cover image Fresh


Margot Wood. Amulet, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4813-4

Wood’s charming but uneven debut, a loose retelling of Austen’s Emma, is a sex-positive romp through freshman college life. Set at Boston’s Emerson College, it traces Elliot McHugh’s evolution from insecure and self-absorbed to assured and affectionate. Well-meaning but unaware of her privilege, Elliot, who’s white and queer, immediately takes up a regimen of parties and sex upon arriving at university; instead of homework and declaring a major, she nearly fails all her classes. Meanwhile, she introduces her Armenian roommate, scholarship student Lucy Garabedian, to snobbish classmate Kenton Parker—who sexually assaults Elliot at an off-campus party. Amid the fallout, she realizes that she must take responsibility for her education; mend her relationship with Lucy, who’s misunderstood the situation; and learn vulnerability as a friend and lover. Elliot’s narration breaks the fourth wall often, through footnotes and “dear reader” interjections; in places, this technique works, but lengthy footnote asides frequently interrupt the reading experience (“Have I told you, dear reader, how much I love you lately?”). Even so, strong secondary characters, including Elliot’s precocious younger sister and her matter-of-fact RA, reveal Elliot’s strengths and flaws, and character discussions around consent and sexual discovery ring true. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Aug.) [/em]