A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea) is a creepily entertaining supernatural mystery set in an unnamed ski town, mostly in the forest or farms outside of town. Very sensitive teens or those who scare easily may want to pass on this novel, but its scariness comes mostly from repeated references to ghost stories and dark fairy tales and the accumulation of eerie details -- including creepy twins, tarot cards, and dead chickens -- rather than graphic violence. There are descriptions of a teen bullying others and a mention of a boy beating a girl, giving her brain damage. There are some references to teens having sex, but it's not described, and there's occasional strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "damn").
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What's the story?
WINK POPPY MIDNIGHT is told from three point of views, those of Wink, Poppy, and Midnight. Midnight, a brown-haired, blue-eyed boy, lives next door to Poppy and, like almost everyone else, has fallen under her spell. Poppy is a blond ice queen secretly in love with someone who despises her, and Wink is a diminutive misfit who is obsessed with fairy tales. When Midnight moves to the outskirts of town, Wink becomes his new neighbor and love interest. While Poppy devises a plan to keep Midnight under her thumb, Wink attempts to recreate Midnight as the hero of a fairy tale with Poppy as the villain, and it all culminates in an abandoned house in the middle of the woods that's said to be haunted.
Is it any good?
A fun romp for readers who like a good scare, this eerie novel is also a beautifully told story, and, like most fairy tales, it’s a bit unbelievable in places. The points of view are so well formed, we almost don't need the characters' names at the beginnings of chapters to know who's narrating. The novel also plays with ideas of gender. The ambiance vacillates nicely between soothingly calm and spooky, so that the calm sections almost lull readers (and characters) into a false sense of security. The spookiness is created skillfully, in part by odd details such as Wink's shorthand (such as calling her younger brothers and sisters "the Orphans") and best friends who dress alike in black skirts and striped socks, finish each other's sentences, and talk in unison.
Near-constant allusions to fairy tales adds nicely to the spookiness -- “I read the Orphans a fairy tale once called Giant, Heart, Egg”; "He was like the great horned owl with bloody talons in The Witch Girl and the Wolf Boy" -- as does the setting: "The light was now an eerie twilight blue, and the forest had gone dark"; "I ran my hand down the wall, and felt the velvet flowered wallpaper pucker under my palm. The faded red curtains were pushed back, floor to ceiling, framing the jagged edges of the broken bay window."
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