Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson
Summary: Over-achievement isn’t a bad word—for Berlin, it’s the goal. She’s securing excellent grades, planning her future, and working a part-time job at Pink Mountain Pizza, a legendary local business. Who says she needs a best friend by her side?
Dropping out of high school wasn’t smart—but it was necessary for Cameron. Since his cousin Kiki’s disappearance, it’s hard enough to find the funny side of life, especially when the whole town has forgotten Kiki. To them, she’s just another missing Native girl.
People at school label Jessie a tease, a rich girl—and honestly, she’s both. But Jessie knows she contains multitudes. Maybe her new job crafting pizzas will give her the high-energy outlet she desperately wants.
When the weekend at Pink Mountain Pizza takes unexpected turns, all three teens will have to acknowledge the various ways they’ve been hurt—and how much they need each other to hold it all together.
My Thoughts: It’s winter and everything is cold at the beginning of this gem of a story, but warmth slowly seeps in through people and their relationships even though winter remains. As is the case with many books, much is jumbled at first–particularly with three different perspectives. I was sometimes needing to reread bits and sort things out, but that didn’t last very long. Over time, the voices and personalities became more distinct and their backstories were filled in enough to answer a lot of questions.
The teens at Pink Mountain Pizza work for money, but they also go there to have another space to exist. Young people spend most of their time between home and school, but in this third place, Berlin, Cam, and Jessie have the opportunity to learn more about their abilities and challenges and have a space to be something other than simply a child or a student. They also have time to get to know each other.
While they are learning, they are also sharing themselves and finding ways to offer support to one another. They are each very definitely facing challenges, but have all really been trying to cope on their own without relying on others. The difficulties include depression, grief, economic issues, racism, a learning disability, anxiety, childhood health trauma, and probably some others I am forgetting right now. Berlin, Cam, and Jessie have much to learn readers will see them stumbling, but also growing.
An image that is carried throughout is that of a pipe by Magritte that Berlin had seen in French class previously. Until I looked it up today, I knew that image by the name This is Not a Pipe, but didn’t know it’s other name, The Treachery of Images. The main characters are trying to project a particular image for others to see and have been hiding a lot, but are also trying to navigate the people and spaces around them to see the realities and not just what they think is there.
Berlin and Cam have connections from childhood and through the shared experience of being Native in Canada. Even when they are at odds, mostly due to misunderstanding what they see and experience, those things bind them together.
Recommendation: Get it soon. As the author explains in a helpful note at the beginning (which you can find in this sample), there are hard topics in this story including anti-blackness along with missing and murdered Indigenous women. But, there are also wonderful things like friendships and love in the face of such things and somehow there is a warmth within the pages that is comforting.
Review copy: Digital ARC via publisher
Availability: On shelves now