Jessie is not your average teenage girl. She wears blue lipstick, makes her own clothes, plays volleyball and cello, and writes poetry to her cat. Blue Lipstick chronicles some of Jessie’s struggles and thoughts through not just poetry, but concrete poems: poems that also are heavily influenced by the graphic design of the page. As the book progresses, Jessie works on her “wall.” The barrier she’s put up against herself and all other people (except for some important exceptions: like her best friend, her cat Boo-Boo Kitty, and her little brother Robert for half of the time) including meat eaters and smokers and boy jocks.
Blue Lipstick is funny and original. Most of all, it was fun to read. The concrete poems that were laid out in a completely varied fashion on each page and made me have to move the book around and even read in the mirror! I thought Jessie’s voice was authentic and found many of her thoughts to relevant to life as a teenager. For example, she tells her dad that she would like to be an artist. He responds, “It’s tough being an artist. You’ve got to struggle for years. People often misunderstand your work. You’ve got to be thick-skinned because critics can be cruel. You don’t have any money. And in many ways you’re really alone,” at which point Jessie replies, “It sounds like high school.” However, I did think that much of the success of this book has to do with the original artwork, graphic design, and font choices of the poet/artist. The art is simplistic but still very unique, using only the color blue throughout and often making the words, letters, and phrases of the poetry part of a larger graphic image. I thought that this would be a refreshing read for teenagers because it is so different, but still allows the reader to connect to the poems and to the characters. Some younger readers may struggle with the poem designs. However, I feel that with the very visual nature of today’s learners, this book of poetry would be a success.