Title: Yellow (2016)
Author: Megan Jacobson
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 259 pages
Release Date: February 1, 2016
If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a midlife crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth.
Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.
I picked up Yellow mostly because of the cover (just look at all those beautiful colours!), without really knowing what it’s actually about. Magical realism is very much a hit-or-miss for me — I’ve really only loved Haruki Murakami’s books from that genre, and everything else is a bit of a dud. Unfortunately, Yellow didn’t make it to my favourites’ list either — I felt really disconnected from the story. 😶
Yellow is the story of Kirra, an Australian teenage girl whose life seems to be getting worse and worse with each passing day. Her friends bully her, her mother is an alcoholic, her dad doesn’t want her… and a ghost is also asking for Kirra’s help to prove his murder. It sounds charming, really, but to me, all these things felt a bit too much — it felt like I was reading two stories with very little relevance to one another, and the whole plot, as a whole, felt a bit forced to me.
“Because you don’t get to choose your parents, and at some point you realise that maybe your parents just aren’t able to parent very well, but we exist, and the only choice we’ve got in the whole situation is whether we’re gonna love them anyway. It’s as simple and messy and complicated as that.”
Furthermore, none of the characters really engaged me. The romance was alright but unnecessary, almost as if it was added just because. Kirra’s dad, Lark, appeared maybe two times in the story but never appeared again, and I didn’t really get why his character was needed in the first place. Kirra’s mother was obviously a big plot point, but I wasn’t taken by her one way or another. Kirra’s relationships with all these characters never felt fully explored, which was disappointing.
Perhaps the only exception was Willow, Kirra’s classmate and later-friend. This was probably where the book shone the most to me — Willow was feisty, strong, kind, but also flawed, and her friendship with Kirra felt superbly realistic to me. They were tentative and reluctant friends at first, they fought and argued and made up, and there were definitely some growing pains. 💛
Thematically, Yellow is more of a coming-of-age story rather than anything else. Kirra started out the book a passive person, scared and cowardly and very much a pushover. It wasn’t until she received encouragement from Boogie and Willow that she really pushed back to her bullies and started taking control of her own life. This part was refreshing to see, but for me it came a little too late.
“Do not define me by my gender or my socio-economic status, Noah Willis. Do not tell me who I am and do not tell me who society thinks I am and then put me in that box and expect me to stay there. Because, I swear to God, I will climb the hell out of that box and I will take that box you’ve just put me in and I will use that box to smash your face in until you’re nothing more than a freckly, bloodied pulp.”
On a related note, the ending felt too… clean to me. I wanted Kirra to get the best that she could, of course, but it seemed almost too easy, too rushed, too neat. 4 stars for the coming-of-age elements, 3 stars for the overall writing, and 2 stars for the ghost story. Overall not a terrible book, but not the book I was expecting to read. 😐