Cover Image: My Last Innocent Year

My Last Innocent Year

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Member Reviews

My Last Innocent Year is a story about a young woman trying to figure out her place in the world. She is now an adult, out of college more than 20 years, telling the story of her senior year at a college where, as one of the few Jewish students on campus, she never quite felt like she belonged.

I love stories written in first person. If written well, they make the reader feel like part of the story. Daisy Alpert Florin wrote My Last Innocent Year in such a way that the reader feels as though s/he is sitting down with Isabel having a drink and listening to her tell what happened at college that changed her forever.

My Last Innocent Year begins with an unwanted sexual encounter, and something she reflects upon years after leaving college. Isabel already struggled with low self-esteem, and she blames herself for what happened.

Isabel moves from that to an affair with a married professor. She makes plans to stay in New Hampshire to be with him while simultaneously making plans to return to New York, share an apartment with her best friend, and accept a job she doesn't really want all while trying to finish a story her lover has convinced her should be published.

All of this is happening during a time of mourning for Isabel. Her mother died four years earlier, and Isabel is still grieving. Isabel is determined to leave her poor roots and make her own choices. Her father didn't choose his profession. Her mother never fulfilled her dreams. Isabel doesn't want to end up like either of them. She wants to be a writer and will do whatever it takes to attain her goals.

My last innocent year has a little bit of everything - friendship, betrayal, mental illness, kidnapping, death, tragedy, failure, success, love. Isabel is a relatable character. Most women who went to college, especially those who lived on campus, experienced some of the same things as Isabel. She knows what she wants out of life but is unsure how to get to that goal. Most college kids, male and female, experience that uncertainty.

When I first started reading My Last Innocent Year, I didn't really think I was going to like it. As I continued reading, I began to relate to and understand Isabel more and more. She the reader her story in great detail. The more I reflect on Isabel and her story, the more I like the book. After all, what better way to enjoy a book than to have a conversation with the protagonist?
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I loved this book! It was a slow start for me, but I grew invested in Isabel. The writing was so beautiful, and made me feel transported back to my senior year of college. I thought the author did a fantastic job writing a flawed main character. Isabel was complex and imperfect; just like a true early 20s female. I also loved the ending, it was bittersweet and just perfect.
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Thanks to Henry Holt and NetGalley for the eARC of this wonderful book. 

My Last Innocent Year is a multi-layered, complex, yet eminently readable story of a young woman’s coming of age in the late nineties at a small, prestigious liberal arts college in New Hampshire. On the surface, that setting may sound exclusionary, but Isabel, our protagonist, is a bit of an outsider in this world, having grown up a shopkeeper’s daughter in a working-class Jewish family in the Lower East Side of New York. Thus, we, as outsiders, are drawn into this world through Isabel, who is likable and sympathetic. 

Isabel’s story is a powerful examination of sexual politics–both among her peers and with the married, extremely attractive writing professor with whom she begins a passionate affair. The book’s events are set against the backdrop of the revelation of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the portrayal of the shifting of public opinion on that over time, especially with regard to Monica, is spot on. (I kind of hope someone sends Monica this book.) 

The book also examines, through Isabel and the story of her mother (a painter), the sacrifices made to support an artistic life, both by the artist herself and by those close to her. 

I have read more than a few “writing about writing” novels lately–which, in some cases, can be a pet peeve of mine (and I am a writer)–but this book is another great example of how to do it right. The story of Isabel’s identity as a writer and how it develops during her last semester in college is portrayed in a way that I believe anyone who loves art will understand, not just those of us who took college creative writing workshops like those in the book. 

The supporting characters are sharply drawn and unique without becoming caricatures (I especially loved Isabel’s outspoken roommate, Debra). The prose is vivid (including in the scenes between Isabel and the professor–still fanning myself, whew), efficient, and elegant. If you liked books like Vladimir and Little Rabbit (two recent favorites of mine), I think you'll love this. 

This was a very fast read for me (~24 hours). I will be preordering a hard copy, as well–I loved this book.
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3/5 plot 
It was beautifully written but had some troubling topics like non consensual sex, sleeping with teachers and it was hard to get through 
It was depressing and I didnt like that very much
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"My Last Innocent Year" is a beautiful coming-of-age novel. It's been compared heavily to other similar novels, such as "My Dark Vanessa," but manages to separate itself as its own well. Gorgeously written with tremendous worldbuilding by Daisy Alpert Florian. 
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for this ARC.
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I feel so lucky to have been given a chance to read this early because this is now going down as one of my favorite reads! It's so introspective, intimate, and beautifully written. An incredible debut, and it makes me so, so excited for anything and everything Daisy Alpert Florin will create in the future. 

To start, I loved Isabel's character. Florin's writing captures this age in womanhood so clearly and vividly. Even though it's set in the late 90s before my time in college, I could still resonate with so many of the thoughts and feelings Isabel was having. I saw so much of myself in her character, but I also saw the authenticity and realness of being a young woman in general. I don't know how she did it, but Florin captured the entirety of that perfectly. There's one quote towards the end that talks about how she felt as if she's still a girl in a woman's body, and I don't think I had ever heard someone put that coming of age/ being in college/in your 20's experience in such simple, yet perfect way. I think Florin's writing style captures all of these elements perfectly, and I loved how easy and captivating it was to go through this story with Isabel.  Rather than seeing it from a distance, she lets you go through the experiences with Isabel, and that made the story that much more fulfilling for me.

There's so much to unpack in this story. There are layers of experiences, feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and quite literally everything a young woman can go through in this. To me, it felt like a quiet, contemplative piece. There were so many small pieces of wisdom, understanding, and realizations spread throughout. Again, it really felt like I was going through it all with Isabel, that I understood things at the same time she was and seeing the world through her eyes. I ended up feeling an intense and intimate sense of solidarity with her that I don't think I've felt with a female character in a long time. 

What I liked most about this story was how perfectly it captured Isabel's coming of age. Most of the coming-of-age novels I've read have been teen/YA, so I enjoyed reading one centered in college and with characters in their early 20s. As I said, Florin's writing style captures these feelings and thoughts perfectly. It left me feeling like I had to unpack and dig through so much in my life. I loved how Florin writes about this idea that as 20-something adults, when you make a decision, you think you know what you're doing, but you don't ACTUALLY know what you're doing. It's not until years later, when you can look back at it with a clearer, wiser head, that you see things for what they actually were. There are so many choices we make in our early adulthood, choices we don't fully comprehend the weight or the repercussions of, that we have to live with for the rest of our lives that it almost feels unfair to be able to make such choices at all. 

So, this is just to say that this book left me with a lot to think about. It's honest, personal, reflective, and incredibly well written. I think you can tell how good a book is by how long it stays with you after you're done reading it, and I think this will be one of the ones that stay with me for a long time. Daisy Alpert Florin is going down as one of my favorite authors because of this novel. It's selfish, but I hope she continues writing about women's experiences, ones that span an entire lifetime, so I can continue to feel the kind of wisdom and comfort this story brought me as I get older.

Thank you, Netgalley and Henry Holt and Co., for the chance to read this early in exchange for a review! I'm so grateful. Truly one of my favorite reads this year/ever.
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Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read and enjoy this beautifully written e-arc. 
I really really enjoyyed this novel. The vibes were amazing and this had everything I look forward to when reading.
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thank you henry holt and company and netgalley for allowing me early access to ‘my last innocent year’ by daisy alpert florin in exchange for an honest review. 
initially going into this novel i excepted a passionate love affair between a student and her professor but came to realize this book focuses on so much more than that. it was a coming-of-age novel that discusses sexual assault, domestic abuse and several other pressing topics. the writing throughout was beautiful. i give it four out of five stars just because i felt a bit of a disconnect between the topic and the tone of the book, however, i would recommend this novel to anyone whose interested!
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It’s difficult for a book to not only present you with a compelling, provoking story, but also keep the narrator's influence within the writer’s control. Many times, authors fail to distinguish between their narrator’s voice/opinions and their own. With that also comes the difficulty of deciding just how opinionated you want your narrator to be. Will they be so opinionated they are unreliable? Will they be so factual that they are emotionally distant? It can be equally challenging to control that influence once the level of influence is decided. In writing, and through reading, it’s come to my understanding that the best way of conveying a certain theme or artistic element is through constantly returning to that idea. So, simply put, it can make or break a story. In the novel My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Florin, the elements of the author’s control, narrator’s influence, and the power of interpretable situations create a breathtaking but equally intelligent look at college life.

It was originally difficult for me to collect my thoughts after reading this, which is a good sign. To me, I can be sure a book in such a genre (coming-of-age fiction) is written well if I have conflicting thoughts about most situations. In this way, Daisy Florin has also demonstrated her controlled touch as an author by giving us the story, writing with a certain level of influence from Isabel, but managing to also present other views on the same situation that are plausible. Many of the plot points and relationships in this novel can be judged, scrutinized, and loved. This is because our opinions are not decided for us. Not that this is in any way a bad thing. Many successful books have been written in a manner where the narrator is incredibly influential on our views as readers. But, with this novel, it was a smart decision to take a step back as a narrator. This is because of each large plot point’s interpretability. From the first-presented r*pe, to her relationship with Connelly, and even how her introspection is constantly changing and her view of her craft. Each one of these is presented with realistic, clever, and sometimes grotesquely simple arguments for “the opposition”. Many times I found myself thinking of the characters and how I should form my own opinion, as it wasn’t given to me. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to think through situations and gradually but firmly forming my own opinions. 

I want to keep this short, even though I’ve written two paragraphs, and will be posting a longer discussion to my website and to my instagram @kathai.official. I will let Florin know when I’ve published that, but congratulations on such an intricate, delicate, and romantically changing novel. This has already become one of my favorite reads of this year, if not most.

Thank you for the opportunity to read.
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My Last Innocent Year touches upon some really important topics and I'm glad I was able to read an early copy of it. This is an important book, one that you can't stop reading, but it definitely makes the readers feel a bit of discomfort!
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Maybe it’s just because I went to a large state university where you barely got to know any of the people in your classes, let alone any of your professors – my introductory psychology course was taught via TV lectures – but I found it hard to relate to the situation at the small New Hampshire college where Isabel Rosen, the main character of Daisy Florin’s “My Last Innocent Year,” is spending her final year. 
    It's a place where not only do most students seem to know all their classmates, but the teachers know their students on a first-name basis and even hold social functions for them – all of which, as I say, made the novel less relatable for me than it might be for students who went to smaller schools and therefore might find the book more consistent with their own experiences. 
    Even so, I couldn’t help finding the situation as presented, with students seemingly spending more time socializing than studying, somewhat untrue to the actual college experience, or at least my college experience, where in some of my busier semesters I was so absorbed in my studies that I barely had time to exchange pleasantries with my roommate, let alone carry on the sort of intense, unsettling affair that Isobel has with one of her married professors.  As unsettling, though, as it proves to be for her at the time, it doesn't to my mind rise to the level of momentousness that the novel clearly intends it to be regarded as (hence the book's title). But then I never found the personal situation at the heart of perhaps the classic novel about a large-scale event being encapsulated in a smaller one, John Knowles' "A Separate Peace," to rise to the level of significance that was being made of it, even with the novel's wartime backdrop that raised the novel's stakes considerably. 
     True, the situation in Florin’s novel is also tied to a larger historical business, the Lewinsky-Clinton affair, though frankly it's hard for me to find anything truly momentous or consequential in that sad display of tawdriness in which neither Clinton nor Monica – poor, ill-used Monica – came off looking good. Indeed, so not consequential has the business proven to be over the years that there has already come to be about it an antiquated feel even for those of us who were naive enough at the time to have been scandalized by the whole business. Hard to imagine what students today, with their greater Internet worldliness, would make of it.
   So, as I say, a bit hard for me to engage with completely, Florin's novel, even with my having been an English major like Isabel. Though I did find intriguing what could be taken as the central notion of the novel, the observation made at one point that adulthood can be seen as the process of shaking loose from the supposed truths of childhood. And there is also about the novel, told as it is by an older, wiser person looking back on her younger, more susceptible self, the ambience of another similarly intentioned novel, L.P. Hartley's superbly written "The Go-Between." Indeed, Florin's prose stands well enough against Hartley's that it has me looking forward to her next novel with the hope that its particular concerns will resonate more fully with me than this one's did.
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I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. I know that this book has been compared to other books with similar themes/plotlines. This one separates itself in some aspects. For a book that houses some very troubling themes and situations, this book is surprisingly not as dark as you would expect. It certainly isn't light beach reading either, though! 

Here's is what I liked about this one:
This is a beautiful coming of age story. This book is primarily about still having the mindset of a girl, but being in the body of a woman and how men interact with that body.Isabel's story is simultaneously fascinating and gut-wrenching. 
Though the main character experiences a lot of things throughout this book, the author managed to expertly weave them together at the end. I think that she also does a really great job at capturing the college experience and the transition into adulthood. Though Isabel and I had different experiences in college, we shared a lot of the same sentiments about growing up, dealing with toxic friendships, and the desire to find your place in the world. This book is written from adult Isabel's perspective. She looks back on her life and even critiques the choices she made. I thought this was a fantastic choice. 
I also thought the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky backdrop made for the most perfect parallel. This was another genius decision made by the author. 

And the things I wish were different:
Based on the synopsis, you would think that the conversation of consent would play a big role in the story. Though it is touched on briefly, I felt like it kind of got lost among all of the other things that were happening in the story. I was surprised that the commentary shifted and wish that there was more of a focus on this incident in particular. It kind of felt like this was forgotten at times.
Additionally, the concept of sexual coercion and power dynamics within relationships (in this case, the student-teacher relationship) really lacked discussion too. I thought this was the perfect opportunity/platform to expand these important conversations and was a bit disappointed in that aspect. 
Also: the story really takes off past the half way point. While the first half is primarily storybuilding, it was a bit slow and hard to get into. I am glad that I kept reading, though. 

Overall, I grew to like Isabel a lot and enjoyed reading her story. Though there were things that I wish were different, this was still a good read and I would recommend for readers 18+. There is adult dialogue, situations, and language used throughout. This book does include depictions of sexual assault and a student---teacher relationship. If either of those are troubling for you or just aren't something you are interested in reading about, you should probably pass on this book.
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The story of Isobel Rosen from the lower east side left me with a heavy heart and empathy for all young women in USA society. Isobel earned admission and some financial aid from an exclusive college in New Hampshire and began her freshman year not long after she lost her mother to cancer. Isobel knew she didn't fit in with the rich kids but she found friendship with Debra, a wild, banner-waving feminist. As introverted as Isobel was, Debra constantly pulled Izzy into one of her crazy pranks to shame the men of Wilder. Isobel's friend, Andy, was a poet and she could always find him in the library to commiserate over matters of literature and their love for writing.

Many of Izzy's choices brought her a level of angst that would stay with her for many years. How many of us can identify with those early years of adulthood? I felt as if most of the men in Izzy's life let her down and left permanent scars. Even the father, Abe, did not come out of the narrative unscathed. I admire Daisy Alpert Florin's writing for her insight and wisdom in creating a story I can relate to and find comforting. I hope all young women read this brilliant novel and take Izzy's life lessons to heart. 

Thank you, NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for this ARC.
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I sped through this powerful coming-of-age debut. With a backdrop centered on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, consent, gender violence, and the power of sex were the main themes and beautifully written.
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The writing style in this book was great. It is one of the only reasons I stuck it out as long as I did. The characters were unlikable and not in an expected way. The plot was just flat for me. But the author does know how to tell a story and the strong writing kept me going.
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If you love scandal, lust and affairs you will love to see how one women named  Isabel Rosen affair with her married professor changes her life forever.  There is a lot going on this book explores a nonconsensual sexual encounter, an affair with a professor, a troubling relationship with her father. It is a coming an age book of what life is like and how small acts can have big effects on one's outcome. I feel the affair was a way for Isabel to take back her sexual power in a way. The book is a page turner if anything you will have a deeper understand of Rosen's life and how she grown from start of the book to the end.
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First off, thank you Netgalley and Henry Holt Books for the ARC. 

There is something about the way that Daisy Alpert Florin writes that both broke me and healed me in the best of ways. It is an absolutely beautifully written coming-of-age. But that being said, this book does cover some very dark and sad topics, 

The story is a reminiscent look back at a young woman’s experience during her final semester at college while grappling with a sexual encounter, an affair with a professor, and discovering and becoming herself while trying to maintain the standards of being the good Jewish girl from her past. While set in the late 90’s, it was very easy to imagine similar experiences for college women now, especially early on with her friend. We as readers are able to get a front-row seat watching her realize her worth, and sense of self and begin to herself first in a way that doesn’t make her a bad person.

This book deals with dark themes and you have to be in a good headspace to read this. I had to put it down several times because I, in fact, was not truly able at moments to handle some of the topics. Additionally, whilst the prose in the early chapters captured me, the plot doesn't take off until later on. But Florin does a lovely job with these topics in a way that I hadn't read before. A really lovely debut and eager to see what else she writes in the future, 

A splendid
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All my sad girl summer girlies need to read this book!!! 
It’s everything I wanted it to be and more.
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I received an ARC of this book and really enjoyed it. I would say this book is more character focused than plot driven and it reminded me of a mix between Writers & Lovers and Conversations with friends. It follows a woman"s senior year of college and touches on issues of consent, power dynamics in relationships, suicide, and friendship between women. 

Overall, I enjoyed getting to know the main character and watching her thought process evolve as she grew up. I do think that the story being told by the main character in the future could have been used in a way where we got more introspective reflection about things she would have done differently!
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This is the story of a young girl in her last semester at college. The story begins with a vague "was it or wasn't it consensual" sexual encounter between two may be friends. Although the author writes beautifully, the story line bounces around between flighty friendships, an affair with a professor and a young woman caught between the straight-line upbringing in her father's Jewish home and the freedom the 90's brought to the young women in the collegiate world. The entire novel is steeped in manipulation; the inclusivity of somewhat lackluster friends and the professor that makes her feel seen and guides her to really believe in herself.                                                                 As always, many thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt Books for the advance reader copy in exchange of an honest review
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