YA continues to be a reliable go-to for television, especially on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But despite its apparent ubiquity, it’s often a challenge to find a series that can appeal to its intended audience and those who might otherwise cringe at the idea of tuning in for a young adult series. That’s in addition to the inherent challenges of finding a series capable of adhering to the loosely prescribed socially conscious tenets of the genre, without tripping over itself or forgetting to tell an actual story in the process. Netflix has had its fair share of middling teen-centric series in the past few years, including the dismal but incredibly popular 13 Reasons Why, and more recent entries like Chambers, The Rain, and The Society, which opted to blend YA with science fiction or horror with mixed results. But it’s latest, Trinkets, is poised to stand out from the crowd.
Produced by AwesomenessTV and adapted by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer from the novel of the same name by author Kirsten Smith (who shares the creator credit and serves as a writer on the series), Trinkets is the story of an unlikely friendship that blossoms in an unexpected place: Shoplifters Anonymous. Yes, Trinkets is the story of three high-school kleptomaniacs, young women who, for various reasons, find treating themselves to a five-finger discount from time to time is something they enjoy doing. And while they’re good enough at it to get away with some audacious thievery, they’re not so good that they’ve never been caught — hence the Shoplifters Anonymous.
It’s an oddly absorbing premise for a story, one that Trinkets puts to good use by splitting the focus between its three main characters, the recently relocated Elodie (Brianna Hildebrand, Deadpool, The Exorcist), the outwardly tough but secretly smart Moe (Kiana Madeira, The Flash), and the wealthy and popular, but secretly miserable Tabitha (Quintessa Swindell). Though it’s essentially a three-hander, the audience’s introduction to the series (provided they’ve not read the book) is largely handled through Elodie’s first day in her new school in Portland, Oregon. She’s recently relocated from Albuquerque, New Mexico to live with her father, stepmother, and half-brother in the wake of her mother’s untimely death.
The fish-out-of-water scenario makes Elodie the ideal audience avatar as she and the viewer are thrown into the deep end of her new school where she’s given a crash course on the social hierarchies at play. But Andelson and Smith combine Elodie’s misfit-ness with the lingering grief over her mother’s passing to make her into more than just a proxy for the viewer by episode’s end. In fact, the series premiere works so quickly and economically with its storytelling that it helps Trinkets rise above the usual streaming content concerns, avoiding certain familiar pitfalls of otherwise “bingeable” television by never putting off the immediate needs of the story for a prescribed payoff somewhere down the line. It’s a little weird to say that time management is one of the best things about a new series — especially one as frequently smart and charming as Trinkets — but the show does more in 30 minutes (usually less) than most shows with hour-long runtimes and a greater number of episodes.
That balancing act becomes more significant when Elodie, Moe, and Tabitha’s individual story threads begins to diverge from one another before overlapping and criss-crossing in ways that not only feel organic and earned, but speak to the distinct personalities of the three young woman and the unconventional bond they share thanks to their extracurricular activities. It would be easy for Trinkets to lose sight of or overly compartmentalize Moe or Tabitha’s threads, simply due to the breadth of Elodie’s experiences — living in a new town with her semi-estranged family, adjusting to a new school without her friends, grieving over the loss of her mother, and dealing with the various complications of being a gay teenager — but it never feels as though Trinkets gives any of its characters short shrift.
The series also never tries to define its young women by or overly moralize their predilection toward shoplifting, or their place in the social hierarchy of their school and economic class. Instead, Trinkets makes these things the jumping off point — Elodie is comfortably middle class, Moe has to make do with less, and Tabitha comes from a wealthy family, whose mother is “Instagram famous” — before demonstrating the ways in which these women are much more than the surface characteristics that ultimately don’t define them. In the process, Trinkets winds up delivering a satisfying story of unlikely friendship born of illicit behavior.
Those friendships are made all the more believable and entertaining by virtue of what each actor brings to her character. Hildebrand is certainly best known for playing the mostly one-note, cantankerous Negasonic Teenage Warhead in the Deadpool films. Here she’s given more to work with (and even more than she was asked to handle in The Exorcist) and in turn the audience is given a better idea of the sort of performer Hildebrand is capable of becoming. The character of Elodie (and by extension, Hildebrand’s performance) is in stark contrast to the other two women at the center of this story. Moe and Tabitha both exude a confidence Elodie lacks, but that confidence hides truths about each woman that are both hopeful and painful. Moe’s reputation as an outsider prevents her from being comfortable embracing her innate intelligence and interest in science, while Tabitha’s veneer of wealth and popularity hides a dissatisfied young woman whose relationship with a boy of equal status is showing early signs that there'll be painful and distressing times ahead.
Trinkets succeeds by acknowledging the disparities between Elodie, Moe, and Tabitha and giving them room to breath, but also finding reasons for them to not only be together but want to spend that time with one another. As unlikely friendships go, Trinkets’ overcomes questions of improbability with a terrific young cast, compelling premise, and storytelling that balances drama and comedy exceptionally well. This is well made YA that’s worth anyone’s time.
Trinkets season 1 premieres Friday, June 14 exclusively on Netflix.