Today I will be spotlighting two books releasing next week, on June 27th.
I received e-ARCs of both of these books and the opinions that follow are my own.
Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin
Genre: YA Contemporary | Diversity: Mental Health (grief) | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“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.
Aftercare Instructions, an electric, format-crushing debut, full of heart and hope, follows Gen on a big-hearted journey from dorm rooms to diners to underground theaters—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.
What do you do when the person you think you’ll depend on forever abandons you in an abortion clinic? You pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to take care of yourself.
Which is exactly what Aftercare Instructions is about. Genesis is considered “troubled”: her dad died of a heroin overdose, so the whole school is waiting for her to turn into a royal fuck-up; her mom’s hardly around, physically or emotionally, and her little sister went to live with their grandparents. All Gen has now is her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at Planned Parenthood with no explanation.
unique storytelling style
I loved that the present tense narrative is juxtaposed with events from the past in stage play script form. The past unfolds slowly as we watch Gen grapple for support in the present. My favorite aspect: the chapter titles are all bullet points from post-abortion instructions, which tie into Gen’s emotional journey toward recovery, not just from the abortion but from her past scars and present hurts. Gen absolutely makes mistakes. And yet each of her mistakes carries her forward toward healing.
honest dialogue about abortion
Aftercare Instructions is the best representation of abortion in teen fiction that I’ve ever read. Gen goes through the wide range of emotions, from denial, to questioning if she made the right choice. Abortion is taken quite seriously, in that her recovery process is the main narrative, but it’s also not treated as scandalous, or the wrong choice. Abortion is a tough issue to write about for any age group, but especially teenagers, and I feel that Bonnie Pipkin did an amazing job in treating it with the nuance it deserves.
I wish everyone would read this hugely emotional book, provided you have tissues at the ready.
Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn
Genre: YA Thriller | Diversity: Thai-American MC | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.
When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…
a mystery with an identity crisis at its center
I really connected with Kan’s voice. She has never felt like she belongs, either in Thailand or in her high school. Even her friends don’t fully understand her, and some of them even make racist comments without realizing it. Kan’s struggle is a compelling one, as she learns to both open up to her Khun Yai about her dreams—to be a fashion designer—and as she learns to stand up for herself with her peers.
One of the best aspects of this book for me was its honest depiction of micro-aggressions. From the beginning, we see Kan struggling with being labeled as “exotic”—by people who assume it’s a compliment, rather than yet another way of assigning Kan the identity of “other.” This isn’t a book about race (in the sense of, say The Hate U Give), but it’s almost certainly a book that depicts the struggle of being the only ethnic minority in town.
the toxic friend and psychological thriller aspect
The Toxic Best Friend is possibly one of my favorite tropes (if it’s done well). Right away, I could tell there was something going on with Shelly—both because we get to see flashes of her perspective in the text, and because of her actions. I’ve had many manipulative friends in my life, but Shelly is downright creepy.
Which is where the mystery/thriller aspect comes into play. I’ll be honest, the first half of this book didn’t grab me as much as I wanted it to. I could tell Shelly was Bad News, and I was frustrated that Kan didn’t act sooner. The second half of the book picks up in pace and you know that things are only going to get worse. While it’s obvious that Shelly is up to something, you’re kept guessing as to the how and why of it all. I had my suspicions, but they weren’t confirmed until the very end.
the lackluster romance
Maybe I’ve just been reading too many stories with romance in them, but I couldn’t really be bothered to care about Kan and Ethan’s relationship. I felt that his character was more of a plot point, a reason for Kan to suspect Shelly’s manipulations, than he was a real person. Their relationship all happens very fast before I could really care how it turned out. Ethan also felt like more of a carbon copy of the Ideal Boyfriend than anything else.
Ultimately, this was a fast-paced read. I devoured it in a matter of two days; after the first half, I couldn’t put it down. While there were aspects that made me really uncomfortable, particularly Shelly’s behavior, I can see how that was the author’s intention—to make the reader uncomfortable.
Thanks for checking for these mini-reviews! Once again, these books release next week on June 27th.
Have you read either of these books? Do they sound appealing to you? Let’s talk in the comments!