One Plus One Equals Blue
by MJ Auch
Original Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Length: 272 pages
Obtained Via: Bought
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
View at the Traffic light:
Twelve year-old Basil knows he’s special—he’s been associating numbers with colors since he was a kid. His gift (or curse) has turned him into somewhat of a loner, but his world begins to change when he meets Tenzie, the new girl in school who has similar freakisms. She, too, has synesthesia (a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another). At first, Basil is somewhat annoyed with Tenzie’s pushiness, but after Basil’s estranged mother returns, his life is turned upside down . . . and Tenzie may be the only person to help him put it back together again.
Once again, MJ Auch has written a thoughtful coming-of-age novel that explores friendship, family, and fitting in.
One Plus One Equals Blue has made me come to the conclusion that realistic middle grade books are not for me. And that’s okay! I’m not the target audience anyway, obviously. However, I don’t think 12-year-old Stormy would have liked this book much either.
One Plus One Equals Blue starts out by introducing us to Basil. Basil has a form of synesthesia in which he sees numbers as colors, and it’s made him “weird” in school. Up until the current school year, his grandmother had taught him at home, so he already feels like an outsider already. He’s pretty much a loner until Tenzie comes along, and by accident they realize they both have synesthesia.
From the summary, that sounds like it’ll be the basis of the story, but that’s fairly misleading. I wasn’t expecting Basil’s synesthesia to play a HUGE role since that’s not really a conflict in and of itself, but I did expect it to impact the story, and it barely does at all except being something Basil and Tenzie bond over. The real story is Basil’s estranged relationship with his mother, who left when he was young to try and be a Hollywood actress. She comes back, but then leaves again, and Basil and Tenzie decide to go after her. There’s a lot of family dynamics and the real focus of the story is on Basil’s relationships with his mother and grandmother.
Some of it’s pretty touching, but I found One Plus One Equals Blue didn’t really have a focus. The first half of the book seemed to be telling one story, and the second have a totally different one. There was mood whiplash like whoa, and at the end I was left pretty much just tapping my foot and going “So . . . what was the point?” I didn’t feel like Basil or Tenzie grew that much over the course of the story except that their once-rocky friendship was on solid ground. Which is something, I suppose, but it’s different than having the characters actually grow on their own.
On the whole I was pretty meh about One Plus One Equals Blue. The synesthesia parts were interesting, but they were few and far in between, and the plot itself didn’t really seem to go anywhere. 2/5 cupcakes.