Before I start, I would like to thank Macmillan International, as well as St. Martins Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions are my own, and not affected, or influenced by anyone else!
Title: All Girls: A Novel
Author: Emily Layden
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Anxiety, Mentions of Rape, Sexual Assault, Depression
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
Final Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis (via Macmillan Website):
“A striking debut.” ––Good Housekeeping
“Sharp, engrossing.”––Town & Country
“For fans of Gossip Girl and readers of Curtis Sittenfeld and Emma Straub.” ––Booklist
“Incisive, astute.” ––Publishers Weekly
“An exciting, innovative debut from a fresh new voice.” ––Taylor Jenkins Reid
A keenly perceptive coming of age novel for fans of Sally Rooney, Curtis Sittenfeld, and J. Courtney Sullivan, All Girls follows nine young women as they navigate their ambitions and fears at a prestigious New England prep school, all pitched against the backdrop of a scandal the administration wants silenced.
But as the months unfold, and the school’s efforts to control the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary girls are forced to discover their voices, and their power.
A tender and unflinching portrait of modern adolescence told through the shifting perspectives of an unforgettable cast of female students, Emily Layden’s All Girls explores what it means to grow up in a place that promises you the world––when the world still isn’t yours for the taking.
You grow to love a place… and then you grow up.
What I Liked
The multiple POV’s. It was so interesting to see various perspectives on the same issue, and how although they had similar views, it was for different reasons. I felt like even though we got to see so many characters, it was never hard to remember their names or personalities, and instead of getting confusing, it just helped me get a clearer picture of things. The author also switches these perspectives so seamlessly, and the switch in perspectives always helped me gain a broader understanding of what was going on in the story. I know in a lot of YA Fiction books, I don’t like more than two POVs, but in All Girls, having the multiple perspectives helped enhance the story, and made it easier to follow.
The basic plot and storyline. I don’t think I’ve read books similar to All Girls before. Sure, I’ve watched a few similar TV shows, but overall it was a really unique book, and it was super interesting for me to see this particular subgenre explored. I feel like this was the perfect first book to start with, because I could barely find any issues or inconsistencies in the plot, and the storyline was fairly easy to follow.
The friendships developed between the girls. I know that in a lot of YA books, sadly, instead of building strong relationships, girls are pitted against each other, and in a book like this, there were plenty of chances for the girls to be nasty and spiteful to each other, but instead of that they helped each other grow, which is something I absolutely loved. To see them all thrive, and create such strong bonds and connections was so great, and definitely helped add another layer to the story. Seeing them grow from being pretentious around each other, to supporting, and caring each other was such an amazing experience, and definitely something I enjoyed reading about.
The individual growth of characters. It made me emotional to see all these girls grappling with their own fears, and at times I just wanted to give them a hug. I feel like the author definitely crafted all the characters in such a way, that you’re both invested in the story, and you feel an emotional connection with the characters, which is something I love in a story. Things like anxiety, and depression are very common among high schoolers, and seeing other teens struggling with the same thing, made me feel seen, and I know it would be relatable for other teens as well. I love how the author doesn’t shy away from the topic of mental health, and explores it in such a deep way, because that’s something so important, and definitely not done enough in YA books today.
What wasn’t my cup of tea
Characters feeling older than they actually were. Most of these characters are just starting off in High School, but for some reason, at certain points, they just felt a lot older to me? Almost 19-20, when you’re actually just 14-15 when you start off with high school. However, this really wasn’t a problem for me, because after a few chapters I got used to it, and the author does emphasize on the fact that a lot of the girls felt the need to use fancier words, and speak a certain kind of way simply because of peer pressure. Taking that into note, this wasn’t necessarily a problem, but just something that bothered me for the first few chapters.
All Girls is an eye-opening debut about finding yourself in the most unfamiliar situations. Unique, and captivating, it’s also about finding family in those around you, and not being afraid to voice your opinions even in places no one wants to hear them. I admired the way the author approached so many sensitive themes and topics, while not shying away, because these are such important topics to talk about, but there are just not enough people talking about them. Seeing all these perspectives seamlessly transition from one to another, and just being able to view all these diverse POVs on the same topic, was something I cherished. All Girls was an enthralling, poignant book that kept me hooked till the last page, and managed to capture both my heart, and my attention.