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REVIEW: ‘Pumpkinheads’ by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks is an autumnal rom-com delight

A heartwarming graphic novel that is sweeter than a pumpkin pie ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate.
 

Reading Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks is like taking a stroll through a corn maze with your soulmate, sipping hot apple cider and hoping the day will never end.

The blurb: 

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

There is nothing better than a love story based on friendship and familiarity. Well, except for the obvious stuff such as free healthcare, scientific breakthroughs and warm apple pie. But, as far as Pumpkinheads is concerned, there really is nothing better.

Pumpkinheads managed to capture so much in only 209 pages. It is both whimsical and realistic, kitschy and authentic at the same time. The main characters, Deja and Josiah, feel like two people we run into at the grocery store all the time. They are real and tangible. Though Rowell never forces the reader to know everything about them, we know them nonetheless. Through their expressions, their actions and their inside jokes we don’t always understand, we come to feel like we’ve known them for years.

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Romance is a genre that needs to be treated with care. If done carelessly, a romance novel can fall lifeless, dragged along by overused tropes. However, when done right, it bounces along with clever wit and delightful chemistry. A reader should close a romance novel and feel as though they’ve opened a window in their heart and let fresh air inside.

Needless to say, Pumpkinheads gets it exactly right.

Part of this novel’s magic is seeing their adventure unfold and wondering where the pieces are finally going to fall. For that reason, it is difficult to talk about most of the plot without spoiling that magical feeling. At its simplest, Pumpkinheads is about two people who know each other better than anyone but who are completely oblivious to it. Deja and Josiah know each other, inside and out, but is that enough?

In equal measure, their story is about endings and beginnings. On the one hand, this is their last year working at the pumpkin patch together before they graduate high school and go off to college. On the other, some great things have to end before better, greater things can start.

Faith Erin Hicks, the illustrator, deserves a hug. Deja and Josiah’s chemistry and realness could not have been achieved without her. Little things, such as having a disabled woman in line for Frito pie or portraying Deja and Josiah as the same height, made the story feel so real. This is what real life looks like, and Hicks managed it effortlessly. The diversity is definitely there in the writing itself, but it would not have been the same if it hadn’t been reflected in the art.

Hicks created such a wonderful atmosphere, with a vibrant and warm color palette to complement the equally vibrant and warm storyline. Her art style meshed so well with Rowell’s writing; it was a match made in heaven.

Or, at least, a match made in a pumpkin patch.

5
A nutmeg-scented story to savor!
Plot
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Pumpkinheads is the perfect graphic novel for hopeless romantics and hayride junkies everywhere. The characters felt real and familiar, as though you went to high school with them and made bets as to whether they’d date. Hicks is a genius, bringing Rowell’s words to life so expertly that I could almost smell the apple cider through the page.