Critical Context

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Continuing a trend that began with the 1970’s new realism, A Solitary Blue is a coming-of-age novel that profiles a dysfunctional family. When adults are absent, preoccupied, or flawed in some way, a child’s inner conflict develops naturally. This motif of self-sufficient and resilient orphans is found in fairy tales such as “Hansel and Gretel” and biblical stories such as Joseph and his coat of many colors; it has guided several of Cynthia Voigt’s young adult novels, such as Homecoming (1981); Dicey’s Song (1982), the winner of the Newbery Medal; The Runner (1985); Sons from Afar (1988); and Seventeen Against the Dealer (1989). Constituting what might be called the Tillerman series, these books share common characters—specifically, the Tillerman family of Dicey, James, Sammy, Maybeth, and Grandma Tillerman. Homecoming, which was inspired by a car full of kids left to wait in a supermarket parking lot, became the springboard for the other five novels. A Solitary Blue, although self-contained, is considered a companion book, not a sequel, to Dicey’s Song.

Praised for their realism, Voigt’s novels stress the need for understanding and harmony between generations. She provides compelling characters who change and grow as they communicate openly with one another. Voigt has an ear for the dialogue of adolescents and an optimistic eye for the innate resilience of her protagonists. They may not all live happily ever after, but her characters teach young people that understanding themselves and others is possible if they make the effort.

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