Published by Wednesday Books on October 3rd 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.
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.
Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an e-ARC of this book!
Everything Must Go was certainly not the book I expected, from start to finish. However, the book I actually got was a bit of a hidden gem. This book was smart, funny, and feminist. It’s definitely one of the more *~intelligent~* YA contemporaries I’ve read recently, but the writing never took itself too seriously or came off as pretentious. This is a story about making mistakes and somehow finding yourself along the way.
One thing I adored about Everything Must Go was the format. The story is told through a collection of documents, from letters, to emails, to journal entries, to blog posts. (Side note: the formatting was a little wonky on the e-ARC. This is a book I’d probably recommend reading a physical copy of for the best experience.) The actual plot is a bit hard to describe– and, besides, I think this is the sort of book where it’s best to go in blind– but it follows our protagonist, Flora Goldwasser, as she falls in love with her older history tutor and subsequently decides to leave her prep school in Manhattan and follow him to Quare Academy, a Quaker school of about 30 students in upstate New York.
Even though the story has no real narrator– although present-day Flora does add some asides in between documents occasionally– I really got a sense of who Flora was through the correspondence she sends to her loved ones. I loved reading from Flora’s perspective. She is definitely not a standard quiet, reserved YA protagonist. She’s loud, opinionated, brash, impulsive. And I loved her for all of these qualities. At first I thought she was going to be a typical manic pixie dreamgirl type (seriously, she only wears vintage clothes, lives in Manhattan, and followed a boy she barely knows to a school she didn’t even want to attend), but she redeemed herself over the course of the story. She made some enormous mistakes, but she really made the best of every situation she got herself into. I just love reading about YA protagonists who are loud and impulsive… because that’s who I was as a teenager. One thing I appreciated was the way she acknowledged and checked her own privilege (and also how the people around her weren’t afraid to call her on it).
I also loved the cast of characters who went to Quare with Flora– they were all so different, and they all taught Flora different things and helped her on her journey of finding herself. She went through such immense character growth over the course of this story, and a lot of it was brought on by Quare. Flora’s day-to-day life at Quare was hilarious and stereotypical and made all the more funny through reading her own accounts of the weird things she witnessed in the letters she wrote to her friends and family back in Manhattan. And this is totally nerdy, but I also loved reading about the coursework at Quare. It was so feminist and progressive and intersectional. I was here for it. The school setting played a large role in the story, as opposed to simply standing as filler.
I enjoyed the Miss Tulip side plot, too. I’m trying to be vague– because spoilers– but I was really curious to see how all of that would wrap up, and the ending did not disappoint. In fact, I loved the ending of this book so much. It was a bit ambiguous, but it was done so well.
All in all, I applaud Jenny Fran Davis for managing to pull off such a peculiar story in such a fantastic, smart way. Everything Must Go is a book that I find impossible to describe, but if I had to summarize it in three words, they would be: witty, feminist, surprising. I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re looking for YA contemporary with excellent feminist commentary and a story that might surprise you in the best way.
Have you read Everything Must Go? If so, I’d love to discuss in the comments! If not, is it on your TBR (it should be!)?