Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks, 224 pp, RL
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
Published by FirstSecond Books
Josiah and Deja have worked every fall at DeKnock's World Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree since they started high school. Now, on the last night of their fourth and final season, charismatic, irresistible Deja is determined to get reserved, rule-following Josie to break out of his shell and talk to the girl he has been quietly pining for the last four years, telling him, "Friends don't let friends lead small lives." Josie's world is shaken from the start when he learns that Deja switched their final shift from the Succotash Hut, which they have ruled for the last four years, to the Pie Palace, where they will be strategically placed in the sight line of the Fudge Shoppe. Of course things don't go as planned. And yes, reading Pumpkinheads is a bit like drinking a PSL on a chilly day while watching a John Hughes movie. In fact, don't read this book on an empty stomach. When Josie and Deja realize that Fudge Girl (who gets a series of hilarious monikers from Deja as the story unspools) has been assigned to a different shop, Deja convinces Josie to shrik responsibilities and live a little, spending his final night at the patch tracking her down. As they follow her trail, Deja takes the opportunity to sample all the treats that she is usually too busy working to enjoy, from double-dipped caramel apples to "Freeto" pies (a conversation between Rowell and Hicks in the backmatter reveals that, Canadian Hicks visited Nebraskan Rowell for a pumpkin patch experience and kept waiting for the bag of chips, chili, and cheese to turn into pie) to Kettle Korn and the Pumpkin Bomb - vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two slices of pumpkin pie dipped in chocolate, and on a stick, naturally. Why has no one made this yet?
As the pair race and eat their way through the patch in their elusive search, they discuss Josie's fear of finally meeting Fudge Girl while also running into Deja's former flames, girl Jess and the super chill boy Jess. I won't give away any more of the plot, but, if you have seen more than one teen romance, you know how it ends and you still race breathlessly to the last page for that satisfaction.
Endpapers are a map of the magical pumpkin patch, which Rowell said she wanted to be the, "Disneyland of pumpkin patches." And it IS. Also, this wonderful quote from the backmatter where Rowell and Hicks share early sketches of Josie and Deja and discuss character building: Rowell 's character notes describe the beautiful Deja as "super-cute, like a chubby Gabrielle Union," and also the same height as Josie because she wanted to "push back on the idea that a girl needs to be small and petite to be completely adorable." YES!