Thanks to Netgalley, I got the chance to read Everything Must Go by Jenny Davis.
Even though the cover isn’t something that would make me pick up a book when browsing a bookstore, the blurb did get my attention.
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.
The first thing that intrigued me about this novel, was the fact that Flora’s already in love. Most stories focus on the love story, instead this is a novel that promises to give you something else, something more unique.
Add to that the out-of-the-ordinary format of letters, emails and journal entries… Well, it looked promising!
So this is where we begin: with me, naked and in love in the bathtub, like many a tragic protagonist before me.
At about 25% in the novel I started to get doubts. Flora felt very focused on the way she looks and I still didn’t get a lot of details on her life at Quare. Certain events are laid out, but it all feels very detached, even though you’re reading parts of her journal – but mostly emails that have been send back and forth between Flora, her friends and her sister.
Honestly, I was thinking about maybe DNF’ing this… And I rarely DNF!
But then the turn-around came and I started liking Everything Must Go. Actually. Started. Liking. It. Flora turns out to be the funny feminist and, even though I couldn’t really connect with her, I didn’t feel like it was essential to love this story.
This novel is unique in the way that Flora has already fallen in love and she needs to find her way coping with that love. By going to Quare – somewhere a materialistic person doesn’t really ‘fit in’ – she takes on multiple battles at once.
She has to fight to keep on to hope, love and, in a way, even friendship. She has to find her place in a little tight-knit community where standards are… Well, completely different than the standards she lives by.
“Girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.”
Even though the feminist-aspect in this novel is clearly portrayed, it was the “no shell-speak” rule at Quare that grabbed me most. Really, that rule should be present everywhere.
At Quare, the students are practically forbidden – but not really – to comment on the appearances of their fellow peers in any way. You have to ignore the “shell”, focusing solely on the inner beauty of everyone around you. If you’re to give a compliment, compliment someone on their creativity, their way of thinking, but not on their hair, clothes, jewelry.
This idea, this rule. This is what I’ll remember about this novel. No more shell-speak.
“When you think of yourself as so different, you become so different. All you’ll be able to think about are the ways that you’re an outcast.”
The big negative for me, though, is the format. Expecting to love it, I ended up disliking it quite a bit. Even though it was a fun way of reading, I have to say that I might’ve connected with Flora more if this book was written as a diary, instead of the compilation of journal entries and e-mails. The odd e-mail could’ve been added, of course. But the main gist should’ve been Flora’s journal.
The main reason, except for connecting more? Flora’s mails often feel as if it’s supposed to be “just” prose instead of an e-mail. I can’t imagine ever writing someone an e-mail in which I’m quoting whole conversations, all details included. I would, however, write those things in a diary.
I’m giving this novel 3 / 5, considering it’s very promising and I enjoyed it, but the execution could’ve been better.
Everything Must Go is being published on October 3rd, so if you’re interested in reading it and comparing notes with me – I would love that, actually – you can always head on over to Amazon.com, BookDepository or any other site to pre-order it!
Or you can add it to your TBR-list on Goodreads!