Author: Liz Gallagher
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Hardcover: 192 pages
Source: Teen Book Scene and Random House
My review: 3.5 stars
From Goodreads: Vanessa is wise beyond her years. She's never really fit in at school, where all the kids act and dress the same. She's an artist who expresses her talent in the wacky colors she dyes her hair, her makeup and clothes. She's working on her biggest art project, and counting the days until she's grown up and can really start living. That adult world seems closer when Vanessa gets her dream job at the art supply store, Palette, where she worships the couple who runs it, Oscar and Maye. And she's drawn to a mysterious guy named James, who leads her into new, sometimes risky situations. Is she ready for this world, or not?
My take: This is a quick read and I found the story to be very relevant. Vanessa is the girl you know. She wants to be identified as someone. She wants to be herself but doesn't know who she is. She identifies with some form of fashion statement and colors her hair according to her mood. She wears a colored string according to her mood. She's ready for the next big thing which is nebulous but it's definitely not high school.
Vanessa gets a job at an art store and identifies with some of the characters there or at least the idea of who she believes they are. On top of it, she begins to alienate her best friends and the life she has already built because she wants to live without boundaries.
What I found particularly relevant is the author's exploration through Vanessa, Nick, and Holly of what they are grown up enough to do. According to Vanessa, it should be perfectly fine for shy Holly to approach her crush boy and let him know she liked him. This, she believed was the "right" thing to do regardless of Holly's feelings or personality. Nick, her other best friend, is gay. He has chosen, however, to not date guys until he feels mature enough to handle the scrutiny. Vanessa believes that society be damned, Nick could be and do whatever he chooses. She didn't realize that his waiting is what he chooses.
What I found so refreshing about the book and the characters is first of all the family connection. Single mother and widowed grandfather are raising a 16 year old girl and they all love each other. They don't always agree but there is respect and communication. The mother is actually parenting and it is not evil. Boundaries are set and consequences follow breaking the boundaries and they talk to each other. Gasp! Loved that aspect. Need for understanding + action (discussion on both parts) following a conflict = respect.
While Vanessa was running in high gear, trying to pass up her teenage years, Nick and Holly were doing their own self-exploration and learning on their own time table. I really liked the way Nick approached his sexuality by acknowledging that just because he is attracted to boys doesn't mean he is free to pursue them without censure or judgment. His choice to wait until he was emotionally ready to handle reactions from others was similar to Holly's choice to wait until she felt prepared for possible rejection if her crush man didn't pan out. Similarly, Vanessa, our protagonist is running full steam ahead and discovers herself in over her head.
The author's use of art, form and color are well symbolized and mirror Vanessa's angst and longing for a life without boundaries.
- Vanessa thinks she is ready for sex and allows a situation to develop that is somewhat graphic but not crude.
- Nick and Vanessa have conversations regarding Nick's homosexuality.
- Vanessa and James walk in on a couple shortly after they finish having sex in their apartment.
Profanity: Vanessa has some deity swearing on her Goddess.
- Nick pretends to smoke a cigarette.
- Vanessa attends a function where wine is served. She does not drink it.
Worth reading? Absolutely.