes, I must add, so too, the word ‘love’ deserves significant consideration, as well.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2010, 2013 (United States)