When I read the blurb of this book, it didn’t really seem that interesting or captivating, but I went into it anyway knowing that I could surprise me, and it really did. Paintbrush is Hannah Bucchin’s debut novel and she broke into the world of YA with a bang. This is a truly remarkable debut that will stay in my heart forever.
Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colourful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.
But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms into something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.
Now, this book isn’t going to stay in my heart because it’s emotional, or because it’s special, it’s brilliant because the storyline just seemed honest. A girl who doesn’t want to leave home because she loves everyone there. Normally in YA, I read about characters who can’t wait to get out of their house and leave their parents to go on to ‘bigger and better things’, but it was refreshing because Josie recognised how good she had it at home. She knew that there was no real rush to go off to college. She wanted to stay with her mom, her sisters and the rest of her community and just be with her family. However, alongside the girl who doesn’t want to leave, is the boy who can’t wait to get out of there and dreams of the world outside of the Paintbrush community.
I loved the idea of the community that Bucchin came up with. It was just so free from everything and even though I couldn’t imagine living there myself, it did seem like such a perfect, picturesque place that I would love to visit! I also loved how this book wasn’t insta-love. Sure, the characters had known each other their whole lives but this story is about the two individuals realising that they could be something more and them going through the motions of ‘do I?’, ‘don’t I?’. And this didn’t really start til about 40% of the way through the book. The beginning of the novel was building up the environment of the community and just conveying the friendship between Josie and Mitchell, but it also built upon the friendship between individuals within Paintbrush and also highlighted family dynamics.
“I’m ready to be done. I’m ready for a change. I’m ready to move on.”
– Hannah Bucchin, Paintbrush
I’m allowed a small vent, right? Like, a little one? Because it really wouldn’t be one of my reviews without one, would it? Ok, so Mitchell’s mother annoys the hell out of me. She can’t just do what she did and expect everything to be ok, Libby is a self-centred arrogant 14-year-old who gets on my last nerve. I know she’s a teenager and everything and she’s growing up but she just takes everything for granted and her attitude was just awful! There was also zero diversity within this book. Sure, you had old people, young people, blah blah blah, but there was no DIVERSITY and that’s one of the things that really let this book down. However, the Paintbrush community does have a different kind of diversity, you have an old-weed-smoking-grumpy man,
However, the Paintbrush community does have a different kind of diversity, you have an old-weed-smoking-grumpy man, a old man who sits on the porch and polishes his rifle every morning, a couple with seven children, the woman who does naked yoga every morning on her front lawn, the single mother raising three kids and Myra – who is the ‘leader’ of the community. There’s obviously more people but I can’t remember all of them. The different age groups coming together to become an ‘extended family’, the celebrations they have, the way that they sort out issues within their community; that’s a different kind of diversity, and each family household brings a different vibrancy to the story.
Overall, this is a really enjoyable book that had me completely hooked. When I wasn’t able to read because of work and other commitments, I was hankering to get back to the book so that I could read it some more. I can’t wait for it to come out so that I can get my hands on a finished copy!
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review