Black Crow White Lie
Casperian Books recently released author Candi Sary’s debut novel Black Crow White Lie. Twelve-year-old Carson Calley lives with his mother Juliet Bravo, an alcoholic psychic fortune-teller. They hop from one seedy Hollywood motel to another. Carson has no father, no permanent home, and with his mother out late most nights, he is often alone and must grow up quickly. Juliet has been in a long-term relationship with a married man named Jackson, who refuses to acknowledge Carson. Despite her issues, Juliet loves Carson dearly. She tells him stories of how, hundreds of years ago, they were Native American Indians and he was a great healer who was killed before his time. She says he is destined for greatness in this lifetime, as well. Indeed, Carson does have an amazing gift of healing and often heals Juliet of her ailments, usually hangovers. Juliet also tells Carson his father was a great war hero and is buried in a hero’s cemetery in Washington DC. As Carson develops his gift of healing through Juliet’s friend Lolo, whom he is told is also a healer, he dreams of the day he can visit his father’s grave and is convinced he can bring his dad back to life.
Sary brings this story to life with a cast of colorful characters. Faris, a local tattoo artist, becomes the father figure Carson so desperately needs. He’s a sounding board for Carson, a voice of reason, and a caring encourager. He gives Carson his first tattoo, a black crow on his shoulder which represents Carson’s father. Casper, a dreadlocked albino, owns a Hollywood head shop and befriends Carson. Rose is a schoolmate of Carson’s who verbally bullies him. Carson is perplexed as to why he is so attracted to her. Left on his own to skateboard through the streets, Carson makes friends with delinquent drug abusers and struggles to stay out of trouble. Because he often feels abandoned, he becomes angry and vents his rage by destroying things. Then he feels guilty and wonders how it’s possible for his hands to both heal and be so destructive.
Casper is deaf in one ear and one day Carson heals him. Once Casper learns of Carson’s gift, he becomes Carson’s business manager and sets him up with a room in the back of the shop, bringing in clients for Carson to heal. Carson quickly builds a reputation as the young “Hollywood healer” and soon has enough money to fly to Washington DC and find his father. Once there, he discovers he never had a war hero father, that his mother had been lying to him all those years. He’s shocked and outraged when he discovers the true identity of his father. He also finds out that Lolo is a fake, and Juliet had orchestrated everything so Carson wouldn’t abandon his gift. Carson begins to question everything his mother has ever told him, including his ability to heal. Meanwhile, Juliet is in rehab and Carson has only Casper and Faris to watch out for him. Ultimately, Carson learns to forgive. He realizes that what is most important in life is family, love, and belief in oneself and who they are.
This wonderful coming-of-age story is engaging and well-written. It spans Carson’s life from age twelve to fourteen. My only concern is a question of who is the author’s intended audience. Given the age of the main character, I would place it as a middle grade novel. But the themes and situations seem to be geared more to young adult. Parents should be aware that some of the subject matter is a bit mature for late elementary or early middle school kids, in my opinion. He deals with an alcoholic mother, hangs out in a head shop, and has friends who do drugs. Casper gives a detailed description of a bad ‘shroom trip. For Carson’s fourteenth birthday, his friends give him brownies laced with a psychedelic (not marijuana) drug that has a very negative effect on him. Nonetheless, it is a realistic, believable story.
Black Crow White Lie was a top six finalist in the 2009 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition and a semi-finalist for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. You can find Candi Sary on her website.