Author: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: August 2009
Length: 300 pages
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.
I really wish I had read Pink earlier. Funnily enough, I picked it up from my library at the start of the year and read the first chapter. Somehow it ended up going back to the library without me realising (when your mother is an ocd-neat-freak-bookworm this can often happen) and I never got around to borrowing it again. Then, after buying tickets to the MWF, I visited no less than eight bookshops to find a copy of Pink! Anyway, Pink is pretty much made of awesome and has everything I love in YA – musical theatre, geeky boys, hippie parents, fandom, ranga jokes, identity crises’ and Pastafarianism.
Ava is a great character to read about – unlike someone like Amy from Posse, or Chloe in this story, Ava isn’t completely comfortable with her sexuality and is still trying to find out who she is and where she fits in. I really enjoyed the way Lili allows Ava to explore facets of her identity and question gender roles. Ava’s uncertainty and the journey she undertakes in Pink to discovering and being comfortable in her identity are a really critical part of adolescence, and I think most teens would really respond (in some way) to Ava.
My favourite parts were basically any scene involving the Screws (stage crew) – particularly the Dennis Station picnic, which is really lovely. Each of the Screws – Jule, Jacob, Jen, Kobe and of course, Sam, are brilliantly characterised and wonderfully quirky. Even Queen of the Pastels, Alexis (who I must admit, I was initially quick to dismiss) proved to have heart – and a surprising love of sci-fi, which I felt was a fitting reminder that everyone should embrace their inner-geek. Lili also does a phenomenal job at writing clever banter and realistic teenspeak – with the right mix of nerdisms, references to internet memes (the appearance of Flying Spaghetti Monster made me giggle) and heartfelt, believable dialogue.
Plus, any novel set in Melbourne and is full of references to this lovely city (especially ones to the Hurstbridge line!) owns my heart.
Lili Wilkinson will be appearing at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival at the following panels:
Growing Pains (August 31st with Jaclyn Moriarty) and Fading Twilight (August 31st). Ticket information available here.