I did university the correspondence way (no dorm life, and mostly no campus either; yup, I feel sorry for me, too), so I don’t know what the actual lived experience of freshman year is like, but Margot Wood’s sapphic sex-positive coming-of-age debut, Fresh, sure f e e l s like the real deal! It’s also super fun, quirky, honest, and one-hundred percent one of the best YA books I’ve read this year!
Meet Elliot. Fun-loving, easily distracted (she’s got ADHD), Freshman at Emerson university. Relationship status: single. Major: undeclared. Elliot does not know what she wants to do with her life, but that’s okay. Yes, everyone else seems to have ten-year plans (heck, her roommate has a double! major), but freshman year is just supposed to feel like freedom for Elliot. Taking easy classes, experiencing those delicious college bodies (Elliot is bi and celebrates her sexuality), and indulging in the cereal bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it turns out that there is no such thing as an easy A (college is haaaaard), cereal is not a balanced diet, and Elliot’s roommate/best friend’s boyfriend is the worst kind of human scum.
Elliot is the one who tells her story, and she tells it directly to the reader — bye-bye 4th wall. It makes for a super close reading experience that will transport you back to college or (if you’re like me) there for the first time (*party vibes*). This isn’t a book about mental health struggles, but ADHD is a theme, and as someone who’s got (not the mild kind either) ADD, the mental health rep here is accurate and some of the best I’ve read in a YA book. As a character, Elliot is so believable (in her actions, her dialogue, and in her text messages) that you will have to convince me that she does not exist. Somewhere. No character feels like a side character, from Elliot’s sisters to her love interests; the people on the page are full formed. Wood’s witty (and straight-up hilarious) way with words brings Fresh to life, and after the final (and then that very final page), you will still not want to let go.
What’s more to love: the platonic relationships here are a standout and absolutely electric, from Elliot’s relationship with her roommate (Cheez-Its in return for eternal BFF bond) to her love-hate relationship with her dorm’s resident advisor; there are footnotes, and they are hilarious; the tone is fun and conversational; all that queer love.
A glitter-bomb of a debut that will dazzle readers from the very first page… and not let go.
Trigger warnings: one scene with sexual assault, underage drinking, drug use, profanity.
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2021
Age Range: 14 – adult
Book Sparks kindly sent me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.