Friday, April 29, 2011

Pink, by Lili Wilkinson

Pink. Wilkinson, Lili. 306 p. HarperCollins. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780061926532.

addresses a question I think we have all asked ourselves at one time or another- or perhaps ask ourselves continually: WHO THE HECK AM I?

Ava doesn't really know who she is, but she knows she just wants to fit in. Unsure of her image as a gothy lesbian, she transfers to a new school for a chance to start over and be who she wants to be. And maybe for the chance to date a boy, although she's afraid to break her girlfriend's heart. After a hilariously disastrous audition for the school musical, she falls in with a group of stage crew kids who use Internet slang and make Star Trek references. They are awesome!

This is one of those stories where a character makes grand plans for social betterment and everything goes spectacularly awry. I have so much empathy for that! Because OMG, have we not all been there to some degree? Those teenage years are tough. You’re just trying to figure out who you are, who you want to be, who your friends are, what you’re supposed to be doing… and there really are no easy answers. So, Ava hits rock bottom, but she manages to regroup in a way that will be a comfort to many teen readers. It's encouraging to see that things can be okay after messing everything up completely.

One of my favorite things about this book is the way it demonstrates that, in high school especially, everyone is searching for their identity- even those who seem the most self-assured. Everyone is trying to fit themselves into a neatly labeled box- but the message in this book is that you don't have to choose just one particular box. I love that! So affirming.

I have to admit, though, the one thing that detracts from the book's strength for me is the stereotypical depiction of an Asian character. Also, the fact that his name is Kobe. I mean, sure, there's the famous basketball player, but is anyone else actually named Kobe? Really?? But more concerning to me is that the character is stated to hate being Asian. Like... whoah there. What's that about?! Unfortunately, his story isn't fully developed because he's not the main character, so we don't really get the details on his apparent racially-motivated self-loathing. It's odd, because there's no racism demonstrated by others in this book- it's just that the Asian kid randomly hates being Asian. But he gets a girlfriend in the end, so we can assume comes to term with his ethnicity...?

I don't know what to make of that.

But everything else about this book is super awesome and positive about being happy and confident about who you are, so I'm going to assume the author had only the best of intentions when writing the Asian character.

On another note, how much do I love Ava's super-supportive progressive liberal parents?? They are completely adorable and the cause of several laugh-out-loud moments. Wilkinson has a talent for writing very endearing characters. In addition to the hilarious parents, the stage crew kids are a crowd you just want to hang with, and even the less-than-pleasant characters are shown to have a vulnerable side.

Overall, a fun read for anyone who's ever felt like they don't fit in. (Which would be, well, everyone!)

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