Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Aftercare Instructions: A Novel - Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions: A Novel
Bonnie Pipkin
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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.
Aftercare Instructions had been one of my Can't Wait Wednesday picks, and I had some great expectations for it. I must say, this book more than met my expectations. It left me with so many feels. It's a story imbued in heartbreak and heartache, but it also attests to the power of friendship and inner strength.

I fully embraced Genesis, flaws and all. She had to deal with her father's death. She had to assume the role of responsible adult and take care of her mother, when her mother should have been taking care of her. She had to watch her little sister be taken from her home. She had to make a hard choice to abort her unborn child with no real support from her boyfriend. She had to emerge from the procedure to find herself abandoned, once again. This girl kept getting knocked down, and sometimes she made made some poor choices in the throes of her emotions, but she soldiered on. I just really admired her strength.

She had a wonderful support system in Rose and Delilah. Sometimes Gen did not utilize them, because she was keeping so many secrets, but when she opened up, things improved. She was very lucky that these two were quite persistent. Gen kept giving the "okay" line, but they were not buying it. They showed up and were there for her when she really needed them.

I loved the format. Each chapter began with post-procedure aftercare instructions, which related to the chapter, and I liked the way it set the stage. The story was told as a traditional narrative, which was interspersed with flashbacks written in a play format. I liked the differentiation between past and present, and thought it worked quite well. I also liked the way Pipkin led us through the rise and fall of Gen and Peter's relationship. These peeks into their past coupled with facts presented by Gen's friends, helped me better understand why this relationship was broken.

With respect to Peter and Gen's relationship, I actually liked where Pipkin brought it. It was realistic. If you really consider everything surrounding the rise and demise of this union, it made sense. I also love that she gave me closure. Pipkin beautifully wrapped up the storylines and answered those big questions.
I watched the laughter slide off his face. I wanted to dive for it. To pick it up off the floor and reattach it to him. To us. 
I read a lot, and I don't normally comment on the writing, but when there is something stylistically that captures my attention, I am strongly compelled to say something. Pipkin's writing was something special. There were so many times in this book, where she evoked such strong physical reactions from me through her word usage and phrasing. UGH! It's so hard to explain, but there were instances when the writing matched my racing heart or my sinking feelings. I was fully drawn into the story and found myself lost in her words several times in this book, and I though it was quite a magnificent experience.

Yes, this book deals with a lot of heavy issues. Yes, this book is sad, but it is also permeated with hope, and in the end....
And he says, "Are you okay?"
I shouldn't be.
And it doesn't come with any guarantees.
But the answer is finally yes

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

Do you like theatre?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. This sounds like JUST my kind of book. I'm definitely going to try to start it super soon!! I love the sounds of the writing! Great review!

    1. Lots of emotions! But it was beautiful and hopeful too.

  2. I adore Jandy Nelson to bits, and I like Rainbow Rowell (what I have read of her so far), so I'm sure to love this one. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this one too, how powerful and well-written, and the issues are handled well. The format DOES seem like something I would enjoy too. Thanks for your review! I should just go ahead and buy it, but I know it won't be until review #20 that I do so (so far I think I'm at #6 lol).

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. Nelson and RR are two of my faves. I wasn't sure how I would feel about this one, because I really like fluff, and I did feel so much when I was reading this, but it was done in the right way. There was resolution and hope and I really enjoyed it. I understand book buying bans. I have been on one, but I can borrow from the library at will. 😉

  3. It sounds like Gen doesn't ever give up despite all the hits she keeps taking, and I like the sound of that. Along with her support network. Nice that the author seems to hit all the right notes with a story that has a lot of challenges for the MC. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. This, in my opinion, was a stunning debut. Gen was flawed, but she was a fighter, and I always root for those characters.

  4. I probably wouldn't have given this book a second look without seeing it on this blog. It really sounds like a wonderful story and the main character has a lot to deal with. I will be checking this one out.

    1. It's a little heavier than what I normally read, but I was really moved by everything about it. I was swept up in the story and the emotion and the writing. It was a fantastic reading experience for me.

  5. Wow, this sounds like something truly different. And I love when an author's writing impacts you that way. For me, it's a rare occurrence but I love when something random line just packs a punch and takes me by surprises. Like I am *there*, living it along with the character. Great review, Sam.

    1. I didn't expect to be this impressed, but I am glad I was.

  6. What a compelling, fabulous read this sounds like. The author sounds like she's done a realistic story in terms of the characters and their situations -- some times, characters in YA can sound too grown up I think.

    1. Agreed. I think the author kept it very age appropriate, and shed some light on that idea that you never know what other people are dealing with. Gen had a lot on her plate, and I felt like Pipkin did such an awesome job helping her navigate it all.