I think oftentimes, self-published authors get a bad rep. We all think of books littered with mistakes, that meander around without a point, that have terrible cover art and lack the polish of their professionally published cousins.
I’ve tried to keep an open mind to self-published authors though and Blue Sky, Yellow Sun by Jamie Jo Hoang totally rewarded my open-mindedness.
Aubrey Johnson is 27 and finally starting to make headway in her chosen profession: artist. Her paintings are being hailed as technically brilliant and, crucially, her work is selling. Which makes the diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) so devastating. There’s no cure and in about two months, she will be completely blind. How is a person who is dependent on their sight to create their work supposed to survive the loss of a sense so crucial?
An old friend from high-school provides a short term solution. Jeff is heading on a trip around the world for the next six weeks – why doesn’t Aubrey join him? In a journey reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love, Aubrey jumps on a plane with Jeff and goes to China, India, Jordan, Italy, France, Peru and Brazil intent on seeing as much of this world as she can before she’s completely robbed of her sight. Jeff doesn’t know her real reasons for leaving at a moment’s notice, but he isn’t being completely honest about his motivations for the trip either. As they make their way around the world, each has to confront their new realities: Jeff has to find a way through his heartbreak and Aubrey needs to deal with her diagnosis head on and figure out what life will look like for her when her sight is actually gone.
Hoang’s writing is poetic and beautiful. She manages to evoke the technical expertise of a painter just at the cusp of greatness. She is able to describe to the reader all of the places that Jeff and Aubrey travel to. It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks I will be travelling and this book made me excited to go for all the right reasons.
Blue Sky, Yellow Sun is a great little book packed with profound thoughts about art and love and the world around us. I loved that Aubrey is the kind of character that felt like she needed to deal with her own baggage before she would ever be ready to take on someone else’s. I loved how brave she was in the face of a terrifying new world, even though it seemed initially like she was running away from it, literally.
Once the trip is finished it would have been easy for Hoang to dump Aubrey back in her life with renewed hope and optimism about this new world but she doesn’t abandon us. An ending like that would have been a shortcut. She, realistically, has Aubrey fight to control her new circumstances. We’re with her as she struggles to create art that she cannot see. Any thoughts of a romantic relationship are secondary to Aubrey’s need to live a life on her own terms, a life that still includes her art.
I loved this book and I’m excited to see what Hoang writes next. If you see Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, please buy it and help support an indie author with a beautiful voice that’s worth reading.
Thanks to Jamie Jo Hoang for my copy of this book. This does not affect my opinions on this novel.