ARC Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

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Release Date: June 27, 2017

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“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

review

3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Flatiron Books 

+++Triggers for abortion, suicide, death

This is the first YA book I’ve read that has dealt with the sensitive and extremely relevant topics of teenage pregnancy and choosing abortion. We definitely need more of these heavy-hitting subjects because despite the tendency for society to pretend sex doesn’t happen in high school, it does and a lot. Kids make mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing alcohol and unprotected sex (which is not even the case in this story, the condom actually breaks). This is 100% a story that needed to be written, explored, and experienced. Okay, let me get off of my soapbox about this and talk about the book.

The story centers around a girl who is very much in love with her boyfriend, they have sex, and unfortunately the condom breaks and she ends up pregnant. He comes from a very traditional, upper class, church-going family, and has been raised to believe abortion is the highest form of sin, much worse than the pre-martial sex he indulged in. Gen comes from a broken family. Her father OD’d, her mother is dangerously depressed, and she is left to pick up the pieces after their tragic loss. Their home situations are vastly different and yet, he adores her quirkiness and her big heart. He is compassionate and understands her home life is less than ideal and he’s there for her when some truly devastating and horrific stuff happens. So what’s the problem?

This dynamic is not explored. I loved that they came from families that are basically opposites. That despite everything working against them socially, they inherently understood each other. And yet, the story structure…doesn’t work well with the plot. It’s a series of flashbacks to how they fell in love and the current heartbroken times post-abortion. It’s nostalgic and dreamy and rose-tinted, despite the hospital visits and everything else. The very problematic issue of Peter’s personal, religious beliefs are pretty much glossed over and the catty former friend who wants to sink her claws into Peter is front and center. Why? I don’t understand. Maybe the author wanted to take another route or didn’t want to get too political or preachy or something? I’m not sure. But these extremely important details were not talked about except in minor passing and at the end. I feel like the drama was displaced. I would have liked a little more exploration of these conflicts and it’s just lots of reflection.

The abortion scene itself. There are no words. The emotions, the confusion, the heartbreak, there’s also a weird need to “punish” herself and so that she feels the loss. It’s powerful and hits hard. And what’s worse, what really, truly broke my heart was the betrayal. You need someone to hold your hand. To be there. And for someone to desert you during such a critical time. How can you ever forgive that? 

The plot is all over the place. It’s sporadic and random and then add in the flashback scenes and it felt like the story didn’t know what it wanted to be. I totally understand being confusion, reckless, and the emotional chaos that can cause someone to make bizarre choices but I guess the pieces didn’t fit well together. This book deals with so many heavy themes and it felt…lighter than expected? I mean abortion, drug overdosing, suicide…it’s as hard as it gets. 

However, the story was enjoyable. I liked the weird romance that sprung up out of Gen’s heartbreak. It was uplifting and adorable, and he definitely brightens her life. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Review: And We Stay-Jenny Hubbard

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cooltext1889161239 copySenior Paul Wagoner walks into his school with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend, Emily Beam, and then takes his own life. Soon after, angry and guilt-ridden Emily is sent to a boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where two quirky fellow students and the spirit of Emily Dickinson offer helping hands. But it is up to Emily Beam to heal her own damaged self, to find the good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

cooltext1889171582 copy3.5/5 Stars

Trigger Warning: Deals with heavy themes like abortion, suicide, and hostel situations.

And We Stay is an emotional journey into recovery and forgiveness that reads like an eulogy and bleeds out poetry. It’s raw, poignant, and heart-wrenching. The poetry is astounding and in some ways channels Emily Dickinson herself. 

PROS:

  • The poetry is timeless. It’s full of agony and inspiration, beauty and quiet tragedy, the death of the soul, reincarnation of self. Gripping, powerful, there are some that are simply written and thought-provoking and others that have so many components you could analyze and discover something new each time. 
  • Emily and Emily Dickinson are soul sisters. They parallel one another, in many ways they’re the same but diverge in leaps and bounds. There’s a particular scene that very well might have changed my life, as cliche as that sounds. When Emily sits in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and stares at her desk. She evaluates her life, her choices, and what could have been different and she thinks about the fragility of life, the wounds we cause ourselves and those that come no matter what we do to save ourselves. This was my favorite: 
    • “So if she sits at a desk, scrawls words on paper, are the words as lonely as she, or do they sow seeds into a soul across time, across centuries? Was Emily Dickinson ever able to thread the words together in such a way that she was beyond the need for stitches?”
  • And We Stay deals with important and tragic themes like school shootings, suicide, depression, and abortion. The poems are dynamite. They compile all the emotions of these incidents in precise, short poems. They make you think and feel more so than the scenes of the events themselves. 

CONS:

  • I struggled with how to rate this book. In some ways, it was a five-star read, in others it was a solid three. The story, which is supplemented by the poetry, is moving but the way it’s presented lacked the emotional pull of the events themselves. The moments at Amherst were bland, dull, and forgettable. The secondary characters were average, expected, and didn’t hold your attention. They sort of flitted in and out like phantoms without substance. In some ways, the story would have been better had it only featured Emily and her kinship with Emily Dickinson. 
  • Emily doesn’t deal with her problems. Yes, she writes poetry and bleeds out into beautiful, hypnotizing words but it’s roundabout. The scenes with the shooting, at the abortion clinic, it’s like she numbed herself and brushed them off, as if to shrug and say, that’s the past no need to drudge it up. Her poetry says different. Emily is crying out, she wants to express her emotions but doesn’t have the courage yet. Through Emily Dickinson, Emily starts to accept that feeling, though painful, is a necessary evil, that it can be salvation. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Pleasant reading,

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