Happy Friday, book nerds!!
I don’t want to jinx it, but as I write up this intro for my FOURTH post this week, I feel a bit hopeful that I might truly be getting back into the swing of things with this blog! 🤞
And as you guys know from previous posts, I’ve been spending my time recently catching up on backlisted arcs. Like seriously, embarrassingly behind backlisted arcs.
The pros? I’m FINALLY reading and reviewing these titles.
The cons? Most of these are from when I was brand new to the world of arcs and might explain why I’m not seeing eye-to-eye with my review copies. Today’s post is devoted to my oldest backlist arc, which unfortunately ended up being my lowest rated book in almost two years. 😩
Scroll on, if you dare, for my thoughts on this YA contemporary!
Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
Title & Author: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Series Details: Standalone
Page Count: 416 pages
Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’m sorry to report that this novel just did not work for me. And I tried, y’all. I read every last page before making my decision, but I just didn’t click with this story, its characters, or its content.
I was initially lulled in by that bright and fantastic cover, because honestly who wouldn’t be? And I loved the idea of a feminist novel targeted at teens that preaches self love and acceptance. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave this book feeling empowered or inspired.
This story centers on our MC, Flora (read: a younger, vintage-obsessed version of Serena van der Woodsen, imo obviously), who leaves her ritzy all-girls school in NYC to attend an elite Quaker social justice school to follow the guy she loves. Plot twist? After being accepted to this arts school she finds out the guy of her dreams won’t actually be attending. Now enrolled at this new school (with a class of 32 students total), Flora is forced to embrace new identities, ideologies, and ways of interacting with the world and her peers. Example: The campus forbids “shell speak” which is any commentary on a person’s shell (body, looks, clothing, etc) so that you’re forced to dig deeper and get to know them. A concept I actually thought was pretty cool despite the fact that our protagonist continues to use it until the VERY END of the novel. Even as she’s judging people for being “hollow” and using “shell speak” against her she continues to prattle on about their looks/value system.
Now before this gets ranty, don’t get me wrong, this novel is NOT all bad. It featured a ton of diversity, a protagonist that frequently checks her privilege, PLATONIC love (can I get an amen??), and truly intelligent writing — especially within the progress reports/literary critique portions of the novel.
HOWEVER, my biggest problem with this novel is that those deep, interesting, enlightened portions of the novel aren’t expanded or explored. It’s not enough to just throw out the questions (via professor’s feedback on her papers) or have a one-off line about a p.c. identity without exploring those concepts further. By giving these glimpses of insight it read more as inclusion for inclusion’s sake rather than actual representation. As the author is clearly well versed on these topics, I personally would have loved for more of the 400+ pages to be devoted to those types of discussions rather than consistent pining over an emotionally unavailable teenage boy.
At the end of the day, it’s evident that Jenny Fran Davis is a smart and in-the-now writer whose work lands with a majority of readers (based off the overall Goodreads ratings for this book). Just because this wasn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a great way to spend your afternoon.
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