“Wen knows what love looks like. Since her mom died over a year ago, she’s seen it every day on her orphaned younger brother’s face. Wen’s made good on her promise to her mom that she’d take care of Ezra, even quitting her carefree party-girl ways to become a hard-working college student so she can provide for him. Wen knows what love feels like, too. Because when she touches people, she feels what they do. “Uniquely perceptive” is what her mom called it, and Wen’s not going to argue; she doesn’t know any different. But an energy therapy study changes not only what Wen knows about her unusual gift; it also changes her. Now, instead of feeling emotions, her touch brings death to others. No one is safe around her, especially Ezra. Wen turns to energy healers for help. And that’s where she meets him: Mr. Tenacious and Audacious, Gabe Dumas. He knows about love, too; he speaks it in ways Wen has never experienced. And he’s never even touched her. With her heart unravelling, Wen discovers a world only she can see. It may offer hope for her condition… or it may be better left hidden.”
While there are many comic book references throughout Rachel E. Kelley’s Colorworld, especially about X-men, this book is not a comic book novel. It is a YA romance with hints of comic book sensibilities. Because of this, it wasn’t what I expected, which was both good and bad.
The story is told in first-person present tense point-of-view. I must admit that, personally, this is my least favorite POV for a story. But it worked for the most part, and I soon didn’t notice the tense. Many novels I have been reading lately, especially from independent authors, are writing this way and it simply isn’t my cup of tea. I find this POV to be very limiting, but because Wendy is the focus of this story, it works for the most part.
As I stated above, this book is more of a YA romance. The relationship between Wendy and Gabriel, who is an interesting Renaissance-style man with a fondness for antiquated words, is the heart of the story yet its most frustrating aspect. Instead of having two characters get to know one another or learn about each other slowly over the course of the book, Gabriel is in love with Wendy at once and does everything he can to win her over. Because Wendy has the ability to read the emotions of others, first through skin contact then later within a limited range, she should have been able to decipher Gabriel’s feelings much sooner. She spends most of the book doubting her emotional radar (“emodar” as she calls it) and trying to figure out her own feelings for Gabe. I felt this was dragged on for too long, with many repetitive scenes as a result. It didn’t help the story that Gabe was already in love with her from the start and was straightforward about it. I felt the romance needed more tension, or at least more of a buildup.
Wendy’s own life-absorbing ability also dominates the story. Guilt-ridden over the accidental death of a woman who touched her, Wendy continually states how she thinks she is dangerous, and she is a nervous wreck around other people. But only once is she shown to be in a position where she might hurt people. Despite her fears, she is perfectly safe for the entire book and her deadly ability is hardly ever commented on by others. All we get is Wendy’s fears of her abilities but it doesn’t seem justified because the readers aren’t shown she is a danger.
These quibbles aside, I liked the New Age-esque hypno-touch sessions of bringing out abilities in people, as well as the colorworld that Wendy is able to see. The scenes in which she sees the life-forces of others are well written and very visual, giving a great picture of an invisible world. The writing is strong when it comes to the back-and-forth of Gabe and Wendy’s relationship. The dance metaphor is used throughout and is an effective device. Overall, the writing itself is tight when it needs to be and not excessive. A bit more of ‘show, don’t tell’ could have been used, and the dialogue for Wendy doesn’t quite ring true for a nineteen-year old, in my opinion. But the author does have a flair with sentences.
So despite all of the references to X-men early in the book, this is not a comic book novel in the traditional sense. If you’re looking for action and high adventure with worldwide stakes, this is not the book for you. But if you want a nice YA romance with a touch of mutant-like abilities, as well as solid prose, and a likeable, well-rounded and responsible teen lead, Colorworld will suit you.