Cover image for Born blue
Born blue
Nolan, Han.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt, 2001.
Physical Description:
277 pages ; 22 cm
Janie was four years old when she nearly drowned due to her mothers neglect. Through an unhappy foster home experience, and years of feeling that she is unwanted, she keeps alive her dream of someday being a famous singer.
Reading Level:
920 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.9 10.0 49816.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.8 17 Quiz: 25619 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Janie . . . Leshaya . . . whatever she's called, she's a survivor. Rescued from the brink of death, this child of a heroin addict has seen it all: revolving foster homes, physical abuse, an unwanted pregnancy. Now, as her tumultuous childhood is coming to an end, she is determined not only to survive but to make a life for herself by doing the only thing that makes her feel whole . . . singing.
Born Blue is the hard-hitting story of a girl who searches for love and security despite the roadblocks in her way--a gritty story that inspires understanding, tolerance, and compassion. National Book Award winner Han Nolan introduces a heroine unlike any before. A girl with the voice of a woman. A woman with the dreams of a little girl. Readers will never forget Leshaya.

A portion of the sales from this book will be donated to the Monarch High School Project in San Diego, California.

Author Notes

HAN NOLAN is the author of If I Should Die Before I Wake; the National Book Award finalist Send Me Down a Miracle; the National Book Award winner Dancing on the Edge; and A Face in Every Window . She lives in New England.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 10-12. "Nuthin' else in the world would matter if I could sing and people would listen," says Janie, whose raw, forceful voice drives this searing novel. Born to an unknown father and heroin-addicted mother, Janie shuffles between grim foster homes run by neglectful parents. Her passion for music sustains her, and as she enters adolescence, she vows to become one of "the ladies" (singing legends Aretha, Etta, and Roberta) whom she has listened to since childhood. Eventually, she joins a blues band, starts to use drugs, and has detached, careless sex, leading to pregnancy and childbirth. She comes close to her dream when she meets guitar player Paul, who encourages her to stay off drugs and teaches her music theory. But when their friendship falls apart, Janie finds she must confront her mother and her own burned bridges. Like the novel's first-person narrative, a mixture of colloquial southern and "some kind of Afro-white speak," the story's pace roams and wavers. The sheer energy of Janie's voice--tough, heartbroken, vulgar, yearning, and wholly unapologetic--balances the uneven moments, and with themes of race, talent, family, love, control, and responsibility, the novel asks essential questions about how to reclaim oneself and build a life. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nolan (Dancing on the Edge) uses boldly honest first-person narrative to recount the saga of an emotionally disturbed teen, whose life-affirming passion for music constantly conflicts with her self-destructive tendencies. Abandoned by her mother, neglected by her foster parents and later kidnapped and sold by her mother to a drug dealer, Janie finds her only source of happiness when she hears "the ladies" Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan sing. Janie is lily-white, but she identifies more with the music, culture and rhythms of her African-American foster brother, Harmon. When, at a young age, she discovers her own remarkable singing voice, Janie (who changes her name to Leshaya) begins getting the attention she so desperately craves. Her talent proves to be both a blessing and a curse, however, bringing her opportunities and, at the same time, magnetically pulling her into a world where fellow musicians use drugs and sex to heighten their performance. The protagonist's serpentine narration often picks up characters then drops them just as abruptly, mirroring Janie's treatment of others. Some of the developing relationships her reunion with Harmon and her interest in a gifted songwriter, especially demonstrate Janie's inability to connect with others to chilling effect. But other examples feel gratuitous once her pattern of behavior is established. By the time readers reach the novel's conclusion, they will have gained an understanding of the tragic heroine's fears, desires and warped perception of family, but Janie herself remains hauntingly elusive, adding to the impact of the book. The question of whether or not Janie will break her cycle of abuse remains unanswered, yet young adults mature enough to bear the story's intensity will also likely recognize the characteristics of this deeply troubled girl from their own communities. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Janie's Mama Linda abandoned her when she was four, but the heroin-addicted woman shows up at odd times, plucking the child out of her foster home but always dropping her back. Janie's dearest friend is a fellow foster child who also lives at the "stink house." Harmon, an African American, has a collection of blues tapes that he and Janie listen to over and over again. Janie clings to him and to "the ladies," whose music churns through her soul, and, despite her blond hair and blue eyes, she decides she is black. She has been gifted with a magnificent voice that pours out the beauty she craves and the pain she is too young to know. When Harmon is adopted into a loving, well-to-do family, she is heartsick. Mama Linda comes to visit and this time sells her daughter to a couple in exchange for drugs. Janie changes her name to Leshaya and grows into a wild young woman, carelessly using her talent. She recklessly slams shut any of the doors it opens for her. She destroys every healthy relationship she has and while she thirsts for goodness, she lashes out and shatters it. This novel is raw, rough, and riveting. The writing is superb; like the blues, it bores down through the soul, probing at unpleasant truths and wringing out compassion. Leshaya tells her own story-in a bold voice that is rich with unique dialect and fired by desire, rhythm, and longing-and Nolan never interferes. Readers will be absorbed in this intimate and painful voyage.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.