Publication: June 5th 2014 by In This Together Media
Format: eARC, 236 pages
Source: Received from Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.
In the next instant, her life changed forever.
Aspen doesn’t want to remember the devastating car accident that killed Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player. But forgetting is hard– because Katelyn may have died — but she didn’t leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it’s kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn’s gorgeous former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels.
Popularity, college, Homecoming Court, hot guys – none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She’s been busy trying to rein in her giant mass of blonde curls, keep her stoner mother Ninny away from Toaster, her mom’s awful bongo drumming boyfriend, and prevent her best friends Kim and Cass from killing – or kissing – one another. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics looking all too gorgeous, Katelyn’s spirit dogging her steps, and her obsessive snow-globe collecting therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can’t control … and doesn’t want to.
A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, ASPEN is about the best-worst accident of your life … and what comes next.
Aspen is one of those books that take you by surprise because of how compulsively good they are. I was not prepared for the richness and depth of this novel.
After a car accident that killed the most popular girl in her school, and left her physically, emotionally, and mentally scarred, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor – fabulous name, by the way – is the subject of many wide-eyed stares and bathroom gossip. She doesn’t want to be pitied by the the people around her so in turn she shuts them off. She also begins to see the ghost of Katelyn Ryan after that fateful day. Although for the most part the ghost doesn’t do Aspen any harm, she’s still spooked out. She feels like she’s in debt or something.
Aspen is a wonderful narrator. Her thoughts are honest amidst the string of lies she feeds the people around her. I love her frank sense of humour, I love her unique character and attitude, and I love her bombastic hair. I think she’s a very relatable character. I think a lot of teens can identify with her struggles in school, peers, and family. I also love her knack for memorising definitions. I thought that was pretty cool and worthwhile. I might try and do that sometime.
Accidental mistake sounds poetic. Like I don’t mean to do it, but my mistake produced something beautiful.
Speaking of family, Aspen’s mom, Ninny, is a strange sort. She’s unlike any other parent figure I’ve ever read in young-adult. She smokes pot, goes through a lot of strange dudes or ‘uncles’ as she likes to call it, and is every bit of sassy, spunky, and sexy appeal. Most of the time, Ninny acts like a child and Aspen has to play parent. I think it’s because of her early pregnancy and lack of family-planning knowledge. But what I admired most about her is her love for Aspen. Even if she does a lot of ridiculous things, I really felt her sincerity and responsibility in raising her daughter.
There are two kinds of cool: people who are obviously cool, and people who are secretly cool because they know it’s totally lame to actually say you’re cool.
I really loved reading about Aspen’s quirky best friends, Kim and Cass. Both have awesome yet insanely different personalities and sense of humour. I absolutely adored their banter and exchange of witty remarks. But I wanted a bit more screen time with them. I actually wanted to see arguments and hurtful words tossed at because friends do that right? And I wanted to see their breaking points and how far will they go to salvage their timely friendship.
Happiness isn’t given in life. And when you’re happy, you should hold onto it.
There’s also Suzy Lions – the best friend of the late Katelyn Ryans. Reading about her, my initial thought was she’s a huge biatch and her friendly approach to Aspen is all plastic. But I was really surprised when Suzy really wanted to forge a new friendship with Aspen. Who knew the day would come where the higher class would side on with the lower class? Anyway, I really liked her and how all she wants is to seek a new happiness or friend. I thought there was a perfect balance of contagious cheerleader giddiness and girl-with-secrets-from-the-past in her character.
Maybe life isn’t about seeing ourselves. Maybe it’s about letting other people see us.
And then we have Ben Tyler, the love interest, also known as the former boyfriend of the late Katelyn Ryans – everything seems to be connected to her, eh? I thought he was very charming and he and Aspen really compliment each other. Scratch that, they are meant for each other. I liked Ben’s vulnerable side and his desire to let go of his past and move on. I mean, if I were in his shoes I guess it’d be hard to wake up every morning knowing your girlfriend has gone to oblivion. But here’s where Aspen comes in – she’s like that beacon of hope for him. I also really liked his gentle and laid-back nature. He makes me want to lie down on a bed of roses and write poems about clouds and bluebirds. What.
Plot-wise, I thought it was executed perfectly. The pacing was just right. And the events leading up to that satisfying ending were on-point. But what made me really love this book is the writing. I think it’s just lovely and straightforward.
Overall, Aspen is a literary gem. This is a great representation of what YA should be. Poignant, earnest, and inspiring. I recommend this to everyone who’s reading this review right now, and of course, those lovers of young-adult contemporary.
*An ARC was given in exchange for an honest review.