19th Sep2019

‘Pumpkinheads’ Graphic Novel Review

by Chris Cummings

Written by Rainbow Rowell | Art by Faith Erin Hicks | Published by Macmillan | Format: Paperback, 224pp


I am very familiar with Rainbow Rowell. My wife is a fan of her young adult novels, and I’ve read a couple of them also (Landline, Attachments). She’s a superb writer with a knack for writing likeable and sparky characters with whimsical and humorously loveable personalities. When I saw that she was writing a graphic novel, I was very much into it, and moreso when I discovered what the premise would be (we’ll get to that). Faith Erin Hicks, a Canadian Eisner-Winning illustrator, is the artist behind Pumpkinheads, and she herself has worked on numerous wonderful comics, including The Nameless City trilogy and various Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. Her artwork compliments Rainbow Rowell’s writing perfectly, it’s like the two mediums from these two distinct voices were meant to be together in the form of a comic book.

Pumpkinheads is the best kind of graphic novel for this time of year, as we usher in a new autumn. I love autumn, it’s my favourite season, and the themes that come along with it give me that feeling in my stomach of nostalgia and excitement and giddiness. The weather is nicer, the air smells better, the trees look beautiful and the movies… many of them horror, are freaking lovely. Pumpkinheads follows Deja and Josiah who, every autumn during high school, have worked together at the pumpkin patch in Nebraska. The book see’s the two friends who only really see each other during autumn in their senior years, meaning their time at the pumpkin patch this time might be the last time they see each other for a good long while. They’re determined to go out with a bang and thoroughly enjoy their time.

The thing that immediately struck me about this book was just how easy it was to fall (no pun intended) into the world that Hicks and Rowell created. It was so welcoming and wholesome, so full of wonder and delight, and it felt so honest in what it had to say and that was really pleasing to read. The Halloween and Fall tone is bloody magnificent and I was in the mood within a couple of pages. I could smell the air (and the food) and I was immersed. It’s one of those all-age comics too, which could be enjoyed by anyone, truly, so long as you don’t take yourself or your comics too seriously. It’s a fantastic story and jerked at various emotions along the way. The nostalgia of it was strong, but there is for sure something here that would hit anyone who is moving on from something, about to embark on a new phase of their lives.

The characters themselves are great. They have their own strong and unique personalities, human discomforts, their own loves and desires. We are granted a chance to see a bisexual female character who is overweight, and it isn’t really brought in as more than who she is. It felt refreshing to read a character like Deja, wholly herself and completely true, being written with a respect shown for her and what she represents. Josiah is also a wonderful character, another refreshing presence who isn’t written in the way that, sadly, many male characters of his young age are written still. He’s smart and has an air of innocence and naivety about him. The dialogue between Deja and Josiah is excellent and it flows beautifully, feeling organic and relatable.

This truly is a magical book with a story that has a simplicity about it, but in the best way. A tale of two young people who are in a transitional period of their lives, a time where everything seems to be changing, when nerves are on edge, the world seems bigger than it ever has and the future is this shiny strange and distant curiosity. So, grab a pumpkin spice coffee, pull a blanket over your knees, put a lamp on and sit and enjoy your time with this. It’s heart-warming, thoughtful and has as much charm as it has pumpkins. The perfect graphic novel for the season. An absolute joy.

***** 5/5

Pumpkinheads is out now.


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