Pink by Lili Wilkinson ISBN: 9780061926532
Plot Summary: Ava has a life a lot of teens might envy. Her parents just want her to be a teen and get outside the box of normal teens. They are supportive of her relationship with Chloe and give her a lot of freedom. But Ava starts to feel closed in by what she’s become. She wants to try something different: a school where she actually has to try hard in her classes, friends who go shopping on the weekend, maybe even a boyfriend. But being a normal teen is hard. She finds the popular friends she was seeking, but also the stage crew friends that she hates to admit she likes. But there are a lot of lies going in all directions. Can Ava find what she really wants, without blowing her cover or hurting anyone in the process?
Critical Evaluation: Initially, I was going to say that character was the strongest literary element in this book, but after thinking about it a little more, I’m going to say the conflict was the strongest element. I do think that Wilkinson spends a lot of time building her characters. Each is rather unique from the other and has layers to them. They aren’t totally one sided or total stereotypes. Alexis is the popular girl who secretly just wants to watch science fiction movies. Chloe presents this aura of being untouched by everything around her, but she’s actually vulnerable and fears rejection just like the rest of us.
But the conflict is what makes the book so universal. I know I’ve wondered what my life would be like if I had been more popular or if I had studied harder or been a nomad hippie…Our lives are all Choose your own Adventures (or The Road not Taken, for poetry fans) mostly, with strong influences along the way, from our parents, our partners, and our friends. But for the most part, we don’t have the opportunity to go back and see how our life would be different if we had just chosen that other option. Ava’s conflict with who she is heavily influenced by what her parents want for her, what Chloe wants for her, later on what Alexis and Sam want for her. She doesn’t really get to choose for herself until the end of the book. That may be what resonates most for teens; most can probably sympathize with not feeling in control of your own choices and life. So, even though Ava chose to take control in a rather underhanded and deceitful way, I think the idea of doing something along these lines would be very powerful. Hopefully all teens can see beyond Ava’s choice to wear pink and be popular, to their own choices.
Reader’s Annotation: Have you ever been tired of following along with what everyone else tells you to do, or wanted to try being a different person for a change? Ava sheds her ultracool and ultraradical life to give another one a try, and it all starts with a pink sweater.
Information about the author: Lili Wilkinson was born in Melbourne, Australia. She is the only child of another Australian author. She was first published at 13 in Voiceworks Magazine. She studied Creative Arts at Melbourne University.
She has written several YA novels of different genres. She has also won several awards for her books, including a Stonewall Honor for Pink. On her website, she admits that she likes writing for younger readers because they are better fans, and because she doesn’t have to make her “writing all fancy-schmancy.”
Genre: Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ
Curriculum ties, if any: This would be a good book to incite discussion about who we are, the decisions we make as teenagers, and the influence our family and friends have on us.
Booktalking Ideas: I think I would emphasize the themes of going to a new school and trying to figure out who one is and where they belong. The Screws add a more boy friendly element, and that the need for acceptance and uncertainty is something that boys as well as girls can relate to. Perhaps that would be enough to attract a less self-conscious boy. I would also want to play up the humor in the book, and the allure of being able to try out a totally new persona.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is sixteen, and a junior in high school. School Library Journal recommends this title for teens grades 9 and up.
- Sexual situations
- Drinking and drug use
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
Pink is an important book for teens to have access to because it shows teens in similar situations to ones readers might encounter. It presents a setting where most accept homosexuality, and experimentation with who you are, as long as you are honest with the people around you. The drinking and drug use is shown to have negative side effects, and at least Ava feels some remorse in the form of a hangover the next day.
Why did you include this book? : Besides reading it for class, I am happy to include this book because it represents a book with an LGBTQ theme, and takes a slightly different approach to that genre.
Lili Wilkinson (2013). Allen & Unwin .Retrieved from https://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=311&author=514
Wilkinson, L. (2013). The story of a Lili. Retrieved from http://liliwilkinson.com.au/about