Those Pink Mountain Nights by Jen Ferguson
Published: October 12th 2023 by Heartdrum
Rating: ★★★½ (3.5)
Genre: Young Adult // Contemporary, LGBT
Quick Thoughts: I believe there was such an important, heartfelt story with so much good there. Jen’s writing is truly magnificent.
About The Book:
In her remarkable second novel following her acclaimed debut, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet, which won the Governor General’s Award and received six starred reviews, Jen Ferguson writes about the hurt of a life stuck in past tense, the hum of connections that cannot be severed, and one week in a small snowy town that changes everything.
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.
I hadn’t seen too much about Those Pink Mountain Nights before I was offered the chance to read it, but then I saw that the author, Jen, was behind the book The Summer Of Bitter and Sweet, which I had heard so many great things about. I was really excited to start a book set in Canada also, because I haven’t read one there for a long time.
Told in multiple POVs, we get to know Berlin, Cam and Jessie as their worlds and lives overlap. Berlin is an attentive, over-achiever, mapping out her future minus someone she thought would be there by her side when her best friend suddenly starts ghosting her. But she has Pink Mountain Pizza, her part-time job, to keep her distracted. As for Cam, he hasn’t been the same since his cousin Kiki disappeared. To him, this is horrific, but to the town, she’s just another missing Native girl, making him spiral into dropping out of school. Jessie isn’t your typical pretty and rich girl. After a traumatic childhood, she’s turned her attention to living in spite of it entirely.
When Jessie starts a new job at Pink Mountain Pizza, the three teens lives collide one weekend. With grief and change some of the highlighted, more painful themes they battle with—and together—we lean into the mystery of Kiki’s disappearance, of social injustice, accountability and how they feel they have to dodge stereotypes. As the teens find each other going through similar feelings and thoughts, one week in their small, snowy town takes turns none of them expected—and the reader is right there with them.
Overall, Those Pink Mountain Nights was poignant, eye-opening and moving. I felt myself loving Berlin’s POV the most, but by the end, I had warmed to all the characters and how, despite their differences, they found common ground in each other. Jen’s way of highlighting the real life issue of missing Native and Indigenous people with Kiki’s storyline, and Cam’s mothers murder, was heart wrenchingly raw. She shows how many allies around the world that say they support and want to protect minority voices despite there still being a lot of racist/bias undertones in their actions. I did struggle to get into the book for a good chunk of the beginning, and felt it dragged out a lot toward the end, but as a whole I believe there was such an important, heartfelt story with so much good there. Jen’s writing is truly magnificent and I wholeheartedly look forward to seeing what she writes next.
About The Author
Jen Ferguson (she/her/hers) Métis (on her father’s side) and Canadian settler (on her mother’s side) is an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice armed with a PhD. She believes writing, teaching and beading are political acts. She is represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Her debut young adult novel, THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET, is forthcoming from Heartdrum / Harper Collins in the summer of 2022. Her first book for adults, Border Markers, a collection of interrelated flash fiction stories, is out now with NeWest Press.
She lives and works in Los Angeles.