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Along The Indigo

Review

Along The Indigo

ALONG THE INDIGO by Elsie Chapman looks into the life of Marsden, the daughter of a prostitute living in a bleak town famous for suicides and criminal activity. Faced with the nonexistent prospects for a bright future in the ironically named town of Glory, the novel opens with Marsden in the process of saving up funds for her and her younger sister, Wynn, to move away. Marsden’s carefully measured life begins to fall apart when her mom’s boss, Nina, begins pressuring Marsden to become a prostitute to compensate for her mother’s declining looks. Faced with an accelerated timeline on her plans to move away, Marsden’s already spinning world is further complicated when she runs into brooding classmate Jude and their relationship opens up a series of questions as well as a romance for the usually careful and driven teenage girl.

Jude pulls Marsden into his search for the truth of what happened to his older brother who died by suicide, an event Marsden has insider information on. Through her assistance on Jude’s quest, Marsden begins to question the notions she possesses about her town --- all the way down to questioning what really happened to her father who presumably killed himself when she was a young girl. Marsden and Jude’s quest takes them on a journey that exposes Glory’s hidden secrets and threatens to expose powerful members of the community, putting them both in danger. At once a romance and a mystery, ALONG THE INDIGO explores a town’s hidden secrets along with the lengths people will go to keep the truth concealed.

"Chapman strikes a balance of plot without sacrificing her beautiful style of writing....Readers will find a gem in the lyrical prose that Chapman develops into a dimensional and enthralling novel."

ALONG THE INDIGO was really good. It was well balanced between dark and taboo subjects along with normal teenage issues. It had romance, humor and sadness, and was compelling through the entire book. But where Chapman really excelled was in her characters.

Marsden is an incredible character. Her ability to behave maturely and take care of her younger sister is a unique depiction of a teenage girl who has to deal with a difficult situation. Her relationship with Wynn was adorable. Wynn’s bubbly and carefree personality serves as a contrast against the strict and responsible persona that Marsden brings, and as a duo they are heartwarming. Chapman’s writing conveys their deep love and trust for each other, and even when Marsden’s love interest Jude comes into her life, she does not sacrifice any of her relationship with Wynn to accommodate him. I hope that other authors look towards the sisterhood that Chapman was able to create while writing their novels in order to portray sisterhood in a realistic and important way, not allowing it to take a backseat to romance.

Another area where Chapman excelled was her female supporting cast of prostitutes. I loved that she did not dismiss the prostitutes as washed-up town whores, but instead she gave them all backstories and friendships and romances that made them incredibly empathetic. Literary women in their situations aren’t often represented well, so Chapman’s choice to spend time developing them was unique and appreciated.

A slight critique is that while the main characters are highly dimensional and layered, many of the minor characters fall flat, particularly the adults. Nina, the brothel director, is unnecessarily cruel with no explanation as to why she acts like she does. Shine, Marsden’s mother, is awful and completely detached from her children, again with no explanation or suggestion of a reason. The same goes for Jude’s father. While these one dimensional characters did not necessarily take away from the novel, it would have been refreshing to see an adult villain more thoroughly explained to make a more dynamic character.

The composition and thematic elements that Chapman chooses make the book a beautiful piece of literature. The prose in this book is gorgeous. I found myself rereading sentences just to enjoy the word choice and structure. The writing style is carefully flowery, but still communicates the story efficiently and does not get caught up being too wordy.  Chapman strikes a balance of plot without sacrificing her beautiful style of writing, something extremely rare in books.

Though it doesn’t contain much explicit adult material, the general themes of the novel were more mature than is suitable for younger readers. Perfect for fans of OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys, this book is for those who can deal with the adult undertones of the novel. Readers will find a gem in the lyrical prose that Chapman develops into a dimensional and enthralling novel. Equal parts a heart-warming tale of familial protection, love story and mystery, ALONG THE INDIGO begs readers to search for the beauty that can be found in even the drabbest of places.

Reviewed by Anna Kate L., Teen Board Member on May 9, 2018

Along The Indigo
by Elsie Chapman