I don’t get ARC’s very often, but Sierra Abrams, the author of the Color Project, was kind enough to send me an early copy. This comes out on August seventeenth, and is about joy and the complexity of relationships. I had some issues with it, but found that it was pretty adorable and summery, if you’re into that. I’ve done my best not to let the free ARC affect my opinion. I loved the characters and the atmosphere.
Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.
Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.
When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.
The characters were all, or at least mostly, interesting, believable people. But there were a lot of them, so the power of each individual character was diluted. Like there was this chick who loved shoes and was related to a TV show person or something, and two twins who liked to compliment Levi in Hindi (and the 1 Hindi line the said was sort of awkward but that’s possibly because I just dislike romanized Hindi), and this dude Keegan at the shop, and Bee’s sister, and her brother, and the florist, and all these people were present and vivid, but there were so many of them that I didn’t have a decent understanding of who each one was.
Another thing which troubled me was the charity. Now, maybe I wasn’t paying attention in the beginning, but was it clear why it was called the Color Project, and why Levi wore bright shirts. I don’t know much about charities, but my parents work for NGO’s, and having an organisation that just hands out cheques to people who were low on money just seemed a) generic and b) unrealistic. Usually charities try to help to cause of the problem (Poverty or inequality or health issues) more specifically rather than just handing out cheques, and that was never explained adequately enough for me. And it’s really hard for small charities to get the kind of donations that The Color Project was getting. Funding proposals are HARD and COMPETITIVE, yo. anyway.
My one other main problem was that a central plot point revolves around Bee hating her name, but at no point does she explain why she hates her name, or talk to her parents about it or anything like that. Bernice Aurora Westcott just didn’t seem like a very bad name to me? And I have two middle names, but I just felt like her concerns about her name were a bit ridiculous.
Those were my three main concerns, but I also was troubled by the way that Bee didn’t mention her high school at all? And the setting was just sort of confusing to me, but I don’t know America that well. I also wish that the ‘villain’ had been a bit more complex. I also found that some characters were a little too perfect.
Luckily, there’s lots to love in this story as well. For one, the two main characters are incredible. They feel really real and interesting. They were imperfect, trying to figure out what role they wanted in their great wide world, and in each others lives. Bee’s concerns about what she wanted to do with her life were totally valid and relatable, and I loved how she was just figuring out where she belonged. That narrative resonated with me. I also loved the relationship between Levi and Bee. It wasn’t quite perfect, but they were really sweet to each other and they helped each other out, and supported each other, and it was wonderful. I also really liked Levi. He was a bit of a troubled soul, but the was really genuine about what he cared about and who he cared about. I also loved his relationship with his mum. All of the characters are curious and compelling, and perfectly relatable, and I just loved that. Abrams writes amazing relationships.
I also loved the atmosphere of this book. It’s mostly a summery book, golden and warm and shimmery, but tainted by deep undercurrents of grief an unrest. The book doesn’t have a particularly strong plot; rather the shifting in the mood and atmosphere is what hold it together and makes it so lovely to read. I just loved how each chapter ends with this line full of heart that just captures what it means to be young, to be lost, and to be finding yourself. The writing is excellent. Another brilliant part of the story was how the ideas of stargazing are woven into the narrative. The characters get to know the stars as they get to know themselves; the motif worked perfectly without feeling forced, and believe me, it takes skill to do that as a writer.
This is a story full of characters and this wonderful atmosphere, and that’s what makes it stand out in a sea of contemporary. I’m so glad I read it, and despite some problems that I had, it was worth it.
What is a contemporary you’ve read which focuses on complex relationships? Have you ever gone stargazing? And have you heard of the Color Project? Tell me in the comments!