Published by Flatiron Books on June 27th 2017
In the tradition of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, a big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope after a teen's decision to end an unwanted pregnancy
“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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Aftercare Instructions is one of those books that, in the days since I finished it, keeps creeping into my thoughts time and time again. I can’t stop thinking about this book. On one hand, it wasn’t at all the book I expected. On the other, I think it represents a vastly important addition to YA lit. I apologize in advance if my review seems jumbled– I’m finding it incredibly hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this book so special. I also believe this is the type of story you need to go into a bit blind; knowing too much about the plot could ruin the reading experience for you. Therefore, I’ll try not to say too much about the actual events of the plot and instead focus on other elements of the story in this review.
Yes, this is a story that examines the aftermath of a teen choosing to have an abortion, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s an examination of grief and healing, a story of friendship, a love letter to theater, and, above all, a message of hope. All of these elements were subtly and beautifully woven together to form the narrative of Aftercare Instructions.
One thing that stands out to me most about this book is the simple fact that it’s a masterfully written debut. I was shocked to find that Aftercare Instructions is Bonnie Pipkin’s first novel! The writing voice has a maturity to it, without feeling overly pretentious. The story is told through a non-linear timeline: through the present moment, and through flashbacks. The two timelines were managed incredibly cleverly. The present is told through Gen’s first-person POV, while the flashbacks are written in the format of scenes from a play. Not only does this contrast in formats make it impossible to confuse the two timelines, but the play format is extra effective because of Genesis’s love of theater.
Aftercare Instructions features a cast of flawed, imperfect characters, which I appreciated immensely. Many might find Genesis and the people around her “unlikeable,” but I think their flaws add to the authenticity of the story. It felt very true to life, and I think this was a huge part of why the book resonated strongly with me. These characters mess up, sometimes in monumental ways, but we see them forgive each other, learn from their mistakes, and come out better people in the end. Aftercare Instructions is a coming-of-age story in the truest sense of the word, because all the characters are having to face hard truths about themselves and the world around them.
This story also did a great job of examining relationships in all their capacities– friendships, romantic relationships, familial relationships, and everything in between. None of these felt more or less important than any of the others.
Overall, I think Aftercare Instructions is one of those books everyone has to experience for themselves. Again, I am so happy a book like this exists in YA, and I’ll be recommending it nonstop over the coming months. I highly encourage you to pick this one up! It’s a quick contemporary that’s full of heart and hope, and I think it’s one that will resonate with many people.
Have you read Aftercare Instructions? If so, tell me your thoughts! If not, do you plan to pick it up?