Cover Image: My Last Innocent Year

My Last Innocent Year

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Member Reviews

starting off, this book is written beautifully. i would consider it to be pretty “stream of consciousness” style writing, which i’m personally a fan of. it did feel like the plot was trying to carry a bit too much. there are several different threads that tie together as the story, which is difficult when each thread holds enough weight to exist on it’s own. overall, a little crowded but a beautiful read!

thank you to henry & hold and netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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The Story:  It is 1998 and Isabel Rosen is a student at Wilder, a prestigious New Hampshire college.  She lives with her father on the Lower East Side, where they run appetizing store, which specializes in Jewish cuisine.  Isabel is in her last year at college when she has a nonconsensual sexual encounter with a friend — and ends up having an affair with her writing professor.

My Story:  I graduated from college in 1999, and I love coming-of-age stories and debuts.  While the topics here sound like familiar ground you may have read before, the writing in this book is excellent and to-the-point.    While the story may sound familiar, this is a different take that is worth the read.

Thank you to @henryholt and @netgalley for a free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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this is definitely a strong entry in a slew of professor-student relationship litfic books released over the past year or so. Florin makes Isabel really come alive as she goes through this college coming-of-age story in the late ‘90s. I flew through this one even though it’s a bit more vibes over plot than I usually enjoy
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Just not my cup of tea. The writing was quite good but the plot was too impersonal. I just didn’t have the emotional investment I did with other books with similar plots.
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I really liked the writing style of this one. The plot felt like it meandered, and despite the sensitive topic, I didn’t feel emotionally invested.
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3.5 A DEBUT  new author that has a solid hit on her hands. 

A  coming of age story, follows Isabel on her journey of self-discovery as she figures out what it means to be an artist, an adult, and more specifically, what it means to be a woman. Dealing with a creative mother that plays on the edge of mental illness. A jewish father that turns her world upside down only to realize how she should have had her eyes opened a little bit more.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Excuse me while I recover from a book hangover. This is a powerful yet very tender coming-of-age story set in late 1990’s academia.

Isabel is a college senior at a small liberal arts college who has a non-consensual sexual encounter with a fellow student. That acts as the catalyst for her affair with her (married) professor.

"I felt stuck between two paths, one leading toward a future I could understand, the other leading—where? Nowhere good."

So much to unpack in this compelling novel! Set during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, the author never paints Isabel as a victim, but instead as a young woman with agency and a burgeoning spirit. I loved the Jewish representation, and the pitch-perfect depiction of life at a small college.

The author treats Isabel with care and infuses her with intelligence. Her affair with Professor Connelly builds slowly, and because the characters are all strongly written, I felt a true sense of dread - along with Isabel's growing dread - when certain beliefs turned out to be wrong.

"I could feel something fracturing, like the first time you ask your parents a question they can’t answer or the first time they don’t catch you in a lie. The moment you recognize your separateness."

One of my favorite books of the year. Thanks to Henry Holt Books for the free copy! All opinions are my own.

Memorable Quote:

"Everything looked different, clearer, like I’d never worn glasses and someone had handed me a pair. Connelly looked different, too. I realized I hadn’t understood his purpose—why I’d met him, why he was here—but now it all fell into place. Of course I’d met him. Of course he’d kissed me. Of course, of course, of course."
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I’m not really sure how to describe what I loved about this book. But something about it really touched the emotions in me and made it probably my favorite read of February, if not a close second. 
This book is more character driven than plot driven. But also not quite that either? In another review I saw someone write “it’s like your mom wrote you a really long letter on her life lessons” and I feel like that is an accurate description. 
Maybe just some parts of Isabel’s story resonated with me. I think some of the internal thoughts she had were thoughts that have floated through my head. 
I also felt like the writing in this book was really very pretty; and pretty philosophical and a bit poetic . It made me think while I read it. And there are many passages that I’ve highlighted. 
This is was an arc that just made me want to go out and buy a physical copy of it, and not very often do I feel that intensity.
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i loved this book from minute one. beautifully written, riveting, extremely nuanced and endlessly interesting. i had a good gut feeling about this one and it paid off!

gorgeous cover, also. that doesn't hurt.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Last Innocent Year by Daisy Alpert Florin follows Isabel in her senior year at Wilder College. She's still processing her mother's death and has an upsetting sexual encounter. Unsure of her experience but distraught by how she feels, she falls into a relationship with a professor. Along the way, she's faced with the idea of growing up, finding herself, and figuring out her own self-worth.

Overall, I really liked this book. It had a real sense of place, and the characters felt like real people. Isabel's journey to understanding consent, and how it can become complicated, was really emotional and well done. I enjoyed Florin's writing, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of their writing.
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Isabel doesn’t really ever consent to anything in her life and tends to live in secrecy, so it is no shock when a teacher propositions her in a way that makes it appear like she is in control. He coaxes her to provide him with consent, not realizing that he still holds the power in the “relationship”. He gets to choose where it happens, when it happens, and when it ends just by giving Isabel enough false hope to continue their relationship in secrecy. A few situations led up to this - Nev, another Jewish student, engages in nonconsensual sex with her and her best friend fills in the gaps of her story resulting in spray painting the word “Rapist” across his door. While this is happening, she is grappling with the fact that her thesis advisor might be abusing his wife (the head of the English department) amidst their ongoing divorce and custody battle. More and more people keep coming to Isabel with information about their lives or others that isn’t really her business and she just soaks it up in silence. No one stops to think about what she wants, and honestly neither does she. Throughout this novel, we see Isabel as a person we may have known, heard about, or been ourselves at some point in our lives. Trying to go with the flow until everything comes crashing down and we can finally make a decision we know is the right one.

Also, as someone who hates reading about English majors, I didn’t have a problem with this novel!
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Isabel is a senior English major at an elite liberal arts college where she has always felt out of place. Having lost her mother the year before going to college, she is still struggling to find her voice and discover who she is. When she falls into an affair with her glamorous seminar professor, she’s forced to question what makes somebody an adult and what are the rules of being a grown-up. 
At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to love this book. The deeper I got, however, the more I enjoyed the setting (1998) and settled into the story. The book calls into question things like class, religion, consent, and friendship and I thought the author did a great job of portraying this sticky time in life. 
Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for this ARC!
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3.0 Stars  rounded up

A coming of age story set in the late 90’s. The story of Jewish girl Isabel trying to find herself at a prestigious college in NYC. Struggling to fit it she has a questionable consensual encounter, cries rape then retracts it then moves on to have an affair with her professor. While the writing was good…. It was difficult to follow the plot… if there was one. I had a hard time liking the characters let alone relating to them. While the topics were of interest there was just something missing. This one was definitely not for me. If campus/coming of age stories are your jam then check this one out.
Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for this ARC. This is my honest review.
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Will I ever tire of coming of age novels set on college campuses where the protagonist has a crush on a professor? Probably not. MY LAST INNOCENT YEAR falls under this category, but it is also lovely, and nuanced, and pitch-perfect. Set in 1998, and very much of that time, I loved being transported to a New Hampshire college before the internet and all our current-day nonsense, and live in the head of Isabel who is trying to figure out who she is before her life begins in just one small semester. 

I loved her backstory, being the only child of a single father who owns an appetizing store on the LES, who saved up all their money so she could have a private, liberal arts education and become a writer. During her last semester at school, Isabel becomes enamored with her new creative writing professor, which leads her into the web of the English department's close-kint secrets and controversies. The story takes some fascinating turns and directions, which makes the book both extremely plot heavy, but also a deep character study. Not many writers can pull this off as well as Florin does. I adored it, this is simply just my kind of book.
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It's the winter of 1998, and Isabel Rosen is in the final semester of her senior year at Wilder College. Isabel, the daughter of a widowed appetizing store owner on the Lower East Side, is one of the only Jewish students on campus, and definitely one of the poorest. Just as she's emerging from her grief over the death of her mother and beginning to feel like she's found her place among Wilder's elite, a nonconsensual sexual encounter with another student leaves her reeling and unmoored. As the nation turns its focus to the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, Isabel finds herself spinning headlong into an affair with her married English professor.

My Last Innocent Year is the perfect title for this character-driven novel about a young woman's abrupt introduction to adulthood. Daisy Alpert Florin's writing is earnest and introspective as she explores themes of consent and power dynamics, female friendship, sexuality, navigating grief, the importance of art, fledgling identity, and the complexities of parent-child relationships. Florin's character work is stellar, and Isabel's narrative voice is so genuine that at times I felt like I was reading a memoir rather than fiction.

The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style as an adult Isabel reflects on the events of her senior year of college, which means Isabel is telling the reader about those events logically, rather than emotionally, from the perspective of two decades' worth of adulthood -- a decision that feels deliberate on Florin's part. This both worked for me and didn't. Although it put the events of Isabel's senior year in the context of her larger life, it also made me struggle to connect with Isabel emotionally because she seemed somewhat detached as she relayed those events to the reader.

I've seen a lot of people comparing this book to My Dark Vanessa, but I think We Do What We Do in the Dark is a better comparison. My Last Innocent Year explores relevant themes through the luminous perspective of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, accurately conveying the unrest and confusion that comes with trying to understand who you were and who you are in a landscape that is suddenly strange and new. 3.5 stars rounded up.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for the advanced reader copy.

This week’s headline? Don’t get bitch slapped 

Why this book? The synopsis sounded like something I’d enjoy 

Which book format? ARC 

Primary reading environment? Stuffed on the couch 

Any preconceived notions? Not really 

Identify most with? Isabel 

Three little words? “a bit mismatched”

Goes well with? Creative writing classes 

Recommend this to? Someone who has lost something or someone important to them or wants to be a writer 

Other cultural accompaniments: 

Grade: 4/5

I leave you with this: “Men admire each other when they are at their best, but women enjoy meeting each other in pits of despair.” 

“But now I saw that it had always been about money, and those who spent their time here with that in mind were the ones with all the answers, while the rest of us were left scrounging.” 


One of my favorite kinds of books - the coming-of-age novel! 😍 I don’t think I’ve expressed how much I love them and this one is almost perfect. I couldn’t tell you what’s missing that could’ve bumped it to a five. Maybe because the student/teacher “romance” was a little cliched at times? I don’t know. I still think that this is a wonderful novel, though. 

Side note: Does anyone else hate when you have to wait for the paperback? I’m trying to cut back on buying hardbacks because they take up too much space (🤣 all books do lbr) and when you’re moving they are heavy af. 

My First Innocent Year is available now. 

tw: dubious consent; age gap
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I really enjoyed this story set in the 90’s of a college senior, finding herself, and living with unclear boundaries in her relationships. Emotional, I could feel the yearning with every word. Stunning! Great on audio.
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Thank you for the opportunity to receive an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

I struggled with this one because there’s little plot. It reads like a diary to me, and failed at times to keep my interest.

It is extraordinarily well written; Florin has a way with words. It’s full of ripened detail and extremely beautifully designed.

I don’t see myself recommending this to others, but I am glad I read it.
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This 1998 campus story centers around Isabel, a Jewish girl from the lower east side, as she navigates her days spent at a prestigious school in New Hampshire. When a non-consensual encounter happens with someone she though was a close friend, she starts to isolate and feel lost and confused. She starts to focus her attentions on her writing professor, which cause a ripple of courses to happen.

The main topic of this book is Consent and what that really means. The encounter she goes through sort of feels like a different tale than the rest of the story but comes back to how she moves on and tries to cope. The story did at times feel random and misplaced, but in all I liked what the author was trying to convey.
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Set in the late 90s, My Last Innocent Year is one woman’s reflection on her final semester of college. At the center of the story is an affair with a professor that Isabel commences in the wake of a “nonconsensual sexual encounter” with another student, and this affair is framed within a larger discussion about consent as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal hits the news. At the same time, Isabel struggles to reconcile her working-class upbringing with the elite institution she now calls home, and she’s yet to decide the career and life she wants when she leaves these hallowed halls.
Part coming-of-age and part social commentary, My Last Innocent Year is a lesson on what it looks like to weave together a story of relationships, religion, consent, gender, art, and power. It highlights the ways in which growing up is tangled up in the lives of our past selves, as well as the people around us.
As someone who typically avoids media with depictions of sexual assault-often finding them exploitative and gratuitous-I opened this book with trepidation. However, the author navigated this theme with mastery, demonstrating how storytellers can depict experiences of sexual assault without graphic descriptions that trigger and retraumatize readers. (Still, check the trigger warnings, and make the best decision for yourself as to whether or not this book is one safe for your own mental health.)

Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. for providing me an ARC of My Last Innocent Year. All opinions expressed here are entirely honest and my own.
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