Publication Date: Sept. 2019
Deja and Josiah are best friends once a year when they both work at the local pumpkin patch. But now it’s their last day of the season and their last day on the job–both are heading off to college. Deja wants Josiah to seize the day and finally talk to the girl he’s been crushing on for years. And she’s on her own mission to eat every autumn snack available at the patch.
Pumpkinheads is the perfect fall read, set in an idealized pumpkin patch that offers every autumn experience and food one could imagine, from the corn maze to the kettle corn to the pie palace and the succotash hut. Basically, if you can never get enough of fall, Pumpkinheads is the book for you, regardless of whether you are invested in the plot. Indeed, the atmospheric setting of the book is its best feature. An overly simple plot focused on a “surprise” twist at the end means that the story has very little re-readability, which is, for me, the hallmark of a truly great story.
Pumpkinheads may be considered a character-driven story, as the plot is really no more than a few running gags. Deja and Josiah run from place to place across the pumpkin patch, each seeking their own goals: Deja to try all the snacks (and get revenge on a “punk” kid) and Josiah to meet at last the Fudge Shoppe Girl, whom he’s been mooning over for years. However, they keep being thwarted and must dash off to yet another location in pursuit of their missions. In other words, the plot really just exists to showcase all the autumn-themed foods and activities the patch has to offer–and it hopefully develops the relationship between Deja and Josiah along the way. Personally, however, I think the patch ends up being a stronger character than either Deja or Josiah.
The fact that the plot is a running gag with a surprise twist at the end (one easily predicted from the start) means that I cannot see myself rereading Pumpkinheads. The whole point is to build up anticipation to the moment when Josiah finally meets (or misses) the elusive Fudge Shoppe Girl. Once you’ve experienced the ending and you know what’s coming, there’s no suspense left. And, frankly, I don’t think the rest of the book is strong enough to make up for that–not even with Faith Erin Hicks’ beautiful drawings.
Pumpkinheads will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks. And it’s a must-read if you simply want something evocative of fall. It is not, however, the type of story that I see lasting for years.