By: Liz Gallagher
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: May 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: August 2011
Vanessa Almond is an artist through and through. In fact, she changes her hair color like most people change their shorts. Vanessa is a fun, open girl who believes that in order to be an artist, you have to be the art.
Nick is Vanessa’s best friend - a young, gay boy who is trying to figure out his goals and the next steps he has in front of him in order to get the future that he wants. Nick is funny, sweet, charming, and believes in pure and utter color - just like Vanessa. Nick is a colorist for comics and, like Vanessa, loves to bring color to a boring black and white world.
Vanessa has a very nice family. Although her father left when she was young and is now married and living somewhere else, Vanessa’s mom is an extremely hard worker down at the docks and devotes herself to being a mom and taking care of her family. Grandpa also lives with Vanessa and her mom, and in addition to being retired and catching salmon he also likes to spend his time doing crosswords.
The one thing that gets Vanessa into trouble at times is her want and need to grow up and be “free.” She likes to take charge and make decisions that her age is not quite ready for, but Vanessa is strong-willed and just as colorful as her bright pink hair. Her ex-boyfriend, an artist named Jewel, is still someone that Vanessa is trying to get over, and the reader gets to follow Vanessa and watch her as she struggles to make decisions, work at her first job, and try desperately to help her mother not work so hard all the time.
Her other best friend is Holly. This is a young girl who plays the cello and has a crush on a boy who she desperately wants to talk to but hasn’t gotten up the courage to do so. Unfortunately, Vanessa takes it upon herself to bring the two together, as well as pushing Nick to be open and free with who he is, even though it’s beyond difficult for him.
This writer has done a wonderful job in showing how difficult it is to be a teenager. And Vanessa, a girl who strives to be different and not worry that she’s categorized as a ‘freak’ by her peers, has to learn that growing up too fast is something that can hurt far more than it can help.
Quill Says: Vanessa is a character that all ages will identify with, and teaching the lesson to “live” life instead of just sitting back and watching it go by is extremely heartfelt.