Cover Image: Fresh


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Member Reviews

This book was so fun and entertaining. I could not put it down as it was so good. What a blast of a read.
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This was so much fun, I loved it all. I just couldn't stop reading this. Elliot was a refreshingly honest character and I hope others will fall in love with her like I did.
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This was a delightfully accurate representation of what it feels like to be a freshman in college. I felt like I was being catapulted back to my freshman year dorm and all the chaos that goes with it. I've been saying for forever that I want more messy sapphic college stories, stories that I feel like represent my own life experience, and this gave me everything I wanted. The characters were incredibly believable in their mannerisms, it felt like real people I would have known in college. Elliot really had a voice you could hear - and it was so wonderful watching the characters growth. The slow-burn romance was also excellent, and I loved getting to see all of the mistakes Elliot made and how she learned and grew from it. This will be an excellent book for high schoolers to get an insight to the college experience, and those of us past our college days to re-live the good ol' days.
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For me, sadly, this book was just very meh. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. The writing was fast paced and voicey but I didn’t really care much for the main character and all the side characters seemed pretty cliche and two-dimensional, popping in and out of the story randomly when there needed to be more drama. I liked the premise and the sex positivity but I was never really invested in the story.
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“You have to choose to open up, no one else will do that for you.”

“So strap in or strap on, my friends! Fuck it, let’s do it.”

I feel like those two quotes sum up this book aptly: both earnest and irreverent. FRESH is a quirky and heartwarming coming-of-age story about Elliot, an absolute bisexual disaster with an affection for good laundry detergent, going through her first year of college at Emerson. This new adult novel is so much fun with a very sweet sincerity at its core. It’s a loose EMMA retelling but I gotta be honest, I don’t know her so this did not impact my reading experience in the slightest. We follow Elliot through the ups and downs of freshman year: discovering the cereal bar, crushing on her RA, failing classes, figuring out her major, living away from family for the first time, working with her ADHD in class, finding friends, hooking up, making mistakes. Elliot is a delightfully weird and hilarious narrator, and Wood does an excellent job getting the reader engaged by breaking the fourth wall; I loved the screenplay/theater vibes. Elliot’s experiences are so relatable and nostalgia-inducing, even if your college environment was (like mine) extremely different from Emerson’s artsy, queer-friendly, Boston-based culture. FRESH is a sex-positive, super queer, and honestly extremely horny book, and I loved the sapphic slow-burn romance. My one issue was (mild spoiler) with how quickly and neatly the sexual assault was handled by the school administration - that seemed really unrealistic to me (but hey, maybe Emerson really is that good). I highly recommend the audiobook version; the narrator Lori Prince puts their full energy and range into this performance and it’s so entertaining. Overall, I really loved this one and I can’t wait for more messy sapphic college stories. Now I’m off to use the word “babesplain” as much as possible and remove the graphic imagery that “tender chicken” evokes from my brain. Thanks to Abrams Books for the eARC!

Content warnings: drinking, drug use, profanity, sex, sexual assault
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Elliot is privileged, self-obsessed, and magnificently dumb sometimes, which makes her an excellent new take on Emma. It’s also just really fun and gives us Rose Knightley, who I didn’t know I wanted in my life.
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I should preface this by saying that this book is definitely too advanced for my middle schoolers. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend it anyway! While the love story is "cute", this whole novel reeks of a vanity project. She's the publisher - no one's going to tell her no! I do have to hand it to her, though - at no point in the story does Wood's character appear to be sugarcoated. She is unlikeable, full of chaos and bad decisions, and generally unwilling or unable to anticipate that her actions have consequences. HARD pass.
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Hysterically funny, honest, endearing, awkward, this is a brilliant “fresh” voice in the new adult category. All the mistakes a first-year student can make and learn from with great Boston college references and academic vibes, but with plenty of drunk moments and hookups. Loved every second!!
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A smart, sex-positive, and laugh-out-loud update on Austen's "Emma." The footnotes and direct address of the reader pull you in from the start.
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A (dare I say it) fresh, super contemporary, sex positive, bisexual retelling of Emma that is all about voice. If you’re a person who loves quirky, no-holds-barred characters who are both annoyingly flawed and endearingly honest, this book is for you. It lives and dies on main character Elliot McHugh’s narration and point of view. I’ll be honest, I could see some readers just losing their patience with her, but luckily, I wasn’t one of them. I stuck with her and loved her more with each chapter. 

Ok, here’s the thing: Fresh is very loose on plot and very heavy on characterization, and accuracy of portrayal of the heady, intoxicating first year of university. Friendships that are established by circumstance and made whole and real through shared experience (omg Lucy and Micah and Brad…so good). Parties that feel like movie scenes, but never actually quite live up to them. Breakups and makeups and hookups and gossip that can destroy or cause you to grow. And classes that stimulate or shift entire career trajectories. This is what this book is like. It’s so true to my first year experience - except that maybe I didn’t quite go as far or screw up as hard as Elliot did (I was definitely more a Lucy, her roommate). But that’s not to say there weren’t people who did. 

There are whole conversations in this book that I have never seen portrayed anywhere else that I also had with my freshman year friends. On that alone, author Margot Wood is breaking new ground. But she ups the ante by making Elliot and her friends not just sex positive, but deeply hungry for booty and down for all kinds of new erotic experiences. That, too, feels so real and new. In fact, I would say that this book feels like a bit of a manual to surviving your first year of university/college relationships. And it works. 

That said, it wouldn’t be an Emma retelling without a real romantic throughline and Wood delivers with a delicious, achingly slow burn of a hate-to-love between Elliot and her RA Rose. Every moment with them is charged and bantery, and the unrequited stuff is some of the best I’ve read in awhile. You will feel and NEED these two to get it together. 

Overall, I really enjoyed slipping into Elliot’s head and reliving my own snarky, slightly-bad-at-friendship freshman year. If I have qualms, they are simply that it took me awhile to get into Elliot’s head and there were moments when I couldn’t see how certain scenes were feeding into what I thought was the thesis of the book. But other than that, the characters are really well-developed, diverse and engaging, the dialogue funny, and Elliot so clearly drawn that I really felt I knew her at the end. Fresh is definitely worth your time if you want a very contemporary YA that keeps it real. A definite one for people who like Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. 

P.S. if you are in the book blogging world, you may recognize a few of the names and characters that Wood drops in - Sasha (Alsberg) is a side character, and Wood’s former colleague at HarperCollins’ Epic Reads channel, Aubry, is also mentioned.
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Prior to last year, I would have said Jane Austen's Emma wasn't on my list of favourite reads. I read in it university for a film course and it was fine but Emma kind of drove me nuts. Fast forward to late 2020 and I reread Emma with a new bookstagram friend. And guess what? I liked it a lot more. I also watched two adaptations that had come out since I was in uni. Emma had grown on me. So when I heard Margot Wood's debut novel Fresh (which I was already pumped about) had some Emma elements to it? Oh, I was suddenly way more excited to read it. And, dear reader, I loved it. So very much.

Here's the book's description:
Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Even though I just reread Emma in October, I'm sure I missed a good number of references to Austen's novel. But that's ok! I caught enough and I was absolutely delighted. Thanks to Clueless way back when, we already know Emma makes for a good modern story and Wood's novel, which is about as loose an adaptation as the film, is a fantastic addition to the world of Austen retellings. Austen's wit and observational skills are timeless and Wood brought that into Elliot's story with her own twist that worked so, so well.

But this novel is so much more than an Austen adaptation. (Most people wouldn't even realize it is but, as an Austen fan, I picked up on it so of course that'll be the first thing I talk about.) No, it is a real, raw, all the feels inducing tale of a young woman going off to college and failing, hard. There are a lot of tough life lessons Elliot learns throughout the course of the novel and even if you had a fairly smooth transition into the college lifestyle (uh, did anyone have that?), you can still identify with a lot of what Elliot goes through. In one of the first scenes, Elliot is dropped off at her dorm by her dad and, though I moved into my residence 16 years ago this September, I felt like I was right back there. 18 and excited and terrified and wanting to embrace my new life while also clinging to my mom because I didn't want her to leave. I was amazed at how much those feelings hit me but that's a testament to how well Wood writes and the style of her writing, too. Elliot speaks to the reader, which may not be for everyone, but I loved it and felt it worked well. It made me feel like I was right alongside her as she crashed and burned and tried to dig herself out of the hole she made for herself.

For those who have been around the book world (whether that's blogging or booktubing or bookstagramming or just being a super avid reader) for a long time, may remember Wood as part of the team that started Epic Reads with HarperCollins in the US. I didn't read a ton of YA then (still don't) but Wood's enthusiasm was infectious and I loved tuning into their videos. *book shimmy* I would have be interested in Wood's novel for that reason alone but the description of this one really sold it for me. I'm so very happy I loved it.

There's a ton of humour (and sex...and swearing) in this book but there's also a lot of really hard things too. Elliot is a mess. It's going to be hard for some people to care about her but I adored her. No one is perfect and she was a joy to read abut. She's so smart (even though she was making some really dumb choices), is totally comfortable with her sexuality (she's bi and enjoys all the sexy times) even though she's terrified of intimacy, and she's funny AF. I really felt like I was there with her (but also really wanted to actually be there hanging out with her and her friends). Back to the hard stuff - at about halfway through the book a sexual assault takes place and it's tough to read but, in my opinion, was handled really well. 

I feel like I could gush about Fresh all day.  Margot Wood's debut novel was an absolute delight and I think everyone should read it. It's funny and smart and real and so so so good. Now, what are you waiting for? Head to your local bookstore and get a copy!

*An egalley of this novel was provided by the publisher, Pique Beyond/ABRAMS Kids, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*
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Thank you to @Harryn and @Netgalley for my ARC of Fresh!!!

🏓 Mini Review 🐔
Even though I knew this book wasn’t my usual read, I had to read it. I have been a fan of Margot’s forever. I remember when I first started reading YA, after Hunger Games and Divergent, I found Epic Reads TeaTime. I didn’t have any IRL friends who read as I did so Tea Time was amazing to me. I loved Margot and Audrey so much, and they literally made me laugh all the time. I especially loved going through the excitement of the Divergent movie with them! 

When I went to YallFest a few years ago, I was stoked that I was going to get to meet Margot. I was just as star-struck as I was with all the other authors I got to meet and she was just as awesome in person. 

Margot was also a big reason why I decided to go back to school and get my degree. Ever since finding Tea Time, I thought that having a job in publishing like her would be amazing. After a few chats with her, I decided that I wanted to get into publishing. 

When I got this ARC I freaked out. I was so friggin excited. As I said, this wasn’t my usual read, but I thought it was well written and super funny. I def laughed a lot. The entire time I read it, I imagined Margot’s voice in my head.
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I categorized this under young adult/new adult because 1) it’s been a while so I kinda forget how old a freshman would be, and 2) I feel like “coming of age” stories is what being a “new adult” is.

Elliot - a freshman at Boston’s Emerson College - shows up without declaring a major and just ready to party and hook up with people was hilarious and heartwarming. I loved her sarcastic narrative voice, complete with asides in the form of footnotes. There were so many aspects to Fresh that I appreciated: the LGBTQ representation (in a completely normal environment - as it should be!), the theatre and arts students (being a former theatre student as well), and especially the sex positivity of the overall book. I can’t remember a time I’ve read a story that had female characters be so upfront about their sexuality, desires and experiences - to their partners or to each other. I find it’s usually eluded to and rarely have I seen it directly addressed and talked about in such a nonchalant, casual way.

All that being said then, heads up that there is sexual content and a lot of swearing. Didn’t bother me as I felt that leant to the authenticity of the character but it may bother some I guess (if they don’t realize how much some people do swear). 

Margot is an incredibly talented, fresh (hah, see what I did there) voice that makes me really excited to follow her writing career going forward. Wonderful debut novel.
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I am stunned by how amazing FRESH is. This book is self-aware, willing to poke jokes at itself, and is such a refreshing take on the Austen classic "Emma". It made me long for the days in which I lived in the dorms, binged on the cereal bar, and had instant friendships made for me. An instant classic and "fudge-i'm-so-glad-i-bought-it" worthy of Lucy.
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I’ve always liked Margot, so there was no way I was going to skip this book. 

I really liked Elliot. She’s snarky and really sort of a hot mess, but she means well. I enjoyed her chaotic inner monologue and how accepting she was. Lucy and Micah are delightful friends and the rest of the cast was a good combo of just what we needed to know. 

Plot wise, it felt sort of all over the place and it really worked to show how unsettled Elliot was at college. It does feel a little meandering at times and it was then that I found it easy to set down for days at a time. 

Overall, it was a great showing of what college is like with characters who were easy to root for. I can’t wait to see what Margot does next. 

FYI: on the page sexual assault 

**Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the arc free of charge**
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Special thanks to NetGalley and Abrams Kids for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange for my honest opinions.

A "fresh" retelling of Emma set at Emerson and with a bisexual Emma. Margot Wood captures the raw emotions of being a freshman and highlights the complexities of college life.
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Fresh is a great New Adult/older Young Adult novel perfect for college students! I genuinely wish I had been able to read this story while I was still a college-aged student and feeling insecure, nervous, and uncomfortable and sexuality and sex in general.

My favorite thing about this story was Elliot’s complete confidence in her sexuality and her responsibility/maturity arc throughout the book. I also loved her goofy footnotes, which added a lot of humor and creativity to the story.

Genuinely a very funny, enjoyable, heartfelt, and genuine story with a lot of chaos and a lot of wonderful side characters. A must-read for college aged (think age 17-22) humans!
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On this episode of Everything is Canon, Steve talks to Margot Wood all about her debut novel, Fresh, which is described as “A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college.”

While Fresh may be Margot’s debut novel, she’s definitely not new to publishing having worked in the industry on the marketing side for over ten years. Now, on the other side of the table, she gives us a real hard look at the sometimes messy and complicated world of being a freshman in college. And because much of this story is taken from Margot’s actual college experiences, the story is punctuated with an added personnel weight which definitely comes across in the book’s unique form.

Steve and Margot talk about some of the do’s and don’ts of a debut author, how people will react to the book’s lead character Elliott, exactly how much of this story mirrored Margot’s own life, Fresh’s interesting style, and much, much more.

For the full interview with the author, click the link below...
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Filing this under “it’s not you (the book), it’s me” - this wasn’t for me. YA and I have a complicated relationship now - I think because I must face I’m not a young adult. I’m just a regular old adult now. And am often closer in age to the parents than the kids. I also find it really frustrating to read footnotes in a kindle book. Ultimately this one didn’t work for me so I decided to dnf.
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It is a gift to be able to capture the voice and entire personality of a main character within the first three sentences of a book. Margot Wood has that gift.

In Fresh, Elliot McHugh is attending her Freshman year of college at Emerson. She goes in undeclared, but sure of wanting the essential college experience. She wants to go out and party. She wants to make the best friends of her life. She wants, maybe, to figure out what to do with herself in the future. But that’s wayyyyyyy down on her list.

This was such an exhilarating and refreshing book to read. It’s wildly sex positive with a bisexual main character and highlights so many pitfalls that a majority of college freshmen find themselves falling into. There are some experiences in Fresh that are ubiquitous and some that are… rather unique to Elliot and only to Elliot. The book is all the richer because of these.

I recognize that I’m probably in the minority when it comes to college stories, but I found myself wanting to learn more about the academic part of Elliot’s freshman year. I wanted to learn about the classes that helped shape her decision to choose a major. I wanted to know what it was like to try and grapple with a class she hated or work in a group while knowing not a single person. So much focus is placed on the social and romantic parts, and I think that’s well and fair for the book. But I wanted to see more of a meshing between that and the academics.

Listen. First years of college can be notoriously memorable. Sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re catastrophically bad. Fresh does a fantastic job of blending both of these to make a story that is one of a kind.

4.5 stars rounded down.
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