Sarah Reviews: Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson


wilkinson_Green ValentineThis book made me want to plant strawberries in my garden.

To take a packet of unassuming little black seeds and nurture them with mulch and sunlight and water and LOVE until they become a collection of beautiful bright red, juicy hearts scattered among green leaves ready for me to pick off and eat.

How do you give a YA rom-com novel an environmentally conscious edge and have it come off as funspirational rather than preachy? Enter Lili Wilkinson’s book Green Valentine.

High schooler Astrid Katy Smythe is kind of perfect. She’s pretty, popular and smart. She’s also the most committed teenage eco-warrior Melbourne’s fictional industrial suburb of Valentine has got.

When Astrid, dressed as a lobster and gathering signatures for her petition to save a soon-to-be extinct Australian crayfish, gets chatting to the supermarket trolley boy down at her local shopping centre one afternoon sparks fly.

The two soon give each other super-hero names: Lobster Girl and Shopping Trolley Boy.

But there’s a problem. Of course!

Shopping Trolley Boy is Hiro Silverstri, a kid who kind of embodies everything Astrid is not. He’s generally rude, resentful and a regular at school detention. Astrid quickly realises that she and Hiro both go to the same school, it’s just they just move in very different circles.

Here’s what the blurb says:

Astrid wants to change the world, Hiro wants to survive it. But ultimately both believe that the world needs to be saved from itself. Can they find enough in common to right all the  wrongs between them? A romantic comedy about life and love and trying to make the planet a better place, with a little heartbreak, and a whole lot of hilarity.

I enjoyed getting to know Astrid and Hiro. Travelling the journey of their bumpy teenage romance was engaging and fun, though I do feel Hiro loses a bit of shine as the book progresses. I wanted more from his character. His set-up as something of a thinking-kid’s rebel is great and his distaste for conformity provides the perfect foil for the subtle elitism in which Astrid has become entrenched. As I said, I just found myself wishing he’d stayed as engaging as he was in the beginning. Astrid, meantime, is an appealing central protagonist who proves ‘good girls’ don’t have to be one-dimensional.

Astrid and Hiro’s quest to prove that Valentine can transcend its industrial dullness sees them become guerilla gardeners. They spend their nights planting seedlings among the suburbs streets and ultimately get themselves into strife.

As well as environmental issues the book also touches on teen-relevant material such as family breakdown and navigating end-of-school choices.

The book’s dialogue is snappy and the footnotes from Astrid are a cute, quirky element that I really enjoyed.

Now, if like me you’re a sucker for a lovely book cover, this one is both pretty and eco-friendly. It gets double points for this.

Green Valentine is a great YA read for readers aged 14 and up.


  • Sue Bursztynski

    Yes, I thought this one was delightful. And it does help that the author is a passionate gardener herself – she’s always talking about her gardening on Twitter. I’ve recommended it to our female students, who do enjoy a gentle rom-com, something Lili Wilkinson has made her own. I loved the whole guerrilla gardening thing.

    • I wish I had a green thumb, Sue!

      • Sue Bursztynski

        Me too. My balcony garden consists of jade plants, which are very hardy succulents. I have occasionally had impatiens and even daffodils – oh, and a few strawberries, but only a few. I even had a climbing rose bush till Dad, bless him, cut it back at the wrong time if year, so my balcony could be painted. But I can’t grow herbs to save my life – and my sister insists they’re easy.

        Lucky Lili!

        • I used to be able to grow veges, but lately I’ve been even killing the mint!

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