I probably first saw Pumpkinheads (2019), written by Rainbow Rowell and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks, on the Cannonball website, but it was so long ago I can’t remember now. I’m a big fan of Rainbow Rowell, and I’ve been reading a couple more graphic novels here and there. So, Rowell’s new graphic novel seemed like a perfect choice. And it turned out to be an enjoyable story. It’s not my favorite graphic novel, and it’s not my favorite Rowell novel, but it was short and sweet and worth the read.
The novel follows Deja and Josiah on their last night working at the fall jamboree. Next year they will be in college and won’t be around. They’ve both worked at the same fall festival extravaganza for years, manning the succotash station. (I had to look up exactly what succotash was. Even though I’d heard the word, I’d never eaten it and didn’t know what it was). Tonight is Josiah’s last chance to talk to the girl he’s been in love with from afar since he started working here. Deja encourages Josiah to suck it up and go talk to her. This leads them on a merry run around the grounds as they search for her, eating every food you can imagine along the way.
My first thought as I read this book was that if such grand fall festival/jamborees existed, I definitely missed out on my childhood. The color is vibrant, cheerful, and festive. There’s a maze, a train, pies, pumpkins, hay rides, and every other fall staple you can imagine. My sad (not really) childhood was just a simple, badly-carved pumpkin from the grocery store–along with some intense trick-or-treating and my mother stealing my candy. I can only imagine how fun something like this would be as a kid.
Deja and Josiah are interesting characters. They bond over their love of fall, and the time they spend together at the fair. I wish they had been a little more fleshed out, although I imagine that’s more difficult when you don’t have the space of a full novel. One other thing that kind of bothered me was that Deja and Josiah left their work for others when the place was crawling with customers. On the one hand, I wanted them to have a fun senior experience. On the other hand, I’ve worked in customer service and it can get crazy when it’s busy. It’s even worse when people don’t show up. It’s kind of shitty to ditch all your co-workers like that. Also, the food eventually felt a little excessive. Every page had a new delectable meal or snack. I can’t imagine eating that much without feeling sick.
In the end, Josiah speaks to the woman of his dreams only to find out that they have nothing in common. He’s wasted all these years yearning for someone he didn’t know, only to discover…that the woman he really cared about was right next to him! It’s wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was sweet and went along with the feeling of nostalgia that permeates the book.
Like I said before, this book was short and sweet. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re a Rowell fan, even though it’s not first on my list.
You can read all my reviews on my blog.