I first got to know April Genevieve Tucholke just a few weeks ago when I read her curated collection of short stories Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. Loved. And now to pick up her book that’s getting some buzz was wonderful. And then I read the first page and was introduced to Poppy “She was the girl next door who fell off her bike and laughed at her bloody knees. She was the neighborhood hero who organized games of Burn the Witch and got everyone to play. She was the high school queen who reached forward one day during math class, grabbed Holly Trueblood’s thick, white-blond hair in her fist, and cut it off at the skull while Holly screamed and screamed. All because someone said Holly’s hair was prettier than her own.”
And I thought, yup, this is my kind of book. And then I read more and I thought, this is The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides meets Nothing by Teller and I was hooked. The dark mood set the pace as readers got to know Poppy and Wink and Midnight. Poppy is an only child, self-centered and evil while Wink is free spirited and innocent. Midnight is the boy caught in the middle. He’s been wrapped around Poppy’s finger, a pawn in her chess match, but moving closer to Wink gives him the ability to be softer and more worldly. Wink talks in fairy tales and tarot cards and Poppy talks in meanness and sex.
Some of the characterizations are stereotypical, but when Tucholke incorporates a magical thread pulling the story toward its climax– readers are shocked, scared, but satisfied. These three characters are worth knowing and learning from. Their trauma is our trauma, their failure is our failure. From the beautifully scattered cover art, unorthodox character names and situations, to the symbolic use of white stags and red fruit, it’s not an everyone book, but those that do read and love will do so with fervor.