Cover Image: Fresh

Fresh

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Member Reviews

Margot Wood has been a favorite person of mine since she was part of the Epic Reads team. Her involvement in their YouTube content was always a highlight because of her wit and humor. When I found out she was writing a book and then it was releasing I knew I had to read it ASAP. Her sarcasm, wit and humor are spot on in this story and I hope everyone reads it!

Elliot is such a great character because she is authentic and flawed. She has a great character arc through the story and I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. I’m never going to be able to hear/see the words tender chicken the same now lol. This is a fun coming of age, college story with a fun cast of characters.

CW: sexual assault, slut shaming, cheating
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Fresh was lively, quirky and fun and had me feeling happy that I picked it up and gave it a try. Eighteen-year-old Elliott is a college freshman who has shown up at Emerson College ready to spread her wings and take on the world, or at least her dorm in the Little Building. What ensues is a whole lot of hook-ups, parties, new friends, and new experiences. What doesn’t happen is attention to classes, studying, and an appreciation for her place at the private university. At times Elliott has a shocking lack of self-awareness, which makes her a perfectly flawed narrator, and completely believable as a young woman straddling that no man’s land between teenager and adult.

While Fresh was full of razor-sharp humor and laugh out loud dialogue, the sex-positive story also dealt with topics like misogyny, shaming, intimacy, sexual assault, and the ups and downs of friendship. Elliott was often a hot mess – sometimes immature, sometimes downright reckless – but she learns, and she grows, and her journey was well worth the ride. My only complaint (and it’s a minor one) would be the footnotes. There are ninety of them throughout the novel and I think it’s going to be a love-‘em-or-hate-‘em aspect for readers. I found them to be overdone and a distraction, particularly in the digital version.

Anyone who remembers Margot Wood from the old Epic Reads Tea Time videos will read this while hearing her voice, seeing her facial expressions, and her wild gestures. This coming of age story is funny and heartfelt and, like me, after reading it you’ll never be able to think about tender chicken again. If you know, you know. :)
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Where was this book when I was going into college? What a fun, sex positive, and funny book. This has a YA feel that most college books lack. When you are going into freshman year you are usually not very mature and truly I was still a young adult / high school mindset. This book is what I needed to understand that new chapter of my life!
Loves the story and can’t wait for more from Margot Wood!
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If you have the pleasure of knowing me, or hearing my rants about book genre characterizations, you know one of my very strong opinions is that there should be more books about college and targeted to youths in between that teenage high school time and “real life”. Well, look no further than Fresh by Margot Wood, out today.

Meet Elliot McHugh, new freshman of Emerson College. Elliot is irreverent, funny and quite frankly a bit of a mess, but between her roommate Lucy and new friend Micah, she is determined to let loose and have casual fun. Fresh is all about that time in your life when you are on your own for the first time. Navigating friendships and classes that you get to choose,  relationships and even laundry all by yourself. Elliot finds, just as I did, that college is amazing and challenging and HARD and can help you grow into the person you will one day be.

Loosely inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, Fresh is a hilarious romantic comedy following Elliot as she makes bad and good choices and ultimately finds her way again. This book is a delight even if times you are going to want to scream at Elliot. But it’s up to her to make her own mistakes and the payoff is worth it. 

Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I’m so glad that Margot wrote this book because it encapsulates college life, experiences, and is the book I was wishing for when starting my freshman year three years ago. 

The book follows our main character and narrator, Elliot McHugh, as she chaotically navigates her way through Freshman year of college at Emerson in Boston. 

Fresh is definitely a “fresh” take on your typical YA/new adult novel. The book includes many footnotes, interactive experiences, script format, font changes, number scales, and more. All of these extras added up to a reading experience that made it feel more inclusive and like you were in on the action. I think my favorite part of the book were the footnotes throughout every chapter because many were filled with perfect comedic lines. The book was just over all hilarious and constantly had me laughing. 

Not many YA books delve into the raw and real experiences of sex and trying to navigate life after high school. Having just been through similar events Elliot had gone through, it helped me relate to my real life college experiences and feel seen. The fact that we get to see a main character make many mistakes, it felt like one of the most realistic young adult character stories I’ve ever read! 

And it was nice having a character that didn’t have their future planned out or know what they wanted to study in college. The reality for many is not knowing what to do after high school. The college path can be overwhelming and daunting trying to decide what to study in order to get a career in the selected field. The number of times friends of mine and myself have changed their majors, minors, masters, or job ideas is never ending! Books like this help normalize experiences, mistakes, having sex, trial and error, and not having your life together, aka all basic symptoms of being human! 

I’m going to be recommending this book to everyone!
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Oh this book was so great, once I picked it up I didn't want to put it down again. It made me laugh, it was sex positive and it didn't pull any punches, just a really great reading time. 

I love when books cover that difficult first year away at college/university. It is such a tricky but pivotal time and such great fodder for comedy and introspection at the same time. This book handles that ups and downs of that first term just so well whilst at the same time being entertaining and thought provoking. The new customs, the fire alarms and the friendships. We get to uni thinking those first friends are going to be the ones we end up with for life but oh so often that is not the case and I love how this book handled that. 

Elliot is a great character to experience all of that with because she is just so open and honest. Being from a flyover state in Boston for the first time automatically puts her on the back foot and then we have her footnotes. She speaks directly to us as readers, as if narrating her own life nd then adds footnotes to things, Don't you wish your life could contain footnotes for just a little further explanation sometimes? I loved Elliot's tone. I loved her attitude to life and I loved the fact that she is so sex positive and open about when she does and doesn't want from her romantic life. It was great hearing about her hopes and desires and I wish IO had met her when I first went to university!

This book doesn't hold back when it comes to sex and relationships and I really loved that about it. It felt a little like reading a continuation from Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. The way the main character thinks and feels about the next step in her life, only instead of talking to God, we have footnotes. I think this would have been a great book for me to read when I was at the age of making those choices about university but even reading it now very much past the college age I took a lot from it. This book made me laugh, it made me cringe and it warmed my heart. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend.
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I. ADORED. THIS. BOOK. More college YA, please please PLEASE. FRESH is a fun, heart-warming, sex-positive queer rom-com that’s a modern take on Jane Austen’s EMMA. Our main character Elliot is the hysterical, messy bi lead of my dreams. Her journey though her freshman year of college is emotional, honest, and includes incredible, poignant character development.

Add this book to your TBR if you love:
-FUN WRITING: it took me a few chapters to get used to the voice and tone of this book because it’s so conversational, but it just worked. The prose was so funny and I absolutely loved the footnotes.
-CASUAL QUEERNESS & SEX POSITIVITY: our MC was queer and proud. I loved seeing her navigate relationships and hookups with partners of multiple genders.
-SLOWBURN ROMANCE: this book was mainly centered around Elliot’s journey and character development, but I loved the romance. ‘Twas VERY slowburn, but the yearning was god-tier and the ending was such great payoff.

If you enjoy books with dynamic, messy leads who you can root for, FRESH is the perfect novel for you. Apart from the humor (which I LOVED), the best part of this book for me was seeing Elliot experience tangible character development. I loved this debut from Margot Wood and I cannot wait to read anything and everything she publishes in the future.
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Fresh is one of the most accurate descriptions of the college experience I have ever read. It follows Elliot, a college freshman on her journey of self discovery through her first year in college.I would put this book more in the category of new adult and not YA. I adored this book, it was a breath of 'fresh" air from all the other ya books I have read in relation to the college experience. It was interactive, fun, serious, emotional, and showed how we can come back from the failures that we make in life.
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Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this advanced copy!

Working at a college, I knew I had to pick this up. I think this is a great read for students going through their first year of college. While Elliot's experience was GREATLY different than my own, it really includes many of the possible encounters new college students will have. It does include sexual assault in college, which needs more light brought upon, and I thought Margot Wood told the story in an affective way. I would recommend this!
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This book was such a refreshing debut - I am a sucker for books set in the college-aged years full of exploration and questioning identity and life and where you are going to go. Fresh is, dare I say it, fresh. I love the voice, I love the characters. It is comparable to A World Between by Emily Hashimoto which is one of my all-time favorite books and now Fresh is up on that level too! Check out @thebookstagays podcast in September for an interview with Margot Wood!
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Fresh immediately hooked me with such a unique narrative voice. With plenty of footnotes, Fresh feels interactive and almost self-reflective. It feels like your best friend is confiding directly to you, like a lovely story time. Because of this persuasive, charming, and vulnerable voice I was immediately hooked. Fresh is dynamic and fast paced, with new, but striking, faces amongst the pages. It's the perfect book to close out your summer and for all college anticipating teens.

While Fresh feels almost like an adrenaline fueled sugar high, at the same time Wood delivers a story about sexual assault, forgiveness, and vulnerability. There's humor, family scenes that had me tearing up, and emotional heart break. Wood is able to encompass the full spectrum of emotions within these pages. Because we've fallen in love with the complex and detailed characters in Fresh and Wood is unafraid to show us their messy, complicated, and flawed sides. All the mistakes, fears we try to hide, and doubts we can't help but fixate on.
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Thank you to the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for the gifted copy of Fresh!  All opinions in this review are my own.

Fresh is the tale of Elliot McHugh's first year in college.  While she should be concentrating on her academics, Elliot is too busy enjoying her new life with her friends.

Margot Wood does a great job of describing the problems that most freshmen in college face.  Elliot stresses about how to make friends, how to balance her classes with partying, and how to make sure she is choosing a major she enjoys.  While Elliot is definitely a flawed main character, she does try to be a good person and mend her mistakes.

Elliot talks to the reader through footnotes, which took some getting used to.  I imagine these are a little easier to navigate when reading a physical copy.  Footnotes on an e-reader can get a little tedious.
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*TW via author's website: Fresh depicts: drinking, drug use, profanity, sex, and one scene with sexual assault.

I have mentioned this before, but I love books about the college transition. Frankly, I find them wildly important (any coming-of-age transition, not just college) and so underrepresented, which is odd, considering that pretty much all of us have or will have gone through the post-high school transition to some thing or another! Anyway, Fresh was a really fun take on the first year experience, and was quite charming!

Elliott feels so refreshingly real, and I loved her from the start. She and I are very different people, but I absolutely connected with her from the start. She is funny, charming, and flawed, and I loved every bit of her. The author did a tremendous job not just showing us who Elliott is, but fleshing out her relationships as well. I loved watching her meet her new friends, wondering where those relationships were going to go, etc. Not only that, there is a huge focus on family! Elliott doesn't just run off to college and forget her family; no, she is homesick, and misses them, even while having fun, and I love that this dichotomy was highlighted.

I also loved that the author fully explored Elliott's emotions. Like yes, she was excited about college, but also scared, and apprehensive, and stressed. Her emotions ran the gamut, and it felt so realistic and authentic. She also grows so much during her freshman year, and I found that to be a great message.

Speaking of great messages, the book was wholly sex positive, but also was super clear that being sex positive includes not wanting to have sex being okay too. Everyone's comfort levels were respected, and that was the representation I was here for. I also thought it was great that Elliott had to explore not only her sexuality, but why she was so averse to relationships.

Also, it was just plain funny at times! I love well-placed humor, and this book had it! It also had some heavy moments, but the balance was pretty much spot on.

Bottom Line: Fun and heartwarming while still handling some tough topics, Fresh (and Elliott!) shines.
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The majority of the ARCs I get approved for are not highly anticipated books for me. Instead, they are usually ones that I requested when I was bored and scrolling through NetGalley. But not Fresh. I actively sought out Fresh because I was so excited to hear about it. It is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set at a college in Boston with a bisexual protagonist. On the surface this book was tailor made for me. It turns out the premise was tailor made for me, the actual book was not. I had originally considered rating this higher because I am too nice and hate giving books low ratings. But when I sat down and thought about what I did and didn’t like, I could only come up with one good thing to say, and a whole lot of bad.

I’ll get the good thing out of the way out front: it was incredibly readable. While I certainly didn’t enjoy my reading experience, I also didn’t feel like I was slogging through it. Whereas some books I don’t like but decide I need to read to keep my NetGalley ratio up I spend a lot of time going “oh I wish I could just DNF this” I only wished to DNF Fresh about once, closer to the end of the book. It was just super easy to read.

I have read other people’s reviews where they say they were pulled in from the first page. I was repelled from the first page. The very first sentence of the book mimics the first sentence of Emma. A classic technique and appropriate for any retelling with lines as memorable as Austen. Unfortunately I was immediately jarred by a simultaneous fourth wall break and dramatic tonal shift into what I would soon become acquainted with as the annoying voice of Elliot McHugh. 

These are two aspects of the book that definitely go on the bad list. I found Elliot’s voice to be way too immature for a college student. Which is maybe part of the point, but she sounds like a middle schooler. “Tender chicken” was a completely overused joke, even though she has lots of sex she can’t manage to use the proper names for things, and she was over-the-top melodramatic 99% of the time. 

I love a good fourth wall break, it is one of my favorite techniques in writing, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. But I never liked Elliot’s fourth wall breaks. Mostly because they were way too glaring, rather than being a clever slip-in. The footnotes were too frequent and mostly unnecessary, a couple of the “choose your own adventure” bits that were added in were both weird and too infrequent to really make it a thing, and when Elliot addressed the reader, I still never felt like she was addressing me. I felt like she was addressing some other theoretical reader that wasn’t me.

Which brings me to my next issue: I could not relate to one character in this entire book. None of them. I can usually find at least one trait in a main character to relate to but I just...couldn’t. The only thing Elliot cares about is having people like her and having sex (which are like...at the bottom of the list of things I care about right after the fiftieth tell-all book from a Trump administration official and the Facebook posts of people I barely knew in high school), so that is certainly part of the issue. I could maybe relate to Lucy, but she wasn’t developed enough. And to the extent she was a character and not a plot device, she was a pretty basic ingenue. I completely disagreed with Rose’s characterization (and even though I wasn’t a fan of her from the beginning, I called it off completely after she was VAPING! IN THE STAIRWELL! AS AN RA!), and couldn’t relate to her at all either. The only characters I actually liked were Elliot’s family. Possibly this is a side effect of the fact that they were the only characters that Elliot actually liked. 

There were a few other qualms I had with the book. There’s a really ridiculous and unnecessary plot point where Elliot gets bacteria on her butt. There’s one line that says “I have ADHD, and not in the casual, problematic way people like to self-diagnose” which I think could have used a better choice of words. There’s a difference between self-diagnosing and saying “haha I just can’t focus, I'm so ADHD.” Overall, the book thinks it’s way more funny than it actually is. It is trying so hard to be funny I could practically hear the laugh track playing. The entire thing is saying “wink wink nudge nudge isn’t this so funny” but I don’t think I laughed at all.

The final issue I have was the structure of the storyline. Overall, Fresh felt more like vignettes from Elliot’s first year rather than a coherent novel. The first five chapters take place during the first two days of her freshman year. We then jump six weeks ahead where we get a montage-like chapter that takes us through to Thanksgiving, where we get another montage-like chapter to get us to the end of the semester. Then we have an interlude followed by three chapters of Elliot’s winter break, and at that point I quit keeping track but we basically yet again montage our way to the end of the year. And overall, a lot of what happened felt like super disconnected events. It was the type of storytelling you do at a party, not in a novel.

Honestly, I am incredibly disappointed I didn’t find a new favorite. I loved the premise of Fresh, but ultimately I couldn’t enjoy the characters, the voice, or the overall storyline. It was a book that I sadly did not connect to.
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“new school, new friends, new attitudes, new life. you get the chance to choose who you want to be and then you have the opportunity to become that person.”


so everyone’s favorite jane austen book is usually pride and prejudice right?? well mine is emma. fresh is an emma retelling. i hear “emma retelling” and i say sign me the fUCK UP.

elliot mchugh is a freshman in college with no major declared, a roommate that’s immediately become her best friend, and an RA that is out to get her. she’s bi, a disaster, and unafraid to talk to you in the footnotes. we follow her as she learns how to live on her own while also making friends, sexual partners, and maybe a couple mistakes along the way.

fresh hits that sweet spot right between YA and NA. like technically, they’re teenagers but technically they’re adults. not high schoolers, but not 20somethings.

i wouldn’t say my college experience was anything like elliot’s in fresh, but god did it make me think about college. late nights in the laundry room and the friendships i had with the people i lived with. and then going home for breaks and seeing the worst possible people in target. not a lot of books capture this experience?? i tried to pull some of the ones i own that are in the background of this photo.

early college years are so formative—when you learn who you are outside of the world you’ve always been in, and you start deciding who you really want to be. we’re constantly coming of age, and the college coming of age is one we should really explore more.

one of the most fun things about retellings is trying to fit pieces together and figure out the plot beforehand. it makes the story that much more interactive and this is already a very interactive story. also there’s a character named micah which took me out most of the time but alas.

content warnings: sexual assault, underage drinking and drug use, cheating, slut shaming
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3.5 stars
*As a precursor to the review, I'd like to mention that this book does have trigger warnings for attempted rape so I would be aware of that before going into it.*
FRESH was a hilarious, relatable story about a girl's experiences in her freshman year of college, the relationships and discoveries and mistakes she makes along the way. I really enjoyed Elliot as a main character; her inner dialogue was so much fun to follow, especially her footnotes and when she speaks to the reader, it made me feel like I was having a conversation with her and I really liked that. Elliot experienced a lot of things over the course of the book and she handled it in a realistic manner, but at some points I felt overwhelmed with her dialogue and jokes because there were more serious moments that probably could have done without screaming and jesting, but it was also a part of her character so it wasn't a really big turn-off, just something I noticed at some points. The romance was really sweet and edge of your seat because there just kept being prolonged tension and wondering! I do wish Elliot and the love interest had spent more time together just because they didn't have as many interactions as I would have liked them too, I'd have loved to see more one-on-one time than what we were given. There was also so much diversity in this book: Elliot is bisexual and almost every character in the book was LGBTQ+. I would highly recommend this as a New Adult/college-aged romantic comedy that will make you chuckle and smile.
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I'm still trying to determine how I feel about this book. Overall, I was entertained and was glad to see Elliot's growth throughout the story. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. 

What I liked!
- Elliot as the narrator. The footnotes were an added bonus! 
- The friendship between Elliot & Lucy. Your college roommate can make or break your freshman experience.
- Boston setting
- Micah - Love his gossipy self! 
- Her dad (love their relationship)
- The pop culture references from 20 years ago!! Thank you for those tidbits! 

What I didn't like:
- Dang girl, slow down!!!! I know that most everyone experiments in college, but WHOA!! This part made me feel old. Yes, it's been a few years (okay 20) since I graduated college and I'm usually all for the sow your wild oats stories, but this felt like a bit much. 

It was a quick and easy read! This is better suited for the older YA crowd.
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This was so fun! Wood's writing is compelling and entertaining. I will say reading this on an e-reader with the footnote was a pain, but worth it.
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Wow! A fresh and frank novel on the first year of college, friendship, growing up, and facing your shit! A perfect read for any teen heading off to college.
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This book has so much hype around it, but it pretty much lives up to its reputation and reads like a breath of fresh air. Definitely for an older teen audience; I hope this succeeds so publishers make more books that take place in college. It follows Emma pretty closely, surprisingly with a very fun main character that is as polarizing in her likeability as the original heroine.
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