Review: Blue Sun Yellow Sky by Jamie Jo Hoang

Title: Blue Sun Yellow Sky

Author: Jamie Jo Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Travel

First Published in 2014

Published by HJ Publishing

Rating: 4/5 stars

A few months ago I received a message from an indie author who spoke about her debut novel on Twitter. I was so impressed with the subject of the book that I really wanted to read it, but I was also wondering whether it was going to be a heavy/emotional read or if it was going to be counterbalanced by something else. Here are my thoughts on it.

Blue Sun, Yellow Sky is a contemporary novel written by Jamie Jo Hoang, that revolves around the life of Aubrey Johnson, a twenty-seven-year-old painter, who was recently diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a disorder which will gradually affect her sight and make her go blind in a matter of weeks. We learn that Aubrey is an independent woman who struggled to make a living as a young artist and now she will be forced to overcome her fear of going blind and of losing control of her life in order to keep her career going.

As it usually happens when someone receives bad news regarding their health, Aubrey realises that the clock is ticking and she regrets that she hasn’t explored more of the world’s wonders until now. She accepts to go with Jeff Anderson on a one-way ticket around the world. The two childhood friends re-encounter one another by chance after years of growing apart, which is a great occasion to bring back funny and heart-breaking memories and to catch up with each other’s lives.

I really like how Aubrey and Jeff’s friendship is revived, though the two seem to be opposites. Aubrey is a strong and independent person, she has mood swings as artists usually have, she is a little self-absorbed, and she sometimes needs to be alone to paint or just to meditate on her life and future. Jeff has always been a mature person, who chose reason over feelings, but that didn’t stop him from being a caring and generous friend. Aubrey can rely on him and be quirky around him. Things get a bit complicated along the way and the two will be forced to face their true feelings sooner or later and to reveal the secrets they were afraid to share with each other. I think that it’s somewhat easier to overcome life’s obstacles when you have a friend by your side and Jeff reappeared in Aubrey’s life when she needed help the most.

The pacing of the story is a bit slower than in other books I read, but it’s not a bad thing, because it symbolizes Aubrey’s wish to stay a little longer in the present, in order to capture as many details as she can and mentally reconstruct the places she visits, in order to use them as inspiration for her paintings. I adore the chapters about Aubrey’s travelling experiences, the descriptions of each of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the emotions they trigger, the local food and culture, the friends they meet or re-encounter, and the tensions which appear between Aubrey and Jeff or the internal conflicts within the protagonist’s heart and mind. I liked the writing, even the technical parts which are linked to painting, architecture and photography because they helped me connect with Aubrey’s work and creative process. There are also flashbacks showing the past, whether it is Aubrey’s, Jeff’s or someone else’s backstory, something which adds meaning to the story piece by piece.

Before I wrap this up, I want to add that the message of this book was empowering, it brought me hope, as weird as this may sound, and I began to accept myself as I am. I feel more motivated to pursue my dreams, to accept self-doubts, but to keep them under control, and it made me wish to explore more of the magnificent places Aubrey visited. In the end, I think that we don’t need to wait for something life-threatening to happen in order to realise how precious life is.

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