Wink Poppy Midnight
April Genevieve Tucholke
Blossom Books (9789020679472) – Dutch ARC
I’m not really sure what I actually think of Wink Poppy Midnight. I have just finished it, so maybe I need to let it sink in more. I was highly anticipating this book, and so I was overexcited when I opened my work email and found an ARC from the publisher in my inbox. I couldn’t wait to read it, and because it was slooow at the bookstore I literally started right away. (It’s the start of the dreaded “bouwvak” here, a three week vacation period during summer in which every single Dutch person has packed their belongings to hightail it out of here.)
Wink Poppy Midnight is the kind of book that starts off great, then you start to wonder where it is going, and then you kinda have no idea what’s really going on? And are left with a conclusion that feels it should have explained more, or been expanded at least. In my opinion, as soon as we got to the creepy old house, April Genevieve Tucholke should have made the choice to do away with the folklore-infusions and stated the events plain as day. While the tropes were a lure for the first part of the book, it really threw me off when I tried to get deeper into the story.
Now that I finished it, I’m not quite sure if I really like this book. I think it is written cleverly, I found it an easy read and I can’t really find major faults. But I don’t think it’s just my personal taste either. I’m missing something and I wish I could tell you what that was. It is true that I’m not a big fan of contemporary YA. I rather read fantasy or scifi, but I enjoy certain books ever much. Fangirl, for instance. Something Real. All the Bright Places. I’ll Give You The Sun. I also love fairytales and have written a few papers for class on the morphing of old fairytale tropes to fit into modern stories. But I kept asking myself if I was enjoying this read or just reading it.
I think that the premise is well thought out. You alternate between Wink, Poppy and Midnight and we are doing so in real time, meaning we don’t get allusions to things that have happened in the past or will in the future. As we get to the middle part, I am starting to wonder if the storytelling is falling apart a bit. I don’t know if we are building to a purpose or just meandering along, and character’s decisions start to be about furthering the plot instead of coming from their personalities. For instance: Midnight is clearly far more enthralled with Wink than Poppy halfway through. He still allows Poppy to climb into his bed and seduce him into setting a trap for Wink, though. The only reason I see why he doesn’t throw her out of his bedroom window, is because the plot doesn’t want him to. Tucholke should have listened to Midnight here, and gone in a different direction.
The same goes for the entire trap-sequence. Poppy would know, as an avid seductress, that Midnight would shake free from her thrall if she gives him enough time to spend with Wink in the meantime, giving them enough time to double-cross her. Midnight, for a clueless boy tossed between two forces, gives in far too easily. In retrospect it makes a bit more sense, but it should make sense BOTH ways. What has been done far better, is the sequence after that: Poppy punishing everyone by disappearing and keeping them guessing about whether she is dead or not. We have established this is like her, and thus it flows well into later events.
This is when we reach that “are we into fairytale talk or are we discussing real events”-point that I mentioned earlier. Not knowing what is going on has been done on purpose by Tucholke, and it works well. I didn’t know which was which and I liked the ambivalence. The duality in everything we read tells us Poppy really could be either alive or dead, and I changed my mind at least twice. So that is well done, but I still think it could have benefitted from being more straightforward about this question.
The girls seem to work better when they do so independently from one another. You see that in the unexpected kiss, but very much so in Wink’s decision to hold a séance. I think this book is supposed to be about a great deception, but I see mostly disconnected events with unclear purpose. When either Wink or Poppy surprises the other, much more interesting things happen, and they seem to happen apart from the (very childish) schemed events. I can’t help but feel it moves beyond the control of the author.
In the end, Wink appears to be an even bigger manipulator than Poppy. We don’t have to question why, because it’s the same with Poppy: it’s in their nature. But I am wondering what the purpose of the book at large was, or rather, what Tucholke was trying to tell me. The characters remain largely unaffected, they would have been on this course by the end of the summer if nothing had happened, really. Yes, even Poppy, I argue. There is no growth to the characters, they remain as fitted into their form as fairytale tropes. Unless that was the purpose, but I think it was only supposed to be so with Wink – not Poppy or Midnight.
I don’t see what the mystery of the disappeared father has to do with anything, while it has been postponed until the very end to be revealed. As if it is supposed to tie into Wink being who she is. Poppy is a much more succesful character in that sense: the memory of the grandfather relates directly to her action. With Wink, the father has nothing to do with it. And now we are on the subject of characters, Midnight is the least defined of the three. He is stuck in the middle, both between the girls and on the personality-scale. I think he is supposed to represent us readers. If that was a conscious decision, which I’m not sure it was.
So, I am coming to the conclusion that I liked reading this book well enough, but that I don’t really feel it. I had expected more from it, but I am at the same time not wholly surprised. I think some things were cleverly done and others would have benefitted from a very different approach. I think, therefore, I am comfortable placing this book squarely in the middle. I can see people enjoying this one immensely, so I am telling you to read it no matter what you now know I think of it. If you’re not much for contemporary YA, I think you are likely to agree with 3/5 stars.