Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm
"Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem." (from Goodreads)
The subject: a girl gets a job working at a historical museum re-enactment, and finds out that history is a breeze compared to the real-life problems of roommates, boys, and ghost sightings. The heroine (if you can call her that) Libby is a seeming contradiction in terms, a girl who likes fashion and makeup and "girly" things, but also is genuinely interested in history and enjoys reading. I appreciated that the author didn't turn her into either the shallow, self-absorbed fashion plate cliche, or the bookish history geek one, but instead bridged the two in a single character. (And points to Libby for favouring Mr. Tilney over Mr. Darcy! Poor Mr. Tilney is very underappreciated.)
The setting: Camden Harbour, Maine.
Shutter speed: very readable. It's a quick read, really easy to get through.
What's in the background? A whole lot of brand name–dropping that I could have done without. Fashion references tend to go right over my head.
Zoom in on: the kids that Libby teaches. Seriously, why are they all so well-behaved? They should be involved in countless escapades! Also, Suze. I have the feeling I would have been able to relate better to her than to Libby, but I never really got the chance because we see so little of her.
And I would have loved for Ashling to appear in more scenes, because she really livened things up with her fantastically annoying character. She was one of those arch-nemeses that you love to hate. She's extremely devoted to historical accuracy, and assertive to the point of rudeness. But still, I got the feeling that underneath all her pretension she'd be someone you could get along with if she'd just get over herself.
Anything out of focus? Um, yes. So much. This book is a collection of well-trodden stereotypes. Dev, while a distinctive character with a lot of energy who pretty much jumps off the page, also happens to comprise practically every stereotype about gay guys you've ever heard. Cam never breaks out of the mold of charming player, and Garrett is quite comfortable in the role of geeky-guy-with-a-sweet-heart.
And then there is Libby's complete lack of intelligence when it comes to guys. It is so obvious to the reader who is the "good" guy and who is the "bad" one, but it takes her so long to figure it out. She's smart about other things — great with the kids, knows her history — but she is incredibly dense about this. I was able to forgive her at first for being swept off her feet by "romance", but then it just gets ridiculous. She completely buries her head in the sand and ignores the facts staring her in the face, which I really could not respect.
Plus, the storyline relating to the mystery of the ghost spottings ends up feeling quite contrived, and the resolution of almost every conflict here turns out rather anticlimactically.
Ready? Say... Predictable. (If I could sum this book up in one word, that would be it.)
Click! 3 shooting stars. If you are looking for a light, cutesy read that you can page through in a few hours, knowing exactly how things will play out, this might be just the book for you. But if you are looking for a book that offers anything of substance — or frankly, even anything new to the contemporary YA genre — Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink is pretty much guaranteed to disappoint. That said, reading it was enjoyable enough in the moment, particularly as I do like watching a 'hate at first sight' sort of romance unfold.
Note: while the voice of this book feels geared toward younger readers, there is some mature language and references, so I'd say this is probably a mid-teen sort of read.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher.