Review: Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson


There’s something seriously refreshing about sitting down and reading an entire book in the space of an afternoon after you’ve been in a reading slump. Having read only one book in its entirety in December so far (a reread of Persuasion), I was well and truly bogged down in a reading slump, and Green Valentine was exactly what I needed.

There’s something really charming about the premise of this book. Or I think so, anyway. Astrid is a straight-A student intent on saving the world from ecological doom. Hiro is a slouchy delinquent who resents the perfect, popular students like Astrid. When Astrid’s petitioning to save the Margaret River Hairy Marron at the supermarket where Hiro works, they quickly connect. She dubs him Shopping Trolley Guy, he calls her Lobstergirl (due to her being dressed as a lobster). Together, they embark on a quest to “bewilder” their grey, concrete suburb of Valentine, and make it beautiful.

I should really start quoting the Goodreads synopses in my reviews or something, because I really do struggle to summarise. Particularly because there’s so many details I feel like I NEED to mention to be able to accurately explain a novel like Green Valentine. ANYWAY.

One of this book’s strongest points was its character development. All of the characters were complex and had multiple dimensions – no one was perfect, nor was anyone entirely horrible. Every character was well- developed and briliantly written, even the more minor characters. The more I think about it, the more blown away I am by how brilliantly these characters were crafted.

Astrid in particular was a really interesting protagonist, who really grew as a person as the story progressed. Her voice was strong and vibrant throughout, and her passion for saving the environment was super evident and authentic-feeling. It was an intrinsic part of her personality and her interaction with the world, and consistently a part of the story. I also really liked how she became more self-aware at the end of the story, and comes to realise the mistakes she’s made. Astrid is passionate, intelligent and imperfect, and I loved seeing her grow and mature throughout Green Valentine.

I’d be missing a pretty major point if I didn’t touch on the magnificence that is “resistence is fertile”. That, and the environmental aspect of this book. For me, it’s one of those topics that I care about, and think is important, but also feel a bit disengaged by. It’s a topic I find a bit dry (as soon as I wrote this I had to resist the urge to make some really bad and probably distasteful pun), and disillusioning. Which is kinda bad. But I really liked how Green Valentine dealt with the topic. Sure there was a ‘save the environment!’ message to this book, but it wasn’t preachy about it, and it wasn’t about sending the reader on a massive guilt trip. I think this was the result of having a character like Astrid who was really enthusiastic, but also other characters like eco-warrior Storm, disintersted friends Paige and Dev and also Hiro to contrast with. The sense of humour helped a lot too.What this book also did very successfully was look at different aspects and sides of looking after the environment.

Like I said at the beginning, I read this book in one afternoon. It’s unputdownable in a gentle way – there aren’t many crazy plot twists or of suspense, but there’s a sense of fun, despite dealing with some more serious ideas, that made Green Valentine impossible to put down. It wasn’t a fluffy read, but it was a lot of fun. I suppose the romantic comedy label is pretty accurate.

Speaking of romance, I liked the way that the relationship between Astrid and Hiro developed. It’s not my favourite romance ever, but it was still very well-written. It was very believable, and the conflicts all served a purpose (aka did more than create angst. Not that I have a problem with a bit of angst) and aided in the development of Astrid and Hiro’s characters.

I’ve read a lot of really awesome Aussie YA this year, and that includes Green Valentine. Clever, fun and optimistic, this is a book I can’t wait to reread and enjoy all over again. Easily a five-star read.

P.S. Green Valentine is the #LoveOzYA bookclub’s book for December. If you haven’t done so, the #LoveOzYA movement is worth checking out, because it’s pretty rad, and helps showcase some amazing Aussie reads.


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