Paintbrush was a strange book for me because it wasn’t your typical YA contemporary, and yet it was absolutely your typical YA contemporary. I think the best way for me to give my opinion on this is to say that perhaps this book is best suited to those who haven’t yet been jaded by life.
YA contemporary is not my go-to genre because, quite frankly, I find myself far too cynical for it. There are many plot points in YA contemporary novels that I end up rolling my eyes or yawning in complete boredom at and it would be unfair of me to say that Paintbrush is full of them because it’s not, but there are enough of them to make the more sardonic reader grunt from time to time.
However, one thing that does make Paintbrush slightly unusual is that it turns the typical YA contemporary trope of ‘angsty teen wants to leave home and find their way in the big wide world’ on its head, as it has two protagonists and only one fits that description.
Mitchell and Josie are your typical high school friends, except that they live at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village – a hippy commune in the mountains. They’ve spent their lives surrounded by organic-tomato growing friends, weed smoking elders and naked yoga performing neighbours and attend a normal, run-of-the-mill high school. Mitchell is the friendly, handsome jock and Josie is the studious wallflower. They find themselves with their graduation looming ever closer and the big decision of where to go next demanding to be made. Mitchell is the angsty teen desperate to get out and Josie is quite happy and content with where she is.
“She made a choice, and it was a shitty choice, and now she has to face the consequences.”
So great, no problem – the two friends will part ways and go off and live their own lives. Except that (yes you’ve guessed it) now Josie and Mitchell aren’t so sure if they are just friends or something more. Now they are filled with such important, burning questions like ‘what if they fall in love only to head in different directions at graduation?’, ‘what if they are the one?’, ‘what would my life be without them?’ and ‘could I have a life with or without them?’.
“Sometimes, I just need other people to help me carry my thoughts around.”
If that last paragraph seemed to be dripping in sarcasm it’s because it was – and that’s because this is the same story arc that’s been written and read countless times before (see, I meant it when I said this book is not for the cynically inclined). It’s not a bad book – mostly because it’s written well, but it’s just nothing new.
I think what really hammers the nail into the coffin with the ‘lifelong friends fall awkwardly in love’ trope in Paintbrush is that we get it in stereo. It’s a dual POV narrative from Josie and Mitchell and at times it’s just the same scenes and emotions repeated for a second chapter. The dialogue between Mitchell and Josie was also quite agonising at times, and it didn’t help that I had absolutely no connection with Josie at all. I found her to be hypocritical and judgmental beyond any good reason other than she’s a hormonal teenage girl figuring herself out – and I already went through all that crap when I was a hormonal teenage girl figuring myself out, I don’t need to read about a similar version of it as an adult.
“I’m ready to be done. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to move on.”
There wasn’t a huge plot in Paintbrush – the whole thing pretty much revolves around Josie and Mitchell’s ‘umm-ing and err-ing’ around each other until the predictable ending draws near. But I do have to say that the plot stayed anchored – it may not have been big, thrilling or had twists and turns, but it stayed true to what it was about and didn’t get contrived.
Actually, putting all scorn aside, Paintbrush was a very charming read.
I’ve already said that it was well written and I stand by that. It’s fluff, but it’s well written and well-crafted fluff. The descriptive language really helps bring the gorgeous scenery to life for the reader.
I’ll admit that the plot (as predictable as I found it) did keep me reading and it was a very sweet and cute journey.
It’s an easy to read YA contemporary and would be great for those who have yet to experience all the spanners that life will throw into their works. Or as a palate cleanser for readers who prefer heavier, darker or more complex literary works.
For me Paintbrush is easily forgettable, but not for any bad reasons -it’s just not my kind of book. However it is a great debut for author Hannah Bucchin and I’m sure it will be held in the hearts of younger readers who haven’t quite figured themselves out yet.
[PLEASE NOTE]: All quotations were taken from an Advanced Reader Copy made of uncorrected proof. Quotations may be different in the final published version. I am a rep for Blaze Publishers and was given a digital ARC to review. This did not affect my review in a positive or negative way – all the opinions are honest and my own.