NO COLOR BUT THE LIGHT is a YA psychological thriller set in 1922. Illustrated and steeped in magical realism, it’s an all-female ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST meets MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.
Eighteen-year-old Dylan Penn, a staunch suffragette and supposed psychotic, withers under the weight of being locked in an asylum. Like many rebellious women of the day, she’s repeatedly told she’s mad, a menace to the world. She shares the young girls’ ward with a killer, a thief who does not speak, and cowers under the twisted thumb of a doctor prone to experimenting on his patients. But everything changes one bleak, autumn day when Glory May arrives on their ward.
Glory’s a young Ukrainian immigrant-turned-Ringling Brothers tightrope walker, and when Dylan sees the scars on her back, she wonders if she’s dropped from the sky. Everyone is swept away by Glory’s fantastical tales: Flying girls and magical kingdoms, fire-breathing giants and a Turkish, human cannonball…
But Glory isn’t there to tickle their fancy; Glory is there to save them all. She tells them it was God who ripped off her wings and left her scarred for her sins, and freeing them is her last chance to earn her redemption. Dylan balks and thinks she must be crazy after all; they’ve a better chance at freedom if they do as their told. But when Glory May dredges up the doctor’s secret past, something dark inside of him ignites. The ghastly “cures” he inflicts on the girls turn personal, then deadly. Their world shrinks, the walls close in, and Glory becomes their beacon in the doctor’s raging storm.
They rush to her like moths to a flame.
Dylan wants so much to believe that Glory isn’t mad. That she really is a fallen angel, there to save them all from the doctor’s retribution. But if the truth is not so clear, if Glory’s just a lonely girl — conjuring a fantasy to cope with a traumatic past, and the bone-crushing feeling that she doesn’t deserve to live — then following her escape plan could be fatal to them all.
Hurt people hurt people, so they say.
And it’s so damned hard to break the circle.
No Color but the Light examines the chilling impact of a corrupt patriarchy on the wellbeing of women and asks the evermore timely question: Who, as a society, do we choose to believe? And whose truths, historically, have been marginalized or ignored? But it also draws from a well of magical realism to show how believing in something greater — even if it’s a crazy fantasy — can offer hope and joy in the darkest of worlds.
Written in the spirit of feminist novels with a twist such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, this story will appeal to fans of Bone Gap, The Astonishing Color of After and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender: Unusual YA stories that use fantastical elements to shine a hopeful light on a difficult subject. Visually, it’s more akin to illustrated novels such as What the Night Sings and Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black, and will appeal to fans of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. All of which use art in unexpected ways to explore a deeper understanding of our the past.
Originally created with a dual timeline, a follow up novel also exists. Finite Infinity is a (retro)contemporary romance with a speculative twist, set in 2006. Centered around a group of students from Rhode Island School of Design who discover the long-abandoned asylum just before it gets torn down, and learn of their own connection to its past as history slowly begins to repeat 80 years later. Written in the spirit of I’ll Give You the Sun, We Were Liars, Looking For Alaska, and All the Bright Places, it offers up a second chance as the infinite circle of life continues on.