“…friends don’t let friends lead small lives.”
Somewhere in the American heartland stands the Pumpkin Patch or, more specifically, DeKnock’s World Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree, a fall tradition consisting of a corn maze, haunted house, mini-train, petting zoo, and other attractions, and a lot of home-made snack food. And every year, rural high schoolers Josiah and Deja work the Succotash Hut, while Josiah moons over the hot girl who works at the Fudge Shoppe. They’re seniors now, and on their final night, Deja convinces Josie to finally talk to the Fudge Girl, while they take the chance to enjoy the Patch’s homespun attractions for once. In this YA graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell (author of YA novels and Marvel’s Runaways) and Faith Erin Hicks (Eisner-winning graphic novelist), that decision will lead them into a series of goofball misadventures and, of course, a life-changing realization.
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks
Colorist: Sarah Stern
First published: August 2019.
Gregarious, fun-loving Deja convinces hard-working, shy Josiah to finally talk to the Fudge Girl, as the two of them enjoy their final night working the Pumpkin Patch (location not clear, but likely the U.S. Midwest). The decision will lead them through the attractions and a range of drama, from stand-alone conflicts (a lost child) to ongoing plotlines (the bratty kid who steals Deja’s caramel apple, and the rambunctious goat that escapes). We’re in a toned-down teen comedy, with the expected silliness and life-lessons, set against the backdrop of an unabashedly corny seasonal attraction.
I have long been a fan of Hicks’s artwork, her eye for detail and character, and she elevates an amusing story, driven by low-key characters and a deliberately cornball setting, into something quite enjoyable, even for those of us whose teen years have become ancient history.
It is, however, a very slight story, and you will likely see the final twist coming clearly, despite the October night.
Artwork: 6/6 I’ve already covered Hicks’s depiction of the Sticks and her eye for characterization. I might also mention the range of people among the cast and crowds. It’s a nostalgic work that casually recognizes diversity, even out in the ol’ Pumpkin Patch.
Characterization: 5/6 The characters will recall people you knew or know, and the art really brings them alive.
Emotional response: 5/6 Pumpkinheads makes for a quick read, and I laughed out loud twice.
Overall: 5/6 There’s nothing groundbreaking or terribly deep here, and it’s more than a bit of clichéd, but Pumpkinheads makes for fine seasonal reading. Just don’t expect Halloween scares, or an appearance by the 1988 movie monster. This is more a Charlie Brown kind of Pumpkin Patch.
In total, Pumpkinheadsreceives 33/42