Book Reviews

[review] Wintertown – Stephen Emond


Release Date: December 5, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal copy

Every winter, straight-laced, Ivy League bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, a childhood pal who moved away after her parent’s divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she’s changed. The former “girl next door” now has chopped dyed black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth, “Old Lucy” still exists, and he’s determined to find her… even if it means pissing her off.

Garden State meets Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist in this funny and poignant illustrated novel about opposites who fall in love.

Discovery: While browsing Goodreads lists one lazy afternoon, I came across this gorgeous cover. If you know me, you know that winter is my favourite season–despite the dangers of frostbite–and I loved that the summary sounded like a quirky, David-Levithan-esque novel.

+     Illustrations. Let’s be honest, sometimes it can get exhausting to look at pages and pages of straight text. I probably read upwards of 1000+ pages a week and when I’m curled up next to my pillows, I sometimes need something special to want to keep reading. Wintertown was one of those books that I just breezed through, because the illustrations were amazing. In fact, I can’t imagine this story without illustrations–they complement Emond’s writing so well and tell their own story. I loved that they weren’t super polished and even that the lines seemed to pulse with uncertainty. Evan has a talent to be sure, but he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it yet. I loved the potential that I could see in every hand-drawn page.

+     Plot. Slice-of-life stories are some of my favourite pieces to read. Studying creative writing gave me a taste for unvarnished, simple stories about complicated people. And man, were Lucy and Evan complicated. Stephen Emond has a knack for writing coming-of-age tales that get to the heart of all that insecurity and uncertainty. It takes courage to really grow up, and watching Lucy and Evan try to figure things out was both heartwarming and scary. I remember what it was like to be unsure of my own future, and that perspective made reading this book a truly exceptional experience.

+     Romance. This book pushed all my buttons, it really did! When I started reading, I was actually comparing Wintertown to Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (hence the David Levithan mention above). It didn’t take long for me to be utterly enchanted by the quiet charm of this story. Where D&L is boisterous and feisty, Wintertown is careful and shy, much like their protagonists. I loved that the romance had so much to do with the setting as well–when it snows, the world looks like a completely different place, and anything can happen. There are so many possibilities surrounding Lucy and Evan, and watching them realize those new dreams was wonderful.

The final say: With vibrant and quirky characters, Wintertown will charm every reader. Stephen Emond writes a story alive with hope and reminds us that our best dreams aren’t always the ones we set out to have.

Rating: Excellent.

Be sure to visit Stephen Emond at his website and follow him on Twitter @SteveEmond.

You can check out Wintertown on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

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