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In his bright debut, Tangerine, author Edward Bloor introduced us to a legally blind kid who, frankly, sees reality a heck of a lot better than anyone around him. Paul Fisher, that soccer-playing wonder with bottle-thick glasses and a heart of gold, leapt into adolescent literature and surprised thousands of us. I, for one, hadn't read such a thirst-quenching story in ages. Paul Fisher became my personal hero. I built a shrine for Tangerine on my bookshelf (yes! no lie!), so dazzled was I by Bloor's thought-provoking tale.
When Crusader fell out of its mailing envelope, I screamed in delight. (I'm not a dork -- bottled up anticipation and longing will do that to anyone.) So in love was I with Edward Bloor's prose that the arrival of Crusader made me weak in the knees -- as if, perhaps, my summertime boyfriend had finally arrived at the resort that our families enjoyed year after year. How had he changed? Would he still love me? What fun would we have together this time around?
So, ummm...maybe you'll understand why I feel hesitant in making broad declarations about what Crusader is or how it reads or if it's as well as Bloor's debut. I'm in shock, I guess. Bloor, my favorite dreamy writer, grew up some since I saw him last, and I'm still figuring out how I feel about his new novel.
While Tangerine explored the idea that a blind kid might actually see more than his sighted friends and family, Crusader tackles the blind spot in the rearview mirror. Fifteen-year-old Roberta is a seasoned journalist, despite her youth. Passively, meticulously, and intelligently recording events at school and at the failing mall where her family owns an arcade, Roberta sees all but feels nothing.
We also learn -- on the very first page -- that she avoids the mirror. "I don't usually look in mirrors because I don't need to. I don't style my hair; I don't use makeup. Most days I couldn't tell you what color clothes I have on. Kristen says that's because I don't have a mother to teach me about such things. Kristin is usually right."
What happened to her mother? Roberta tells everyone that her mother died of a heart attack. We believe her at first because Roberta seems to have everything under control. Soon, though, "truth" unravels into family chaos.
In Crusader, author Bloor and protagonist Roberta sift through layers of reality. They unearth environmental massacres from long ago that matter now; they penetrate political webs and bravely dig out family truths buried long ago. Roberta even learns to look in the mirror. Her journey dazzles.