Title: Aftercare Instructions
Author: Bonnie Pipkin
Expected Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary YA
In the tradition of Rainbow Rowell and Jandy Nelson, a powerful, big-hearted journey of furious friendship, crazy love, and unexpected hope
“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.
I received an electronic advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Trigger warning: suicide (attempted and actual OD) and abortion.
It doesn’t take much to stay. It takes far more effort to leave. Leaving breaks inertia. Leaving mans a whole new energy source is needed to make a change in course like that. You have to make a decision, then stand up, then leave.
This book truly grew on me. It took me around an afternoon to finish it and it was just so good both to my emotions and to my hungering stomach. Aftercare Instructions has the perfect pacing that doesn’t try too hard with the plot, but gives you a lot of the main character Genesis who has so much to deal with BESIDES the fact that she gets an abortion. For example: her boyfriend leaves her at the Planned Parenthood where she gets it done and has to go through a week of haziness. Breakup stories are always so difficult to read because they’re simply so painful.
What this book did amazingly was introduce Gen and Peter’s relationship to the audience in a script method. The straightforward style gave the past a really honest and raw feeling. There were not meddling emotions and he said she said. It was sweet and to the point. I had my concerns about the script style because it often left me unable to connect with the characters. But that is where Genesis’ point of view comes in.
While the script deals with past events, Genesis relays events in the present time following the abortion she gets. You get a very close look into the messy emotions that overwhelm her. I understand the blurb’s intention of preparing reviewers for something equivalent of JN and RR, but I believe this book deserves its own branding. It wasn’t as purple or as quippy as JK and RR. It was honest and realistic which I really liked. It gripped me from page 20 onto the very end. I couldn’t help but want to reach into the pages and hug Gen so tight she’d just let go of all the stress on her shoulders.
I saw reviewers saying that Genesis was selfish which made no sense to me. This is a 17 year old girl who has been taking care of her own mother since she was 15 following her dad’s overdose. PLUS, she is separated from her baby sister BECAUSE her mother attempted suicide shortly before Gen and Peter happen. Gen totally felt sympathetic and the circumstances were far too intense for her to be coddling everyone. Plus, characters don’t need to explain their actions, she’s a teen, she’s allowed to be selfish. Who’s to say that selfishness is bad. She went through something as traumatic as losing someone as important to her as Peter, and I believed she had every right to put herself first. Sure, she made questionable decisions but that doesn’t automatically brand her as ‘bad’!
I’m so fed up with reviewers, especially adult ones, taking liberty calling characters who are teenagers certain negative words just because they don’t behave as angels. There is more than one way of reacting to something shitty happening in your life. I understand that abortion is her decision and all but it still isn’t something pretty to go through even when it’s something you WANT. Plus, Gen prioritizing herself and making somewhat hasty decisions eventually solved so much for her.
In the end, Gen still has a strong group of people who love and support her, which I liked. There is her extended family (her aunt and cousin) her best friend Rose and even a boy who’s pretty goofy called Seth. Even the very ex-boyfriend Peter, who made me boil over with anger, had such a good redeemable scene that made me rethink my hatred for him.
To say that the end didn’t satisfy me would be a lie. It was brilliant. It didn’t leave me with false pretenses of a world ‘perfectly’ where it should be neither did it leave me go ‘huh? What? No… nothing is resolved!’ I applaud Pipkin at putting so much into writing this book.
I recommend Aftercare Instructions because although it’s not the pinnacle of diversity, it still offers a great insight and very beautiful writing about a girl dealing with so much.
About the Author
Bonnie Pipkin believes in prose, performances, puppet shows, and public displays of affection. Originally from California, Bonnie now lives in Brooklyn. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, teaches literature courses at Kean University, officiates weddings, and looks after a very cute cat. Aftercare Instructions is Bonnie’s first novel.