Review: Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine by Nicole Melleby

Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine by Nicole Melleby

Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine
Nicole Melleby
Algonquin Young Readers
Published April 2, 2024

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About Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine

In this powerful new novel by award-winning author Nicole Melleby, 12-year-old Winnie Nash is forced to live with her grandma for the summer and finds herself torn between her family’s secrets and the joy of celebrating Pride.

Winnifred “Winnie” Nash is not a senior citizen, despite what anyone thinks of her name. And she is definitely not excited to live with her grandma in New Jersey for the summer. Not only are they basically strangers, but Winnie—who’s always known she’s gay—has been pushed into the metaphorical closet by her parents, who worry what Grandma will think. So Winnie keeps quiet about the cute girls she befriends; plays card games with seniors, which she does not enjoy; and dreams of the day she can go to the Pride Parade in New York City—a day that can’t happen when she’s hiding the truth from Grandma.

Meanwhile, her mom’s latest pregnancy is approaching its due date, and Winnie is worried it might end like the ones before, with Winnie still an only child. As she tries so hard to be an agreeable, selfless daughter, getting to NYC for Pride is feeling more and more like her only escape from a family who needs her to always smile. Winnie Nash is not your sunshine—and maybe it’s time to show the world who she really is.

My Review

I had forgotten that this book includes a character with pregnancy losses, which is something I’m still really tender about. It’s also about a girl and her relationship with her grandma, which I absolutely love—and unexpectedly made me miss my grandma so badly it hurts. (Which is great news in terms of the power of the storytelling! Just not great news for, like, Kleenex preservation.)

Every Nicole Melleby book I’ve read so far has been spot-on with its exploration of complex emotions, especially anger, anxiety, and sadness. Those are such huge things that kids feel, and Melleby relates those emotions with unflinching honesty and genuine tenderness. She’s brilliant. I think that’s all there is to it.

Another thing that is so beautiful about this book is the evolution of the relationships in it. At the beginning, Winnie doesn’t feel close to her grandmother. It seems like they mostly get on each other’s nerves. But as the story progresses, Winnie begins to see and understand more about her grandmother, and her grandma’s understanding of Winnie grows, too. They find ways to connect. And then, when Winnie finds herself in an emotional freefall, her grandma is able to meet her there in unexpected ways.

I also loved the friendships between Winnie, Lucía, and Pippa for somewhat the same reason. Winnie grows so much as she gets to know these girls. She learns a lot about friendship and trust. She learns about opening up. It’s so cool.

While the story doesn’t focus on Winnie’s mom’s past miscarriages, and Winnie isn’t even living with her mom for most of the book, some of the snapshots of memories focus on her mom’s feelings of depression afterward and Winnie’s fears about her mom and the baby. I found that to be a super emotional reading experience because of my own experience. I don’t know if it would be helpful for kids who’ve had parents experience a pregnancy loss to read Winnie’s experience or not. It could help give kids a way to articulate some of the things they’re feeling about a really hard situation.

On the whole, I gotta say Nicole Melleby did it again. This is another deep and powerfully told story that welcomes young readers into some of life’s painful places with grace and gentleness and offers respite in the representation of safe, loving adults and the unexpected gift of a good friend.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

Winnie is a lesbian. Another friend is also queer. A couple of adults in Winnie’s life are queer as well. Winnie’s mom has had depression.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
A girl kisses another girl on the cheek. Winnie reflects on the first time she kissed a girl (preschool).

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
This isn’t violence so much as trauma. Winnie’s mom has lost several pregnancies. The book isn’t super specific on how far along in the pregnancies she was, but it does refer to them as miscarriages. When the story begins, Winnie’s mom is about six months pregnant, and both her parents have a lot of anxiety about it. Winnie has some big feelings, too. See spoilers below.

Drug Content

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Winnie’s mom has to go to the hospital, and there are a tense few scenes where Winnie doesn’t know if her mom is okay or has lost the baby.

About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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