Book Review: Yellow – Megan Jacobson

yellow-megan-jacobson-book-review

Title: Yellow (2016)
Author: Megan Jacobson
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 259 pages
Release Date: February 1, 2016
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a midlife crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth.

Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.

Review

I picked up Yellow mostly because of the cover (just look at all those beautiful colours!), without really knowing what it’s actually about. Magical realism is very much a hit-or-miss for me — I’ve really only loved Haruki Murakami’s books from that genre, and everything else is a bit of a dud. Unfortunately, Yellow didn’t make it to my favourites’ list either — I felt really disconnected from the story. 😶

Yellow is the story of Kirra, an Australian teenage girl whose life seems to be getting worse and worse with each passing day. Her friends bully her, her mother is an alcoholic, her dad doesn’t want her… and a ghost is also asking for Kirra’s help to prove his murder. It sounds charming, really, but to me, all these things felt a bit too much — it felt like I was reading two stories with very little relevance to one another, and the whole plot, as a whole, felt a bit forced to me.

“Because you don’t get to choose your parents, and at some point you realise that maybe your parents just aren’t able to parent very well, but we exist, and the only choice we’ve got in the whole situation is whether we’re gonna love them anyway. It’s as simple and messy and complicated as that.”

Furthermore, none of the characters really engaged me. The romance was alright but unnecessary, almost as if it was added just because. Kirra’s dad, Lark, appeared maybe two times in the story but never appeared again, and I didn’t really get why his character was needed in the first place. Kirra’s mother was obviously a big plot point, but I wasn’t taken by her one way or another. Kirra’s relationships with all these characters never felt fully explored, which was disappointing.

Perhaps the only exception was Willow, Kirra’s classmate and later-friend. This was probably where the book shone the most to me — Willow was feisty, strong, kind, but also flawed, and her friendship with Kirra felt superbly realistic to me. They were tentative and reluctant friends at first, they fought and argued and made up, and there were definitely some growing pains. 💛

Thematically, Yellow is more of a coming-of-age story rather than anything else. Kirra started out the book a passive person, scared and cowardly and very much a pushover. It wasn’t until she received encouragement from Boogie and Willow that she really pushed back to her bullies and started taking control of her own life. This part was refreshing to see, but for me it came a little too late.

“Do not define me by my gender or my socio-economic status, Noah Willis. Do not tell me who I am and do not tell me who society thinks I am and then put me in that box and expect me to stay there. Because, I swear to God, I will climb the hell out of that box and I will take that box you’ve just put me in and I will use that box to smash your face in until you’re nothing more than a freckly, bloodied pulp.”

On a related note, the ending felt too… clean to me. I wanted Kirra to get the best that she could, of course, but it seemed almost too easy, too rushed, too neat. 4 stars for the coming-of-age elements, 3 stars for the overall writing, and 2 stars for the ghost story. Overall not a terrible book, but not the book I was expecting to read. 😐

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38 thoughts on “Book Review: Yellow – Megan Jacobson

  1. Great review! Ugh it’s so tough finding authors who do magical realism well. I just recently finished When The Moon Was Ours & that is a perfect example of magical realism done right. This sounds interesting, too bad it wrapped up the way it did. I’ve never read anything by Haruki Marukami but have heard so much about this authors books, which one would you recommend as a first read?

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    • Thanks so much! Yeah, I find magical realism to be a hit or a miss for me… and when it’s a miss, it’s REALLY a miss. I dunno, maybe my skeptic mind just can’t really handle it unless everything else is perfect.

      I’d recommend his short stories or Norwegian Wood to start with! Those are some of his easier titles, I believe – if I had jumped into 1Q84 immediately I dunno if I’d have fallen in love with his writing. 😉

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  2. I really love ghost stories, so while reading the synopsis, I could feel its potential. But I’m sad to see that it didn’t work out for you at all. 2 stars for the ghost story? I’m bummed hahah.

    Magical realism is a hit or miss for me too! Ideally it sounds like the genre for me, but when it comes to some books, it just doesn’t work out. Awesome review! I’ll have to keep in mind that this one isn’t truly a ghost story!

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    • Maybe it’ll work for you! It definitely works for some people. And yeah – it’s very hard to balance the reality with the magic in this kind of books, I think. Too little or too much of anything can really make it too… weird, almost? It’s not my favourite genre, but there are some gems in it. 😉

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  3. I’ve probably said it before, but it’s always heartbreaking when a gorgeous cover gets assigned to a lackluster book.

    On a related note: the last quote you gave is amazing, and I really wish it belonged to a better book. Oh, well. Glad to hear the friendship aspect was enjoyable, at least! I do love to watch friendships develop, so maybe I’ll give the book a shot (eventually) despite the meh review.

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  4. Magical realism is hit or miss for me as well and I am very selective of the ones I read. I love the fact that the friendship between Willow and Kirra was realistically developed. I’m sorry to see that the rest of the characters fell a bit flat. I hate it when a books has so much potential but doesn’t take the time to explore beyond the surface of the character and I especially hate it when two plot threats have no apparent connection to one another.

    That quote is fierce, so the book gets a point for that haha.

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    • I’m very selective too! And by that I mean, most of the time I just find magical realism stories weird. 😂 I guess it’s not really my thing, though I do really, really love Haruki Murakami. And yeah, the plot threads not connecting just made me feel like I was reading two separate books with the same characters…

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  5. Great review Reg! The cover for this book is a major draw for me as well, and I really love the magical realism genre, in fact I’ve yet to find a magical realism book that I didn’t love. It’s a shame Yellow wasn’t an amazing read for you. I agree this genre is a hard thing to do right, and a lot of the time even though I’ve loved the books themselves I was sometimes left a little confused by some of the magical realism stories I’ve read so far.
    Yellow sounds interesting to me so I may add it to my to-read list. However the fact that you didn’t connect with the characters and the fact that the story felt a little disconnected are kind of drawbacks for me as well. Still I’m willing to give it a go! 😀

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    • The cover is sooo beautiful, I think I’m getting a hard copy just because I want it on my shelves. And yeah, this genre in general is hit or miss for me, so I’m not super surprised that this one’s a bit of a miss.

      Please give it a go! I know Sara (Freadom Library) enjoyed it much more than I did – I felt disconnected throughout with some moments of clarity in between, and I think she connected with the book more. 😂

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  6. It sounds like the book went a different direction than the blurb intended which sounds a little disappointing. I was expecting maybe a kind of light hearted magical realism novel (yes, I know her personal things weren’t light hearted but a ghost haunting you through a phone booth? c’mon). I might pick it up because it still sounds intriguing, but I don’t think it’ll be at the top of my list.

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  7. Oh no, that’s too bad the book didn’t live up to your expectations, from the synopsis it sounded very promising, that’s too bad :/ I love the cover so much, as well! I enjoy the magical realism genre, but I get why it can be either a hit or miss, at times. I think I’ll have to try that one for myself to see how I enjoy it 🙂 Thank you for this review! 🙂

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