Book Review: AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER (2018) by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Updated: Jan 6
This is a spoiler-free review of August and Everything After, a contemporary YA book that explores the ever-looming uncertainty of life after high school.
The summary (in my words):
Quinn Gallo, a senior in high school, is restless. She's too hung up in the past to picture what her future will be like after summer. Between high school drama that shattered her reputation (and self-respect), her friend's fatal accident, and her rocky relationship with her mom, all Quinn can handle right now is living in the present. Early on, she crosses paths with an angsty musician named Malcolm, who's got issues of his own. This book follows their unstable relationship amidst their mistakes and haunted pasts. Oh, and Quinn tentatively joins Malcolm's rock band.
The cover. I'll admit it. I saw pink, I saw bluish-teal, I saw the word August (my birth month), and I knew I wanted to read this book. Plus, the blurb on the back seemed marginally similar to my own books (I am currently shopping my manuscript around to agents and need ideas for "comp" titles). Needless to say, I had superficial reasons for reading this book (although I won't deny loving YA).
My other favorite part? The title. I didn't know this until I read other reviews on Goodreads, but the title shares the name of Counting Crows' 1993 album. Ever heard of "Round Here" or "Mr. Jones"? Yeah. Those songs are on this album. The book contains a few other nineties references, none that I was familiar with, unfortunately, but I appreciate Doktorski's effort to give this book some grungy vibes.
"Doktorski does not even recognize how unhealthy of a relationship she created. High school girls (but even women in general) are going to keep on making dumb decisions about guys and not even know it."
Too fast. Particularly at the beginning. Quinn and Malcolm's relationship progresses far too quickly to be realistic. It kind of suspended my belief, unfortunately. I didn't trust their relationship from the beginning. More on that later.
Bland, bland, bland. Quinn's voice has no personality.
Shmeh. The leads are fairly well-developed. Not developed enough (or perhaps too unlikable) for me to care about. I don't mind unlikable characters (I write many unlikable characters myself), but when they don't take responsibility, repeatedly hurt each other, and don't change by the end, I really don't give a crap about how they end up. I don't judge Quinn for her past, but I just want to throttle her for not learning from her past and making different decisions.
I dislike Malcolm more than I dislike Quinn. He is incredibly needy, manipulative, whiny, and self-absorbed. Since Quinn is already in a vulnerable state, it's too easy for him to take advantage of her time, affection, and compassion. Quinn, of course, is oblivious to this, and seemingly--so is her author. I've seen this story play out time and time again in my own friends' lives, so it was frustrating to live through that again in this book.
All this could have been excused if the characters had changed by the end. But they don't. And Doktorski does not even recognize how unhealthy of a relationship she created. High school girls (but even women in general) are going to keep on making dumb decisions about guys and not even know it.
Crappy lead characters aside, I at least like Quinn's aunt. She's a nineties queen. While we did see plenty of her, I was really interested in the subtle subplot of her relationship with her sister (aka Quinn's mom). There was so much hinted there and surely it could have been explored on a deeper level, making the overall plot more complex. Quinn and Malcolm's relationship pretty much absorbed the whole story.
My ranking (out of 5):