One + One = Blue by MJ Auch

One Plus One Equals BlueGoodreads: One + One = Blue
Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Official Summary: 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.

Review: One + One = Blue is an exceptional book with a unique tone and story.  It dives right into Basil’s story and right into his differences.  It does not focus on Basil’s synesthesia however.  Instead, synesthesia is in the background, a part of Basil’s life that makes him special, that gives him both trouble and advantages, but which is never his defining feature.  The true story here is that of Basil’s’s relationships, particularly with Tenzie and with his mother.

This approach is perfect, as it demonstrates to young readers that a character and a life are made of many parts.  Bullies may pick out one thing to mock, but bullies are short-sighted.  Putting synesthesia towards the background takes something away from the book only once.  Tenzie casually mentions that she is able to use her number/color associations to help her with math, but her explanation of a rainbow grid is a little vague.  Readers interested in mathematics or synesthesia would love to learn more about Tenzie’s process and Auch misses a great opportunity to explain possible benefits or creative uses by glossing over the moment.

One + One = Blue is a little gritty and a little glamorous and a little weird.  It is action-packed and it is funny.  It addresses a lot of tough issues, including Basil’s differences and his dealing with an unstable absent mother, but all these issues are treated with care and humor.  Kids who are different themselves, or who are artsy, or who are daring will fall in love with Auch’s work and with her characters.

This is a special book, chronicling the life of a normal kid who faces crazy circumstances, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes foolishly, and sometimes bravely.  It ultimately demonstrates the beauty of differences, of passion, of love, and of friendship.  The world of One + One = Blue is a little insane, but entirely wonderful.

Publication Date: April 30, 2013

2 thoughts on “One + One = Blue by MJ Auch

  1. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase says:

    “This approach is perfect, as it demonstrates to young readers that a character and a life are made of many parts.” Love this! That’s so cool. Young readers really do need to see that in more books–we are not just the labels that we or other people may give to us.

    This book sounds great. I am kind of bummed that it sounds like there isn’t that much detail about the synesthesia, but I’m adding it to my TBR list regardless. Great review, Briana! (And I love your last paragraph, BTW!)


    • Briana says:

      Thanks! I did want to hear a lot more about synesthesia, but I understand the author’s approach and have somewhat come to terms with the lack of information. Interestingly, The Name of this Book Is Secret also addresses synethesia a little. I read two books around the same time that featured it, after never having read any!


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