otrbristol | 30th November 2022

OTR Book Club Blog: Pumpkin Heads

Hello and welcome back to another OTR Book Club blog post – we have a new writer, Ashantai who will be summarising our Book Club reads going forwards. Thanks Ashantai!

This month, we picked up Pumpkinheads, a graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks,  just in time for the fall/autumn season. We followed two protagonists, Josiah and Deja, on a ‘mission’ as they worked their final shift on the pumpkin patch that started their seasonal friendship.

We started off by discussing the needless development of Josiah and Deja’s friendship into a romantic relationship. We all thought that their platonic relationship was wholesome and seemed to be strong despite them hardly seeing each other throughout the calendar year, and that their rash relationship kind of played into the idea that opposite sex friendships can’t be maintained. Their intimate relationship was more than capable of existing in the form of a friendship and we felt did not need to progress. Some of us noticed social cues from Deja, that suggested her attraction, but ultimately we decided that friends can appreciate each other without it becoming more than that as love is still present in platonic relationships.

We also talked about the protagonists as individuals/ outside of their friendship, and some of us thought that Josiah was relatable. Him pining over a girl he had never said a word to hit close to home –  although we might not have waited years. However, in Josiah’s romanticising about Marcy, we also came to the conclusion that they were not using there assets efficiently. The novel seemed quite current, and in a time when social media is booming, a little profile stalking would’ve solved his problems and hastened his disappointment. 

On the other hand Deja seemed much more strong-minded and secure. She was a realist, not believing in fat,  and was secure in her sexuality. It’s never stated explicitly in the novel, but we thought that Deja could be bi or pansexual and although we didn’t take a liking to anyone of her partners in particular it was refreshing too see an LGBTQ+, woman of colour protagonist and her seasonal relationships.

We then moved onto the storyline itself and we were all quite disappointed by it. Then entire novel takes place over one day, and we see the sun setting as the novel courses through events, which was a subtlety that we  enjoyed. Someone pointed out that it was similar to slice of life (a genre centred around normal everyday people) bur it felt much more dramatised. A lot was going on with the constant changes of scenery, motives and ongoing turmoil, and there just seemed to be what we thought were major plot points that were just left unfinished. Did they end up going to Jenny’s party or to Walgreens? Did the buck get back in its pen? Were there really corn lice in the maze. We felt like the novel could’ve been so much more, if the storyline was structured better, and didn’t build up these moments of tension that were never going to be resolved or revisited. 

Lastly, we moved onto the graphics and writing style of the novel. Someone pointed out that there were too many chapters and whilst I agree I feel like the myriad of chapters added to the pace of the novel and the fact they were on a time constraint. The fact that every few pages was a new chapter, emphasised the lack of time they had. The writing style felt conversational and whilst it wasn’t overdone, it felt quite immature when we realised that the protagonists were seniors and therefore 18 years old. The graphics however were enthralling, they were halloweeny and cute but not in an over the top way. We definitely did prefer the visuals and the fact that they were in colour made them sooo much better.

We concluded that the graphic novel was very sweet and seasonal, “cute” being a word that we threw around a lot. The graphics were very inviting and warm, and just as important, if not more to the storytelling. However, in it being a graphic novel and a blended mode text (written and visual), we found the graphics more captivating than the dialogue it accompanied in adding to the holiday feel and storytelling. As a short sub-hour read it was a nice step into the graphic novel world, but I don’t think any of us will be re-reading any time soon.

Find out more about our monthly book club here.