This could possibly be a perfect story.
Iris loves fire and art and Thurston. She sees art in the moment and in the flame and in her friendship with the sometimes homeless but always brilliant boy. Almost 17 years old, she is blank, empty. Setting fires clears her mind when she is overwhelmed. But she is about to learn that some things are brighter and more powerful than the hottest fire.
Hannah and Lowell are her mother and wanna-be actor stepfather, drowning in debt and always a scam away from riches.
Ernest is dying, far away from his only child. Iris thinks he abandoned her. He believes that she must hate him. But her mother’s greed and Ernest’s illness gives the two of them a final chance to be father and daughter. A short, wonderful, bittersweet chance.
I loved this book. Not at the beginning. At first, I thought it was a bit precious and obnoxious and pretentious. Then came the realization that I was reading it cover to cover, afraid to put it down in case the story went away without me finishing it.
The characters are fabulous. Iris is, at first, a self-absorbed teen, filled with disdain and anger for everyone but her only friend. She reserves a special antipathy for her money-grubbing parents. While none of that is entirely a put-on or front, it does hide her loneliness, and is something she willingly gives up for Ernest.
Neither Hannah nor Lowell are subtle characters. Jenny Valentine intends for the reader to intensely dislike the two of them, and while her writing may be a bit obvious in their development, it worked: they were perfectly vile, and you won’t feel forced to hate them.
Ernest is lovely. Just how lovely isn’t fully revealed until after his death, but I fell hard for the lonely man who finally listened to his sister, and spent his daughter’s lifetime thinking of her, hoping for her happiness.
FC1 is a painting by artist Yves Klein, a stunningly graphic work he finished just before his death in 1962 (and looks NOTHING like the cover art of this book, in case you are wondering). Valentine uses the imagery of the painting, as well as references to other famous works of art to parallel the plot. A great story and a bit of art history, all in the same novel.
In the end, the unexpected plot twists makes it a masterpiece of manipulation and deceit and pure love.
Appropriate for any age, this story has something different in it for every reader.
Fire Colour One is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.