This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.
Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson
Published July 29, 2015 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: When Astrid and Hiro meet they give each other superhero names. She's Lobster Girl and he's Shopping Trolley Boy. Not an auspicious beginning. But it gets better. Then it gets worse. Much worse. Classic romantic comedy: girl-meets-boy, love blossoms, and is derailed. Incredibly engaging, upbeat, funny and smart.
Astrid Katy Smythe is beautiful, smart and popular. She's a straight-A student and a committed environmental activist. She's basically perfect.
Hiro is the opposite of perfect. He's slouchy, rude and resentful. Despite his brains, he doesn't see the point of school.
But when Astrid meets Hiro at the shopping centre where he's wrangling shopping trolleys, he doesn't recognise her because she's in disguise - as a lobster. And she doesn't set him straight.
Astrid wants to change the world, Hiro wants to survive it. But ultimately both believe that the world needs to be saved from itself. Can they find enough in common to right all the wrongs between them?
Green Valentine is Lili Wilkinson’s latest novel. I’ve read all but one of her YA books (A Pocketful of Eyes is on my shelf but I’ve been saving it because I don’t want to be done with reading all her books) and it’s every bit as funny as her previous novel, Love-Shy (my favourite Lili book).
Set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Valentine, Astrid Katy Smythe lives with her recently separated mother (her father cheated and has since moved out). She has two best friends, Paige (the most popular girl at school), and Dev (he’s openly gay and it was awesome to see that this was completely accepted at their school).
Astrid is a passionate environmentalist; she looks down on consumerism, processed foods, plastic and packaging, and wants people to care about more than just cute animals. She’s also extremely judgemental, annoying and flawed (a character type that Lili writes really well, I adored the same characteristics in Penny from Love-Shy). Despite claiming to care about the environment, Astrid is not a vegan – this is the single biggest personal choice someone can make if they truly care about our world and all animals (want more info? Watch Cowspiracy.) She describes herself as a vegetarian, but she’s not as she makes exceptions for organic meat and bacon (cue eye rolling). So while I could see this admission coming from the moment I started reading, and I could rant about how annoying it was for me to read, it really contributed to her character; I believed Astrid exists, and the fact that she wasn't perfect made her judgeyness all the more infuriating, yet she was also lovable and relatable.
Astrid meets Hiro Silvestri, an Asian-Italian student from her school, as she’s trying to petition people at a local mall while dressed as a lobster. She immediately judges him as one of the stoner kids, but as he doesn’t recognise her they strike up a friendship, despite Hiro admitting that he detests girls just like her (the popular, pretty girls he likes to call Missolinis).
The mistaken identity plot line was fun, it allowed Astrid to get to know Hiro in a way that wouldn’t have been possible, and ultimately it brings them closer together. Hiro has learnt a lot about gardening from his grandmother, and when their school garden project takes off, Hiro and Astrid begin guerrilla gardening at night – this totally reminded me of a very short lived tv show from 2009, Guerrilla Gardening. The gardening aspect was so different for a YA novel but it was really well done, with wonderful descriptions and ultimately they were doing something really positive.
The plot lost me towards the end, things started to seem a little unrealistic, almost too dramatic and movie-like. Astrid and Hiro apparently garden each night until the early hours of the morning and then go to school on a couple of hours sleep and this happens every night for weeks/months on end. The evil workings of the local council seemed a little far-fetched, and the identity of the major was obvious, even if Astrid didn’t put it together. The “hippies” Astrid and Hiro meet also seemed clichéd, this plot line was my least favourite.
Having said all that, I really enjoyed this book. I started reading it the afternoon I received it and didn’t stop reading until I finished it that evening, and I haven't been reading much fiction lately, so this was a big deal for me. The story is fun, Astrid is entertaining, and the romance was sweet. It was a really positive story and I think it could make a lot of readers think about the world. I know a lot of people will not be able to look past Astrid's quirks, but if they do, they'll come to see her as a girl trying to figure out how she can make a difference in the world.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy.
I love the cover of Green Valentine, it’s quite different from Lili’s last few novels.
I started with a base of China Glaze White Out.
I used acrylic paint for the leafy lips and vines.