Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Review: Pink - Lili Wilkinson

Published: August 1st 2009, Allen & Unwin
Pages: 288 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): "The pink jumper was practically glowing in my grey bedroom. It was like a tiny bit of Dorothy's Oz in boring old black-and-white Kansas. Pink was for girls."

Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.

Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical.

But while she's busy trying to fit in -- with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew -- Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

My review: A novel like Pink is my absolute favourite kind - a standalone contemporary YA that's a little bit edgy. Brilliant. Before I started reading it I did think it would be a little fluffy and cutesy for me but I had it all wrong. Pink is a tough talking coming of age story that centres around Ava - a girl who has already come out and was never confused about her sexuality, until now, that is.

Determined to start finally being herself and living the life she always fantasised about, Ava convinces her parents to let her attend the prestigious private school, Billy Hughes. Once she gets there she's befriended by perfect, perky Alexis and the rest of the Pastels but things still don't feel quite right. Wherever she is, Alexis never feels like she really fits in - she sees a little bit of herself in Chloe (dressed all in black with a sarcastic comment to mark every occasion), the Pastels and even the stage crew freaks she ends up bundled together with when her school musical audition doesn't go quite to plan.

I think every one of us has felt like Ava at some point - like you don't really fit in, like you don't know who you really are, like you're afraid to be truly yourself. It's such a huge part of growing up and something often written about in YA fiction but rarely as well as it's written about in Pink. This book was such a huge surprise for me - I thought I'd enjoy it but then it would just sit and gather dust on my bookshelf and I'd forget all about it. I absolutely fell in love with the story from page one and am still talking about to anyone who'll listen two weeks later. Brilliant.

Okay so stereotyping is bad etc etc but Wilkinson writes the archetypal social groups of high school perfectly. We have the Pastels, your run of the mill Mean Girls and the stage crew freaks who are the epitomy of geeks - but the best kind. Modern slang and colloquialisms are heavy throughout Pink, especially when it comes to the stage crew freaks (I don't think I've ever seen so many 'fail' references in one place) and it really comes across how well Wilkinson knows her target audience.

Each characters has clearly been lovingly developed and although we're introduced to a lot of different sudents very quickly, I didn't get them mixed up at all (well, maybe with some of the B-list Pastels but that's the point really, isn't it?). I have to say that Dennis was definitely my favourite character, I just wanted to give him a big hug and ruffle his hair.

I'm pretty sure that any fans of contemporary YA will love Pink and I'd happily recommend it to anyone. It's a relatively quick read at a little under 300 pages so give it a whirl!

First line: '"You're leaving?"'

Plot: 5/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

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