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Tumble & Blue

Review

Tumble & Blue

When the two title characters meet in TUMBLE & BLUE by Cassie Beasley, Blue makes this assessment of Tumble: “You’re normal,” he says, to which she replies, “I prefer to think of myself as potentially extraordinary.” It’s a quirky, fun introduction to two adolescents who end up in an extraordinary story, where their potential is expanded beyond their wildest beliefs.

In a story like TUMBLE & BLUE, the reader needs to accept a couple of truths: fates are real, magical alligators exist and families really can be full of that many eccentricities. Beasley’s strong plotting, pacing, use of suspense and character development make this easy.

Tumble and Blue both end up in the small town of Murky Branch, Georgia, at the start of summer. Blue is brought there by his undependable father, Alan, to stay with his Grandmother Eve. After traversing the country in an RV, Tumble’s parents decide she needs some structure and settle in Murky Branch, though it’s unclear why. Tumble and Blue soon meet and strike up a friendship. What they don’t know is that they’re both connected by a centuries-old curse, brought upon them by reckless ancestors.

"The characters...are the strongest part of TUMBLE & BLUE. It is they, in tandem with the suspenseful plot and family revelations that slowly spin out, who make the story so excellent."

Blue’s destiny is to lose. At everything. In the Montgomery family, members are either blessed with a positive fate, or a negative one. Blue’s father was born a winner, which makes his fate as an eternal loser that much harder to bear. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to change it, until he meets Tumble.

Tumble, in the vein of her adulation of Maximal Star, is determined to be a hero and makes Blue her latest quest. She will be the one to break his fate, and in turn help the rest of the Montgomery clan. True, her previous attempts at being a hero didn’t go exactly as planned, but this time, it’ll be different. She’s sure.

The duo are a ramshackle pair and their antics at doing good are credible, though with varying degrees of disastrous results. (Who knew board games could be so dangerous?) Sometimes, they aggravate their families; sometimes they aggravate each other. With the approaching red sickle moon and the ability to change a fate hanging in the balance, they have little time to waste. They have one goal in mind: to change the fates.

The plot of TUMBLE & BLUE focuses on this quest, with the climax being the night the red sickle moon appears in the sky. Along the way, they have some help from an eclectic cast of supporting characters, including Blue’s cousins, Jenna and Ida (one who animals love, the other who animals try to destroy), his Grandmother Eve and sporadic pronunciations from Montgomery matriarch Ma Myrtle (who can predict when people, including herself, will meet their demise) and Munch the mythical alligator. Of course, buried under the exciting plot projections, Tumble and Blue learn a few life skills of their own, most importantly the power of perseverance and friendship. 

The characters, particularly the members of the Montgomery family, are the strongest part of TUMBLE & BLUE. It is they, in tandem with the suspenseful plot and family revelations that slowly spin out, who make the story so excellent. They are funny, relatable and altogether enjoyable. That said, Blue’s family history is detailed more than Tumble’s and at times the balance feels off. While Grandma Eve is easy to picture, it’s harder to visualize the personalities of Tumble’s parents. Without this similar background on Tumble, the story often feels more focused on Blue, despite the title bearing both their names.

Not all the disappointments the characters face are resolved at the end of TUMBLE & BLUE. The ending isn’t as tidy as the reader might expect, but this could be viewed as both a criticism and a strength. Because the truth is, and what Beasley gets so right, is that everyone, in their own way, is “potentially extraordinary.” This couldn’t be clearer than how it’s depicted in TUMBLE & BLUE.

Reviewed by Liz Sauchelli on August 23, 2017

Tumble & Blue
by Cassie Beasley