Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: March 22nd 2016
I finished April Genevieve Tucholke’s novel Wink Poppy Midnight and had to pause a moment afterward to ponder exactly what it was I had read. If you’re looking for a novel with a straight-forward plot, a clear focus and neat conclusion, this novel isn’t for you. Wink Poppy Midnight reads like a mystery novel with paranormal elements. You’re left guessing what is true and what isn’t, if you can believe the ghost stories and tarot card readings or if it’s just an eccentric interest for the characters. I went into this novel knowing very little about what it was about, save for the pithy synopsis on the dust jacket and it wasn’t until half way through the book that a definitive conflict emerges. But just when you think you know what is going on, you inevitably get thrown for a loop. In the end, I’m not sure I’ve fully comprehended what happened in the novel, but I’m left dazzled by Tucholke’s writing and her wayward characters.
What Wink Poppy Midnight lacks in plot it makes up for in character study. Tucholke’s three main leads are stark contrasts of one another with distinct voices and unreliable narratives. Midnight’s perspective largely takes place in the present. When the story is told through his point of view, the plot feels like it’s moving forward. This is an interesting choice because much of Midnight’s identity is a rooted in his past: his mother’s abandonment, the longing for his brother, and his tumultuous relationship with Poppy.
If you were to imagine a caricature of a beautiful, spoiled rich girl who is used to getting what she wants, you’d picture someone like Poppy. She’s unapologetic in her narcissism, cruel and calculating. A self-proclaimed bully, there isn’t much to like about her character, but her voice is the most compelling of the three. Her perspective focuses on the past and has scenes of introspection that you wouldn’t expect from someone who appears to very much live in the now. By the end of the novel, I’m not entirely sure I learned to sympathize with the character, but I did learn to see her in a different way than how she’s first presented at the beginning of the novel.
Wink’s perspective might have been my favorite. There’s an untainted innocence to her character, especially in how she views other people, that really draws you in. There’s also a dreamy element to her voice that feels fantastical as her love for stories often has her imagining the world to be very different than what it is. She and her family are delightfully strange and if this novel revolved solely around the Bell family, I wouldn’t complain.
Wink Poppy Midnight is not for every reader. Tucholke’s novel has that same atmospheric tone I usually associate with magical realism. Much of the conflict takes place within the characters themselves and for some this may feel like the story is underdeveloped. For me, the novel’s reliance on its characters, who are unlikable, strange, yet so intriguing, make it far too fascinating a story to dislike.