My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sharon G. Flake’s “Pinned” has so much heart and authentic voices behind it, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading it as much as I did. Taking perspectives of two teens who struggle with their respective limitations and rounding them out in an environment where they cross and collide with their challenges is something I applaud in any young adult book – and Flake does it well for the most part. The book toggles between Autumn, a talented female wrestler who struggles with reading and doing well in her academics, and Adonis, an academically ambitious boy who finds it hard to make friends and suffers from a physical disability.
Very early on in the story, Autumn reveals her crush on Adonis – but Adonis makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with Autumn despite the fact that he thinks about her more than he’s willing to admit. She admires his intelligence, he (though it’s quite begrudgingly) like her talent in wrestling – not just being the only girl, but for how her moves are “like chess pieces” in the arena.
But there’s a problem – Autumn’s grades are slipping and if she can’t get her act together, she faces being banned from the only thing she feels she’s good at doing. Autumn knows her problem – she hates reading and she’s not good at it. Her parents struggle with reading as well, but they try to encourage her as much as they can. I really liked how Flake shows the struggles that Autumn goes through in this consideration – it’s realistic. Even the sentiments she feels towards her ambitious best friend, Peaches, are palpable. Yet, it does take a while for Autumn to come to terms with being able to make the effort needed to achieve her goals.
Now what to say about Adonis: I honestly did not like his character. He’s arrogant, puts down Autumn for her learning handicap, and is quick to dismiss helping her or deny liking her, even going so far as to dismiss her company several times. I understood his personality well enough considering the crude bullying he endured and a near death experience that threw his world in conjunction with his physical limitations (he was born without legs), but it was difficult to sympathize with his mental voice. I did like how ambitious and smart he was, and there were moments that I think he contributed some constructive insights with respect to the situations around him as well as showed kindness to Autumn in some of her rougher moments. Still, it really wasn’t enough to redeem his character for me, though I think it was intentional that Flake crafted his character to be that blunt and gruff. I just didn’t see the rounding out of his character as readily as Autumn – who came full circle as the novel came to pass.
I did like some of Autumn and Adonis’s interactions in their more intimate moments, yet I still felt that their coming together was a little rushed and didn’t have the payoff I was hoping for. I think young audiences probably won’t mind it that much, but for those who want a story that digs a little deeper, the beginning and middle of “Pinned” are good, but the ending felt a bit hurried in comparison to the rest of the novel.
I think if “Pinned” had managed to tie up some of its loose plot threads and had a little more cohesion towards the end, I could’ve easily given this 3.5/4 stars. I liked the journey for what it offered overall, but still felt with a little more vetting and rounding out towards the end, it could’ve hit home with some of the character growth more than what it did.
Overall score: 3/5
Note: I recieved this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Scholastic.