...despite any unevenness, the power of the book lies in Betancourt’s ability to remind readers of the real cost of atrocity, in this case perpetuated by the state, and to resurrect a sense of moral outrage. In the The Blue Line, freeing one’s self from past trauma often seems tragically out of reach.
...although Julia’s unusual powers might seem a clever way to convey the messy personal price of a larger national evil, the suspension of disbelief required by her 'special gift' becomes an unfortunate distraction from what might have been a revealing examination of how fascism works and what it does to its victims.
...the revelation of Julia’s gift is thrust upon the reader almost immediately, rather than released in little magical doses that would make you tingle with surprise. At best, it’s an experiment that goes awry well before the book’s conclusion. The Blue Line is not without its own stylistic merits, though, and is almost flawless when describing the bizarre Argentine political contexts of the 1970s.
...it's Julia and Theo's past, not their future, that brings a sense of urgency to the book. Buried within the weak psychic plot is a harrowingly realistic political novel about the price of personal freedom under an oppressive Latin-American regime.
The [clairvoyant] conceit helps Betancourt hold her fractured story together. It also feels forced and thin. Her publishers call it 'magical realism,' but by now that’s just industry jargon for something that can’t happen in real life but does happen in Latin American novels. Betancourt’s flights of fancy lack the poetic force of the surrealism in Borges or García Márquez.
The Blue Line boasts the framework of a book that explores the immediate and long-term impact of prolonged captivity and torture, something Betancourt understands. But as it jumps through time and between countries, the plot holes become glaring. Betancourt is vague about a great deal of pivotal elements, whether it’s the torture itself or the relationship between Julia and Theo. The characters feel undeveloped as a result, and it’s difficult to become invested in their lives as the story plays out.