Review: Pink

“As we wandered through the back alleyways of the city, Chloe burbled happily about the film’s self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and its youthful iconoclasm and its radical break with the conscious and conservative paradigm […] even though I had no idea what she was talking about, her enthusiasm was contagious.” p. 130

Pink by Lili Wilkinson.
HarperTeen, New York, 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 310 pages.
Stonewall Honor Book, 2012
Lexile: HL630L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 9.0 points)

Ava is sick of wearing all black, attending radical protests with her parents, and pretending to hate school with her girlfriend Chloe.  She’s transferring to preppy private school Billy Hughes, and she’s ready to try out a whole new image.  Which means wearing pink instead of black.  Which means pretending she doesn’t have a girlfriend.  Which means trying at school, and doing her best to be popular.

Her first ticket to popularity and a gorgeous boyfriend will be starring in the school musical.  But when her singing doesn’t make the cut, how will she balance the different areas of her life and sides of herself?

Pink by Lili Wilkinson

This was one of my dollar store finds.  I didn’t particularly expect to like it, but it was clear from the back matter that the protagonist wasn’t heterosexual, so I gave it a try.

The beginning didn’t start off strong, there was too much telling rather than showing, and I didn’t connect with the main character much.  But it got better.  As I kept reading, I found myself drawn into her world and interested in what happened next.

Or rather, I should say that I wasn’t interested in what happened…  I was interested in what she was going to say or how she was going to pull it off.  It was pretty evident early on how everything was going to turn out, but Wilkinson managed to keep it interesting by throwing some twists and turns in the subplots.

Perhaps because my expectations were not high, I ended up really enjoying this book.  The exchanges among the group of friends and the pretentious literary talk of Chloe and her friends reminded me of my own friends during high school.  While I was a little disappointed in the fairy tale style ending, it makes sense for a YA novel, and there were a few stands left for the reader to mull over.

Overall, this was a fairly light teen read about a girl who is questioning her sexuality.  The teen pranks, some drinking, and partying scenes that have the potential to go too far make me recommend this for high school students only, not middle school.  However I really appreciated that the norm for most characters was to be studious and responsible, and that aside from a few questionable decisions, the main character had a generally modest approach (felt that cheating was wrong, didn’t like dirty dancing, etc.)

Spoilers: Aside from the slow start, what bugged me about this novel was the ending.  I didn’t have many expectations other than this book being about a lesbian teen.  While I enjoyed the process of her discovering her own identity, it felt off to have the book end with a happy heterosexual romance.  I wonder what sort of message that sends to the teens who read this book, particularly any lesbian teens who start the book identifying with Ava.  /end spoilers

As seems to be the norm for books with homosexual characters (just as with disabled characters), the majority of characters were white, and whiteness was assumed (if a character was not white it would be specified).

Teens who are questioning their own identity and place among their peers (so basically, almost all teens) might enjoy this book, particularly bookish or nerd-culture loving girls or teens who enjoy musicals or participate in drama.  It certainly brought back memories for me.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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