An advanced readers’ copy of Every Colour of You was sent to me by Little, Brown for review, but the opinions in this piece are honest and my own.
Every Colour of You is the first release from YouTuber Amelia Mandeville, a 21-year-old writer whose debut novel is the culmination of many years of trying to get a book published.
The novel centres around the relationship between young adults Zoe and Tristan (or ‘Tree’ as the former likes to call him). Zoe is chirpy and upbeat, while Tree battles with depression and a tense relationship with his brother. It’s a typical ‘boy meets girl’ and ‘opposites attract’ story which regrettably, also comes with the slight implication that a positive relationship can ‘fix’ mental health issues. Although this is no doubt unintentional, and strongly challenged by Zoe and Tristan in the novel, such a message is unfortunately easy to convey with two personalities which are the binary opposite of each other.
Split into two perspectives, it’s Tristan’s chapters in the story which really show the best of Mandeville’s writing. Descriptive and insightful, Tree becomes a believable and three-dimensional character as his mental health issues are explored in detail with careful sensitivity. Contrast this with the quirky and bubbly Zoe, and her tone of voice reads as far too childish for a 20-year old girl. Established as a cliché extrovert, it’s only towards the end of the novel where this protagonist feels credible. For the most part, attempts to paint Zoe as an intelligent and witty individual are later marred by her inconsiderate comments and actions around Tristan’s depression.
This is similar to many plot points, too, where sudden changes to characters or the story take place, but are only fully explained further on in the plot. There’s a clear ‘beginning, middle and end’ structure to Every Colour of You – something which all writing masterclasses encourage – and it is in the middle of the novel where one of the most significant (but also one of the most unexplained) plot points takes place.
Here we see bizarre and sudden character developments with Zoe and Tristan. While a lack of explanation could just be dismissed as the author raising questions to keep us reading on, launching into large-scale turning points in the book without providing some sense of a reason why the plot heads in that direction only creates confusion, and when the big reveal does come, the intended feeling of surprise is replaced with confusion and disappointment. The technique works on some occasions, but for the most part, elements of the story which could well have delivered a ‘shock factor’ lack the necessary build-up.
It’s a pattern which continues up until the very end. While the climax has the desired effect of being incredibly emotional, there’s still the sense that something is missing as the novel heads towards its conclusion: motifs which could have been used one last time for that little extra touch; character descriptions which don’t quite add up in hindsight and expectations of where the story will end up which, although realised, are too short-lived. What’s supposed to be a surprising plot twist is an underwhelming change in direction, and one which calls the whole plot into question.
For a debut novel, Every Colour of You has the benefit of interesting and unique characters, but is ultimately let down by a disappointing plot structure. The end result is a book with sprinkles of charm, but lacks the shine it desperately seeks.
Photo: Hachette Audio UK/Amazon UK.