I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
In my last young adult book review I wrote, “I do believe that a great book transcends its target audience and can be enjoyed regardless of age” and I said I was disappointed that All the Bad Apples didn’t do that for me. Happily, my very next read was As Many Nows As I Can Get and this book absolutely accomplished that goal for me.
This is Youngdahl’s debut novel and it is impressive. It’s readable and empathetic and interesting. Our main character and narrator is Scarlett, who has just completed her first year of university. Scarlett is smart, a little nerdy, but natural and open and many-faceted. She feels like a real person with real, complex history and emotions. Scarlett is a scientist, fascinated by physicists and tells the story from the perspective of one, dipping in and out of time and jumping through her own life. While this does create some confusion at a couple points in the novel, for the most part it works as narrative and Youngdahl uses it with decent effect as a way to draw out the tale.
Scarlett’s story primarily focuses on her last year of high school and the summer between high school and university. Scarlett comes from a small town where much of the population is dealing with economic downturn. She and her group of friends are the “smart kids” but this doesn’t keep them from the usual teen dabbling into drugs and alcohol and sex – some more than others. Scarlett reveals how her long-term relationship with her boyfriend ended but the core of the story is her complicated friendship with David. How in the heat of that final summer they are drawn together. What pulls them together and what keeps them apart.
There’s nothing hugely shocking in the novel but it feels honest and fresh nonetheless. Scarlett’s problems aren’t new but they are approached with nuance and Scarlett herself is so likeable that you can’t help cheer for her. David is a complicated character and while, with my thirty-something brain, I can see why Scarlett should make her own way, it also isn’t hard to understand her pull towards him.
There are a couple of twists in the novel. Again, nothing shocking, but worth keeping this review spoiler-free. The book is definitely geared toward older teens with its content of drug use and sex but it also has some great insight into religion and family and what success can look like and how friendships change over time. It’s exciting to see such a strong narrative voice and such great characters come from a first-time novelist and I look forward to seeing more from Youngdahl in the future.