My rating: 5 of 5 stars
ARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I am a super critical reader/reviewer. I usually call out any annoyance I encounter in my reviews regardless of how minuscule it is. It goes without saying that I don’t give out many 5 star ratings. As a general rule, any books that I give 5 star ratings to must meet 2 of the 3 following criteria:
1. Go on my favorites shelf. check
2. Make me feel the need to purchase a physical copy (I read on Kindle 98% of the time.) check
3. I know I’m going to re-read the book. check
That being said: I don’t have anything bad to say about Aspen. I know… That’s really shocking coming from me, but Aspen is phenomenal.
The best thing about this book is the overall message that it’s okay to be yourself. All of the main characters in this book are apologetically true to themselves. Great example: Ninny.
“Ninny” is what Aspen calls her mother. Ninny was very young and didn’t even know she was pregnant when Aspen was born. Her parents immediately disowned her and she has raised Aspen on her own ever since. Ninny is not what you would consider a traditional parental figure. She smokes a lot of weed, sleeps around, can’t hold down a job, doesn’t clean up after herself, encourages Aspen to have sex, and is just generally irresponsible. BUT Ninny is not painted as a villain in this novel. Aspen and her friends adore her anyway because she’s a good person and she loves them.
I thought this was so unique. A lot novels use the “terrible parent” trope as an excuse to bring their characters conflict and create angst. It’s lazy. My least favorite is the rich, works too much, and doesn’t give a crap that his daughter is different dad. Awful. Ninny is a crappy mom, but she’s a a wonderful, if strange, person. For example:
“My mom taught me how to braid. We used to practice on my dolls. She would say every respectable girl knows how to braid.”
“You never taught me.”
“I couldn’t care less if you’re respectable.” Ninny ties a rubber band around the end of one braid. “I care that you’re you.”
Ninny and her relationships with the other characters is truly my favorite thing about this novel. I love the way the author made it okay for Ninny to be different. She made it okay for Aspen to unconditionally love (and like) her mother even if she didn’t act like a mother most of the time.
The rest of the book was lovely too. It’s never made clear whether or not Aspen is actually beautiful or if Ninny just thinks she is because she’s her mother. But it is made clear that Aspen has out of control blonde hair, she wears bell bottoms, tie dye, and Birkenstocks, and usually has charcoal smeared on her face. I thought this was nice. Aspen is unequivocally herself and she still has great friendships and a love interest despite walking to the beat of her own drum. The author didn’t paint her as the beautiful girl who wears black and too much makeup in order to hide her beauty because she’s soooooooo different and superior. Gag.
I don’t want to get too far into the accident and resulting events part of the book, but I will say that this is very well done. Aspen’s reactions to them and the events that tale place afterwards struck me as very realistic.
Overall, this book was wonderful and I very much recommend that you read it. Now.