Review Blog

Aug 04 2015

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2015. ISBN 9781760110277
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Gardening. Environmental protection. Conservation. Humour. Astrid is smart and pretty and a favourite with all the teachers. Hiro is rude and resentful and always in trouble. They meet at the shopping mall when Astrid is dressed in a lobster costume and Hiro is working gathering shopping trolleys. They give each other superhero nicknames - Lobster Girl and Shopping Trolley Boy. When Hiro is assigned to Astrid to help her in the school garden that she is trying to get going, he doesn't recognise her and begins to get to know Astrid only as Lobster Girl. But the path of love is not easy.
This is a very funny, but also thought provoking book that tackles some big themes in an easy to read way that make it quite difficult to put down. Astrid is the perfect girl but can be quite annoying about her belief that she knows best for everyone. Hiro is smart but lives to make trouble at school. When the two get together, Astrid learns not only about gardening and how to make things grow, but about tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, realising that not everyone has the same aspirations to be good and go to uni that she has. The secondary characters in the book are also very well rounded. I found the blossoming of Astrid's mother after finding out that her husband was having an affair and kicking him out a great take on a marriage break-up. Hiro's grandmother too is a wonderful character and her garden is one I would like to visit.
The beliefs of the mayor and Astrid's science teacher about what they want their community and school to be like clash with Astrid and Hiro's attempts to beautify their part of the city and Astrid's crusade for the environment. Wilkinson is able to introduce (by way of very funny footnotes) lots of information about protecting the environment and the difficulties that campaigners face when they are trying to sway public opinion, not to mention lots of hints about growing vegetables and community gardens.
This is a feel-good book, with a romance that feels real and plenty of humour to keep the reader laughing until the end. It would also be a great novel for a literature circle or a class text as the themes of protecting the environment, disengagement from school, the responsibilities of local government and tolerance for others' beliefs give ample opportunity for discussion and thought.
Pat Pledger

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