Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Fun, Feminist, Eccentric Romp: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis | Goodreads

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release: October 3, 2017
Source: BEA 2017
Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won't admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he'll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn't show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora's dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.
When I first heard about Everything Must Go—while frantically scouring publishers' ARC drop schedules at BookExpo—I knew I had to read it. The blurb promised a fun, frivolous story of failed first love, perfect for a summer read.

And that's exactly what I got. But I also got so much more.

Most importantly, I got an empowering feminist tale full of exponential character growth. Don't let this book's premise (girl uproots her life for the sake of a boy) lead you astray. Throughout the story, Flora truly comes into her own, growing as a character until the final chapter.

Once Flora arrives at Quare and realizes Elijah won't be joining her, the story veers in an unexpected direction—after a few months of moping, she slowly begins to integrate herself into her new school. She makes new friends, becomes nationally-known for a piece of performance art, and… well, you'll just have to read the book to hear more about her offbeat adventures. Meanwhile, she tries to strike the right balance between being the free-spirited, radically-socially-conscious artist Quare wants her to be and the high-achieving, vintage-shop-crawling girl she was in New York City.

This grappling between identities—quirky Quare artist, vintage city fashionista, girl with a major crush, independent woman—leads to several questions about how we portray ourselves in different social situations, how pieces of our personalities combine, and how we interact with others. These are questions that Flora grapples with through her art, and they're questions that are only complicated by the whirlwind of events that transpire during Flora's December and second semester. Most of all, they're questions that will have readers pondering right along with the protagonist.

Through it all, Flora's journal entries and letters—mixed with emails and notes submitted by secondary characters—sing with a deeply-endearing, full-of-heart voice. Flora can be a bit clueless at times, yes, but she's also funny, clever, and increasingly confident. Never afraid to bare her deepest, most messy emotions, she tells a true-to-life story that's sometimes a comedy of errors, sometimes a comedy of triumphs—and her words will make readers want to be her BFF. Flora is a (more socially- and self-aware) Georgia Nicolson for a new generation of YA readers, and I loved it.

What I loved by far the most about Everything Must Go, however, is its treatment of romance. Crushes—both requited and not—obviously play a major role in the story's plot, but romantic relationships are not treated as the endgame in any character's arc. Everyone, especially Flora, learns to be true to themselves before pairing off with a romantic partner, and plenty of characters end up happily single at the end of the story. Complete with impeccably-written friendships that remain entirely platonic, Everything Must Go is a refreshing reminder that not every YA character needs to have found a future spouse by the end of his or her novel.

From its unusual setting to its eccentric cast of characters, everything about Everything Must Go is vibrant, clever, and oh-so-memorable. I can't tell what I loved the most: Flora's character growth, her thought-provoking art, or her voice that captures the messy magic of growing up just as it captivates readers. Jenny Fran Davis's debut is a must-read for all fans of hilarious contemporaries, journal- and epistolary-style novels, or realistically fascinating teen characters. You need this fish-out-of-water book in your life—embarrassing moments, complicated relationships, creative art, and all. 

2 comments:

  1. Very late to responding to this but UGH I need this book in my life! That cover is gorgeous and I love the premise of it. Your review sold me 100% on it.

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  2. (For some reason I only just saw this now? Oh well...better late than never. xD) This sounds like such a great book! I love books that are charming and realistic, and this sounds like just that. I'm definitely going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

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