Dual reviews: The Gallery of Unfinished Girls and Wink, Poppy, Midnight

Hello, friends! Today I’m doing a bit of a different review for me: I’m going to try to review both these books at the same time. I had almost identical thoughts on both The Gallery of Unfinished Girls and Wink, Poppy, Midnight, so I thought, rather than having near identical reviews, I would just review them together and see how it goes!

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: 3 stars

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Wink, Poppy, Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: 3 stars

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbour 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.

My feelings on both these books can be summed up as: I’m not sure what to feel. They both have magical-realism feels to them in the way I don’t like, where it’s not 100% confirmed there’s magic involved but it’s heavily suggested magic is involved somehow. It just left the plot feeling convoluted and left me feeling confused. I found both stories hard to follow in that I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to interpret something as magical or not, which I know is the point but leads to a frustrating reading experience.

Plot-wise, I enjoyed Wink, Poppy, Midnight more and found that story more compelling, for the most part. It was easier to follow and more interesting, in my opinion. I was much more invested in the story of Midnight and his love triangle (kind of) with Wink and Poppy than I was with Mercedes and her familial and artistic struggles. The Gallery of Unfinished Girls felt like the author had a couple good ideas, and instead of focusing on one of them and developing it well, both were left half developed and unfinished (har har). WPM, however, felt like it had more direction, and was therefore an easier read for me.

Both books had really strong characters, though. In The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, I really liked Mercedes and her relationships with her family, friends, and the other characters. They all felt very real and genuine, and the conflicts were similar. Same with Wink, Poppy, Midnight. The characters definitely could have been stereotypical and one-dimensional, but Tucholke did a good job making them interesting and real-feeling.

Last: the ending of both books happened a little too quickly and suddenly. It ultimately left the stories feeling unresolved, and I still had questions I wanted answered. I’m a fan of unconventional, open-ended endings, but I still need the questions brought up throughout the book answered in some way. I wish both books had just a little more explanation and resolution, even one more chapter would have sufficed.

Overall, I think these books were just not for me. I’m usually not a fan of fantastical, magical realism YA, so it’s not super surprising. But, I definitely understand why people enjoy both these books, and would recommend them for people who like this genre.

Have you read either of these books? What were your thoughts? Did my dual review make things confusing? Please let me know!

Ally xx

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