Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Publisher: Dial Books/Penguin
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“The intrigue of The Raven Boys and the “supernatural or not” question of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer coalesce in this young adult mystery, where nothing is quite as it seems, no one is quite who you think, and everything can change on a dime.
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
For fans of Holly Black, We Were Liars, and The Virgin Suicides, this mysterious tale full of intrigue, dread, beauty, and a whiff of something strange will leave you utterly entranced.”
Where to even start with this review, with this book? When a book is compared to The Raven Boys, I am equal parts intrigued and skeptical, so I went into Wink Poppy Midnight cautiously optimistic. This book turned out to be a magical, atmospheric, weird experience that kept me enthralled from the very first page.
Split into rapid fire changing POVs from Wink, Poppy, and Midnight, this book feels very fast paced even though relatively little action actually happens. I didn’t find any of the main characters particularly likable, but they were each captivating in their own way. Wink, obsessed with fairytales and committed to living one out, was the character I thought I’d love most going into the story, but I ended up feeling distanced from her to the point of mistrusting her most of all. Poppy is at least up front about the fact that she’s manipulative and mean, and I came to appreciate her cruel honesty. I think I struggled the most with Midnight: I alternated between thinking he was unassuming and sweet on one page, to gullible and weak the next. He is far overshadowed by his female counterparts.
That being said, the writing enthralled me. Tucholke’s writing is gorgeous, and she has crafted a novel so atmospheric that I fully expected to be in the woods, surrounded by mist when I looked up from the page. I’ve seen some people complain about the repeating of words and phrases throughout the novel, but I honestly wasn’t bothered by it. If anything, it added to the otherworldly sense of the book. As the reader, you spend the entire book wondering if there really is magic at play here. Wink Poppy Midnight feels so much like a magical realism story, and I felt like it was really building up to that. Ultimately, there is something far more sinister at play.
I pride myself on seeing plot twists a mile off – there have been very few times where a book genuinely caught me off guard. Wink Poppy Midnight messed with my head and kept me completely unsure of what was happening the entire time. I thought it would go one way, and then the story weaved and dived away from me into something far weirder. It must be said, by the way, that this is a genuinely, wonderfully weird book. But it’s also just as manipulative as its characters.
Where things fell apart for me, however, was the ending. I found the ending to be confusing (and not in the enjoyable way of the first 75% of this book) and ultimately unsatisfying. Maybe Tucholke wanted to keep things a bit mysterious and open ended, but I felt that it was a lot of build up to a weak ending. It was like eating a delicious slice of chocolate cake, only for the last bite to turn to dirt in your mouth. That was a bit dramatic, but the point stands. I will always prefer a strong ending over a muted one.
Don’t mistake my critique for displeasure. I absolutely adored Wink Poppy Midnight. It is its own fairytale, while simultaneously preying upon and playing against fairytale tropes. Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Which one are you?
*I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.