The Gallery of Unfinished Girls ★★★☆☆

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A little slow and a little weird, but definitely worth the read.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Let’s start with the awesomeness that is a bisexual main character. I really loved watching her come to terms with her sexuality and how that inward struggle prevented her from addressing her passions, as many inward struggles do. Her front most struggle is to create a second painting in a series about… well… food poisoning… a little weird but you do you. But her real struggle is not only coming out to her best friend but also admitting that she has more than friendly feelings for her. All great things needed in YA.

And even with that–it’s not really a romance. Don’t go into this expecting a romance. Go into The Gallery of Unfinished Girls expecting a coming of age story. Because that’s what this is. And honestly, I think we need more “coming into feelings” stories and less “having feelings returned” stories.

Now onto other things. The writing is not bad. It’s not meh, either. It’s actually a very well written book, but I wasn’t ever really drawn into the book. I blame the flat opening. A piano suddenly shows up on the front lawn one day and then… nothing really happens for a few days… I think the opening would have benefited from more magical things occurring to keep us interested. Instead, there is a lot of introspective downtime in front of partially complete canvases.

Which is totally relate-able to as a writer who has sat in front of many a blank screen before, but I need that summed up in my fiction.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it and recommend that you pick it up, but it’s not a must have or don’t bother.

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