Originally published in French as Le bleu est une couleur chaude, Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
First published in French by Belgium's Glénat, the book has won several awards, including the Audience Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, Europe's largest. The film Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Julie Maroh is an author and illustrator originally from northern France. (blurb from Goodreads)
Rating: R; 5 stars
Trigger warnings: homophobia, romantic age difference
This book was an absolute beauty, and I am so excited to hear that it’s a movie, too. Not to sound cliché, but it is incredibly French--it differs from American comic books and graphic novels in the same ways that French films differ from American films. In fact, I really want to read it in the original language, because I suspect I’d like it even more in French.
I was a little weirded out at first by the age difference between Clementine and Emma. Clementine is still in high school, and Emma is very clearly an adult. Once they actually had a relationship and weren’t just meeting in a bar, the weirdness factor did go down a bit, but I imagine the age difference between them could be uncomfortable and/or triggering for some readers. Just a word of warning.
The art is beautiful in this book, very detailed, but not overdone. In many places, the dialogue is sparse, allowing the story to continue solely through the artwork. This is one of the ways in which I feel it parallels French film.
Without giving anything away, this isn’t exactly a happy book. I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re already sad, because you’ll probably finish it in one sitting, and then you’ll be sadder.
Another word of warning: this book does contain a few sex scenes, and because it’s a graphic novel, they’re, well, graphic. That is pretty much the sole reason I rated Blue is the Warmest Color as R.
Maturity aside, this really is an excellent book. The story is emotionally engaging, the characters are complex, and the art is breathtaking. I wholeheartedly recommend it. As for myself, I will be watching the movie as soon as I can get ahold of it.