Wink Poppy Midnight, by April Genevieve Tucholke (2016)

WinkPoppyMidnightThis is one of the most engaging young adult books I’ve read in a while. Published in March, I expect accolades and awards to start appearing soon. Wink is the head-in-the-clouds bookworm who spins stories for her younger siblings, a happy family of dirty bare feet and wild strawberries with “golden milk,” a concoction of brown sugar and turmeric made on the stove. Poppy is the poor little rich girl whose parents ignore her, resulting in a beautiful “angel face baby” who is a cruel and spiteful manipulator and bully. Despite this, Midnight loves Poppy who can’t love anyone except herself. And this is why the book opens with Midnight’s confession: “The first time I slept with Poppy, I cried.” When Midnight moves next door to Wink, he discovers a girl with secrets he wants to uncover. She calls him The Hero, and Midnight finds the mantle appealing though occasionally uncomfortable. His brother Alabama, now living with their author mother in Paris, is the hero, not Midnight. And Poppy has fallen hard for Leaf, Wink’s older brother who took off last year. This leaves Poppy looking for a distraction, and she sets her sights on Wink and Midnight. But she may have met her match in Wink, who knows every story needs a Hero and a Villain. But just who is what? Who is lying? And what is cruel? Tucholke (author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea) uses multiple narratives as each of the three titular characters tells the story from his/her perspective, short accounts that change the reader’s understanding of what is going on, clarifying and confusing so you are never quite sure where the story is going. It kept me going right to the end, enjoying the complex twists that last to the end. So what is it? I think it’s a mystery, a ghost story, a story of bullying and revenge but at its heart, it’s a coming-of-age story of identity. Who are we? What is good and what is evil? When are we heroes and when are we villains? As the opening line suggests, there is some minor sexual content, but this isn’t a romance. The descriptions of bullying are occasionally disturbing, and I found myself irritated by the repeated references to Wink’s diminutive size (“tiny feet”, “small doll nose”). Minor quibble.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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