Author: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher
Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.
Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don’t work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.
Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.
Humor, heart, and the joys of drama—on- and offstage—combine in Ava’s delight-fully colorful journey of self-discovery.
The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the cover. It’s a cool design – half-pink and half-black lips and contrasting title written across it. Then I read the synopsis and became even more interested. It sounded like a great book, a bit of a foil to all the paranormal and fantasy books I’ve been reading lately. I also wanted to find out if this would end up being one of the few books with a gay protagonist that I’ve read – I wasn’t sure if the synopsis description of Ava’s “old girlfriend” was an actual romantic girlfriend or a platonic female friend.
It turns out that Ava really does have a girlfriend, the edgy Chloe. Ava seems to be in awe of the fact that she’s dating someone as interesting as Chloe. Chloe certainly seems like a one-of-a-kind girl who would have more fun off on her own than with others, and yet she really seems to love Ava.
Ava is another story. When I read the synopsis, it made it sound like she was comfortable in her old life and merely wanted a little change. Instead, it turns out that she’s been trying to turn herself into someone else, the type of girl that her parents and Chloe want her to be. Then she goes to Billy Hughes and she tries to transform herself into someone else, the opposite of her old persona. I really felt bad for Ava, who spent much of the book trying to figure out just who she was – the black-wearing, radical-political-opinionated girl or the pink-wearing, cookie-cutter perfect girl. She spends so much time trying to please others that she ends up making herself feel miserable much of the time, which made me feel sympathy for her rather than get annoyed that she couldn’t figure herself out. I remember one of the first times when she saw the Stage Crew (screw) and was surprised to see how happy they seemed even though they should be unhappy – they’re at the bottom of the social totem pole and basically social pariahs at Billy Hughes. Despite that, they truly had fun together, comfortable with who they were rather than trying to fit in like Ava was. Something about that passage just really stuck with me – oftentimes, the popular and social-climbing people are the miserable ones who are never really happy with themselves while the ‘uncool’ people always seem to be happy.
The only minor problem I had with the book was how easy the various subplots seemed to wrap up at the end of the book. The rest of the book seemed quite realistic and I enjoyed it, but the easy endings didn’t seem to follow how the rest of the story was written. There were some minor strings left at the end, which were much more true to life. The main realistic ending, the relationship between Ava and Sam, left me conflicted though – minor spoiler alert, not much though – despite the fact that I wanted a realistic ending, there was a part of me that wanted a perfect happy ending for the couple, where they’re completely in love and things are going to work out perfectly for them.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d love to read some more books by Lili Wilkinson, although I must say that Ava’s story ends perfectly, without any need for a sequel.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars