April was the inaugural month of Brandy Strong’s Quirky Readers Club! I’m so excited to be a part of this club- Brandy is a cool blogger, and we get to read awesome books! The club could definitely use more members, so if you’re interested please follow the link to join!
For April 2016, the Quirky Readers Club read Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. This book was just recently released, and to me it seemed like it might be similar to The Night Circus (one of my all-time favorite standalone reads). However, it was not at all what I expected (and that’s not a bad thing!). Here is the summary from Goodreads:
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
So.. this book was definitely atmospheric! I mean, look at that cover. The rich, dark atmosphere practically reaches out to choke you. I hope the graphic designer was well-paid on this one! Wink Poppy Midnight is narrated in turn by each of our three titular characters. I thought that I was going to get their names confused (because, whoa, those are some weird names…BUT PRETTY), but each one is characterized so distinctly, I never got confused. Midnight was a bit wimpy, I thought. He had moral feelings, but often didn’t act on them because he was afraid of somebody’s judgment. He bothered me, overall. I LOVED Wink and her family- they felt like a throwback to a bygone era when families lived in old, run-down farm houses and children skipped through fields. Poppy is a great…villain? She’s a wonderfully complex character, and her particular evil is so ingeniously insidious that it made for great reading. They were all complex, actually, but I found Poppy to be the most well-developed and Wink the most interesting. The side characters- mostly Wink’s family and Poppy’s circle of friends- were also fascinating. The two boys that orbited Poppy and competed for her affections were very engaging. I somehow understood and rooted for all of them and Midnight at the same time.
The entire plot of Wink Poppy Midnight was generated by its characters. That was probably why it was also a lot shorter than I expected. There were events, momentous, heart-pounding events, but they were all driven by characters who tried to get what they wanted through manipulating other people (no, none of them were particularly good people). Wink wanted her fairy tale, with the Hero who uses the Sword to slay the Monster. I loved the emphasis on the role of storytelling in how we view the world through Wink’s perspective, but I felt a bit like it was forced. The role of fortune telling, tarot, and communication with spirits in Wink’s family and the ways in which the characters used (or abused) these tools made it felt more like an authentic story I could buy into and less like an experiment in metafiction, but I’m not sure I was completely sold. I was never not conscious that I was reading a work of fiction. It never sucked me all the way in, probably because the goals of the plot were tied so far into the main characters’ goals, and ALL OF THEM LIED AT LEAST ONCE. Awesome use of unreliable narrator technique, not as awesome if you’re looking for a storyline you can believe in.
The writing was pretty, in this one! It was flowery and experimental and gorgeous. I like things with lots of metaphors and excessive descriptors, though, so if you don’t, this one may not be for you. I read in some other reviews that they found some of Tucholke’s descriptions of people repetitive, for example, the frequent mentions of Wink’s green eyes and red hair. As a writer and a reader, I feel it’s often a great strategy to just pick two or three physical traits for your character and reference them for physical descriptors, but I do think Tucholke toed the line on how much of that is permissible in this one. It didn’t bother me (though I did notice it), but it very well could bother others. The writing style is very thematic- everything feels important and deep. Examples:
“When you look into the darkness, the darkness looks into you.”
“Revenge. Justice. Love. They are the three stories that all other stories are made up of. It’s the trifecta.”
“I’d never get the sound of her screams out of my head, or my heart.
Is this what it meant to be the hero?”
“You just have to eat a strawberry and then wait for tomorrow.”
“Wink kissed deep. Deep as a dark, misty, forest path. One that lead to blood and love and death and monsters.”
Overall, I’d say this is a really unique read! It’s short, so it’s not difficult to get through, but at the same time it’s very entertaining. The real strength of this novel is in its characters, which are brilliantly conceived. Fun, dreamy, and whimsical, but not earth-shattering.
If you’re looking for more thoughts on Wink Poppy Midnight, head over here to read Brandy’s review (which was much more timely than mine 😦 )! The Quirky Readers Club will be reading Lady Susan by Jane Austen for May 2016, so please feel free to join! That review will be up near the end of May as well.
Has anyone else read Wink Poppy Midnight? Thoughts on the book or preferences for writing style? Do you like unreliable narrators? Tell me below!