A self-proclaimed artist learns lessons about friendship, thoughtfulness and the importance of having something to say.
Restless, exuberant and brightly colored in pink hair and rainbow eye shadow, Vanessa knows she's not like the other “zombie kids” at her Seattle high school. Living with her Grampie and her dockworker mother, who settled down after becoming pregnant with her as a teenager, Vanessa longs for freedom and adulthood and assumes those around her do too (she constantly insists her mother should go on more dates, for instance). Readers instantly see the hurt she causes, despite her justifications, when Vanessa crosses boundaries to give the people in her life what she thinks they want—outing her gay best friend or spilling the beans to her shy musician friend Holly's crush. Her desire for new, transformative experiences is clear as she falls in with an older artist crowd and makes dubious, impulsive choices involving an older boy, a fake ID and a pinup calendar. The device of an art teacher helping her realize deeper truths about herself and her art feels familiar, and the insinuation that dyeing one's hair pink is merely a ploy for attention seems more like an adult's assumption than a teen's experience.
An adequate portrait of an art-obsessed teen, but, unlike Vanessa, it doesn't stand out. (Fiction. 12-14)