Review

Black is for Beginnings

written by Laurie Faria Stolarz, adaptation by Barbara Randall Kesel, artwork by Janina Görrissen

College student Stacey Brown has been having nightmares about Maura, the little girl she used to babysit, even though it’s been about six years since the child was murdered. In Stacey’s dreams, she can almost smell Maura’s strawberry candy-scented breath and hear the giggle of her laughter. Although the dreams are more nostalgic than disturbing, they still leave Stacey feeling guilty and haunted. After all, years ago Stacey had had premonitions of something terrible happening to Maura but had kept her fears to herself. Had she shared her concerns with someone, perhaps Maura would have lived. But the anonymous note that Stacey wrote to the police was never mailed. Or was it?

Stacey turns to the nature-based religion known as Wicca to help her understand her disturbing dreams. She casts a pouch spell for sweet dreams and a moon-bathed bracelet spell for awareness in her attempt to learn what her dreams really mean and why they are occurring all these years after Maura’s death. Stacey’s friends also try to help --- Drea suggests journaling as a way to unravel the mystery of her troubling dreams, and Amber recommends talking the situation over with someone close.

Unfortunately, neither the spells nor the journaling have been helping, and, unlike Amber, it isn’t as if Stacey has a doting boyfriend like PJ to listen to her. Jacob LeBlanc, the one guy Stacey had truly cared for, is now far away and has no memory of her. Jacob’s own nightmares had drawn him across the long miles from Colorado to Stacey’s side at Hillcrest Boarding School in Massachusetts. At Hillcrest, Jacob had struggled to understand his premonitions about Stacey while convincing her to trust him. Slowly, with the aid of a henna spell, Stacey and Jacob had started to surrender to their mutual attraction and to recognize a soul mate in each other. But destiny had intervened, causing Jacob to nearly lose his own life in the attempt to save Stacey’s. While he had survived, Jacob was left with large holes in his memory…especially his memories of Stacey.

Now Jacob is back home in Colorado with his ex-girlfriend and childhood playmate, Kira. She helps him remember stories from a simpler time in his life, such as the gummy worm sandwiches they ate together or the time he split his pants doing the electric slide. Slowly but surely, Kira weaves her way back into Jacob’s life during a time when he is especially vulnerable. But now that Stacey has decided to come to Colorado to pay Jacob a surprise visit, will she find herself being the one (un)pleasantly surprised, or will the two young lovers finally heal the rift between them?

This black-and-white graphic novel was conceived as a companion piece to the Blue is for Nightmares series of paranormal young adult mysteries. Thus, it reiterates the plot from the other books in the series in a condensed format. It is not designed to move the story line forward, so fans of the series will have to wait for the next book to learn about future developments. The one major advancement in BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS is that the fate of Jacob and Stacey after the end of RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE is finally revealed.

This scary and romantic story, with its larger-than-life emotions and darkly twisting plot, lends itself surprisingly well to the graphic novel format. And while the overall story is fairly morbid, Laurie Faria Stolarz cleverly weaves in several light and silly moments that serve to lighten the overall ominous tone. The teenage characters, their dialogue, and their interactions with each other are also well imagined and ably captured. Additionally, the novel is beautifully illustrated in manga style with interesting vignettes from the other four Blue is for Nightmares titles. And when you are not enjoying the great dialogue or fantastic artwork, it is fun to pore over the little details in the book, such as the spells listed in some of the page margins.

BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS serves both to draw new teen readers to the series and to supply existing fans with interesting additional background and never-before-seen details. A winning formula!

Reviewed by Usha Reynolds on September 8, 2009

Black is for Beginnings
written by Laurie Faria Stolarz, adaptation by Barbara Randall Kesel, artwork by Janina Görrissen

  • Publication Date: September 8, 2009
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Flux
  • ISBN-10: 0738714380
  • ISBN-13: 9780738714387