Cover Image: Notes on Her Color

Notes on Her Color

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews


-exploration of intergenerational trauma

This book has no flaws.
Was this review helpful?
A complicated and sometimes clunky debut with some YA angst, deeper conversations around race, sexism, abuse, oppression, and queer love, you can read my full review on my site.
Was this review helpful?
Jennifer Neal’s debut novel, “Notes On Her Color” is a unique contribution in this time of disquiet and instability. It is the Bildungsroman of Gabrielle who is an amazing hero living in a highly dysfunctional environment. You root for her from the very start, hoping that she can break out before she is too broken. (Pardon a bit of a spoiler. Gabrielle’s father may be the most loathsome character I have come across in a long time).

The novel’s title signals that skin color (hence race) is a constant companion in the narrative. There is a magical realism to Gabrielle, inherited from her mother, that requires the reader to ponder what Neal intends the metaphor to imply when “color” and “passing” emerge in the novel. This debut is for those who appreciate “show, but don’t tell”.

“Notes On Her Color” is based in Central Florida, which happens to be my home turf. Neal hits all the “high points” like a pro: immense wealth sheltered off from deep poverty, ethnic, cultural, and racial diversity, often pocketed into race and class-based segregation, guns, guns, guns, hurricanes and gators, shuttle launches and sonic booms, homelessness and housing insecurity abounds. 

Fortunately, there are good people in most worlds and Gabrielle is fortunate to find some. Music is a key enabler. The “soundtrack” of “Notes On Her Color” is wonderful, especially for fans with diverse musical interests that prize the classics. Jennifer Neal has an unusual literary lens and is a writer worth following as her career evolves. 
Thanks to Catapult and NetGalley for the eARC.
Was this review helpful?
I loved how this book centered a Black and indigenous female protagonist, how it centered women generally. The men in this book were unambiguous villains, and their treachery made it hard to read, at times. But the glimmers of light, of connection, warmth, and acceptance were vivid and rich. 

As I read, I struggled with the juxtaposition of changing skin colors--something quite literal in this book--with the abuse inflicted by the MC's father. The former is ephemeral, other worldly, the latter so harshly detailed and realistic. Perhaps that was the point. It was certainly affecting in terms of conveying the violence of people's treatment based on color (even if it was not subtle). I think it may have been reader ignorance, as I'm not well versed in magical realism.

For me, the book took a little too long to get to its main plot. It was slow-moving and heavy in its misery. For readers with an appreciation for a slow-paced book, vivid imagery, and a painfully illuminated loneliness, it is a striking work. Overall, this novel has robust texture and envelopes the reader in its world, even if at times that world is painfully bleak.
Was this review helpful?
Notes on Her Color surprised me on nearly every page. From the beginning, I was drawn in by the premise of a young woman able to change the color of her skin through matrilineal heritage, a heritage of strength and vibrancy, yet living in a practically colorless home. I felt chills reading about the literal whitewashing. 

This is a book that will make you feel things. It is alternately weird, endearing, horrifying, and thought-provoking. In the end, I would call it defiantly brave.
Was this review helpful?