Pink by Lili Wilkinson
Release Date: Feb 2011
Ava is ready for something new. Tired of a wearing black and remaining outside of the social norm, she wants to reinvent who she is. She wants to wear the pink Argyle sweater hidden in her closet. Maybe even date a boy. When she transfers to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence she thinks she’s found the perfect opportunity; a place where no one knows her and she can try on a new “Ava”. The only problem? She must hide it from her changes from her parents and her girlfriend, Chloe. They’d never understand her new desires, plus they’re a nice safety net in case her new personality doesn’t work. The thing about secrets is they’re hard to keep and Ava risks everything if her two worlds collide. But as the dust settles Ava will discover who her real friends are…and maybe even a step closer to discovering who she truly is.
The Short of It: Hands down one of my favorite books! I’ve been gushing about this book to so many people since I read it in January (including the publisher and author!) I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a book. In other words, why haven’t you bought it yet?
Plot: The first thing that sold me on this book was that it was about a lesbian. Can I say there are just not enough books featuring teen lesbians out there? Seriously, I wish there were tons more, so when I hear of one I usually jump on it. But…but…this book goes way beyond that. It’s not about being gay, bi, or straight; it’s about discovering who you are. Ava’s parents are so much about sticking it to the man and thinking outside the norm, that they have painted her into a new sort of box. The gothy lesbian look is all good and dandy, but Ava really just wants to wear pink. She wants to know what it’s like to be part of the “in-crowd” and maybe even date a boy. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, which is a lesson Ava learns the hard way. There are many bumps–okay potholes–and detours along the way as Ava tries to make things work. Of course, the end of the book was not the end of Ava’s journey. She still wasn’t sure exactly who she was and may not know for a while, but she’ll continue to try to figure it out. Honestly, this is my favorite part; a school year is not enough time to firmly stamp you are and what your sexuality is. Kudos to Wilkinson for keeping it real and not tying it all up in a nice little bow.
Characters: Ava is far from perfect. She makes mistakes. HUGE mistakes. I understand the desire to be someone new/start over fresh though. Been there, done that several times over now. While I don’t condone all the lying that Ava does along the way, I can sympathize and understand how she got to that point. One little secret turns into another and another and pretty soon it’s out of control. However, I love that Ava is brave enough to admit her mistakes and apologize to everyone she wronged. She may have gone about many things wrong, but she tries her hardest to make them right again. And it’s not a quick fix, either; she’ll have to rebuild some of those relations, but Ava is willing to do what she can. I also love that she didn’t buckle under pressure and return to how others saw her. She had the chance to return to how everything was before, but she stick to her instinct, even if it meant losing someone she cared about.
Before I move on, I have to mention the side characters, especially the Screws. Being a theatre stag-crew/props/behind the scenes person myself, the Screws where my people in high school. While none of my friends where anything quite like them, it did bring back happy memories. I will say that Jen was my favorite character overall. The whole geek girl is my world and I kind of wish she were real so I could make her my new BFF (or more). But seriously, if you finish this book and not have an intense love for the Screws, well, something just isn’t right! (I’ll still love you, but I’ll have my serious doubts.)
Romance: Okay, so I’ll be honest. Ava is not single for most of this book. She and Chloe are in a relationship from the get-go, but honestly, Chloe does not have much page time. And when she does, you kind of wish she’d just go away. She’s too stuck in the thought that her opinions are law and is kind of a big bully. Her words are cutting, brutal, and very hurtful, especially when aimed at Jen. Not to mention her ultimatum to Ava is pure bs. So yes, Chloe exists but she is a predominant character.
Now there are other flirtations that are in the book, but nothing that evolves to a full out romance. There is definitely the possibility of more, especially with one character, but Ava still has a lot of figuring out to do before she crosses that line. If nothing else, there is still a great friendship–even if more never comes from it.
Writing: Wilkinson does a superb job at pulling readers into her world and making this world universal for anyone. I know this book took place in Australia, but for most of the book I forgot that detail, except when they mentioned what university they wanted to go with. Seriously, though, I could have seen this story taking place in my own home-town, which is the beauty of it. Wilkinson is quite spot on for the entire book. There was not a single time where I thought the pacing was off or a character would do this or that. And just how realistic everything thing is. . . Ah, really, I’m going to quit now before I get too gushy!
Librarian-Mode: Okay, pairing time. So there are a lot of books I think this one would do well next to. I truly believe it should be a GLBTQ staple and is a nice read-a-like for Keeping You a Secret, Ash, and Geography Club. However, this is a very good coming-of-age story and would work with realistic romances as well.
So, now it’s your turn…have you read Pink? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.