Cover Image: My Last Innocent Year

My Last Innocent Year

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Member Reviews

I feel very mixed about My Last Innocent Year. On one hand the author writes well and I'm typically in for a topical story. On the other hand there are some things that happen early in the story that made me struggle with the lead character and her actions. Also trigger warnings for sexual assault. All in all it's a mixed review for me, I will look forward to the author's next book.
Thanks to NetGalley and the author for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Wish that there was more background but I enjoyed the book. I think that it’s important to realize the test and that women were treated directly and things like consent were Not as publicly discussed as it is now. Student and teacher or professor relationships are always kind of sketchy to me in real life.
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Definitely one the top books of 2023. I was so touched by the entire story. I think many authors shy away from writing about the college age group, but it was such a nostalgic time for so many of us that i think (even if you didnt have a relationship with a professor- lol) you will be brought right back to that confusing age. I will definitely read this again and cant stop talking about it!
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Enjoyed the story itself but felt like Isabel never grew. I was hoping with such life changing experiences, we see her character grow and change.
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Once I started reading this, I couldn't put it down! I loved the writing and how the author put the story together. I might have an unpopular opinion on that since it seems like that's what readers didn't like. In my opinion, everything just came together perfectly and the way it was written really worked well for the story.

The comparison to My Dark Vanessa originally drew me in, but I have to say that I enjoyed this one even more. This might be an unpopular opinion, but this book was more memorable and had more depth for me. This book does have more heavy topics so make sure you take that into account since this may have some triggers for you (suicide, sexual assault, and toxic relationships).

This book is summed up as sad girl vibes in an academic setting with some twists and turns along the way. I would recommend picking this up if this type of story is up your alley. Overall, an impressive debut! I'm really looking forward to reading more by this author in the future!
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Let me start by saying Daisy Alpert Florin has huge potential, but I expected a lot more from this book.

The writing style kept me entertained but the plot wasn't there - I kept waiting for something to happen that would elicit more of an emotional response.

I wish I could say more but the book didn't dive deep enough into any one topic for me to come out with major takeaways
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“Here’s what I do when I’ve made a mistake. First, I ask myself if it’s something I can fix. And if it’s not, I ask myself if it’s something I can live with.”

While the Monica Lewinsky scandal heats up in Washington, on the campus of Wilder College in New Hampshire, 21-year-old Isabel Rosen, a girl who hails from a modest New York background, completes her senior year. It’s a year that will shape her permanently, but not in ways she expects. One night in December, leaving the library accompanied by Zev, another Jewish student, she agrees to go to his room. Isabel hazily imagines them with a future together–not that that is something she ardently desires; it’s more than she tests out the possibility in her mind. Kissing leads to sex. She asks him to “slow down,” but he says he “can’t.” Zev’s aggressive tactics leave Isabel confused. She feels “as though [she’d] been dropped in the middle of a sexual encounter that had been going on for a while.”

Later that night Debra, Isabel’s roommate, asks Isabel what’s wrong. Isabel is aware that since the encounter “something hurt, deep in some place I couldn’t see or name,” but at the same time she “couldn’t frame what had happened with Zev […] There was a darkness to it, a heaviness.” Debra already deeply dislikes Zev. She is the founder of Bitch Slap “Wilder’s first and only feminist journal.” Isabel insists that Zev didn’t “force” her but Debra says Zev is a rapist. Debra leads Isabel into taking action.

At this point in the novel, I expected to read a novel about sexual consent or the fallout from the incident. Interestingly, the plot led away from the sexual encounter and continues with Isabel’s academic career. Isabel is completing her thesis on Edith Wharton. Her advisor, Tom Fisher, is married to Joanna Maxwell, the head of the English Department. Tom and Joanna are getting divorced and that disrupts Isabel’s thesis plans. Tom becomes increasingly unreliable, and poet/professor/reporter Connelly takes over one of Joanna’s classes. It’s a creative writing class, and Isabel finds herself drawn to Connelly. They begin an affair. …

The rain picked up. I pictured a hallway lined with doors I couldn’t open, things I needed trapped behind them: means of rescue, survival, escape. My lover put himself inside me and unlocked everything I’d ever had there: shame, fear. [..] I no longer knew what was inside me anymore, only that I never again found a door I couldn’t open. He held the key to my undoing and I let him undo everything.

The sexual encounter between Isabel and Zev opens My Last Innocent Year, and it is certainly topical and serious enough for us to expect this to carry the entire novel. But author Daisy Alpert Florin, and this is, incidentally, her debut novel, moves away from the topic of consent, or at least seems to. As the affair with Connelly continues and becomes increasingly more serious, I was unsure how the Isabel/Zev encounter wove into the tale. I wondered if it was added to the story for topical value, but even as that occured to me, the lack of a conclusion about exactly what took place rape vs consent was oddly absent. The absence of a solution increased the opaque quality of much of what occurs in the novel. Most blurbs contain the non-consensual sex aspect of the book, and yet really that is not what the book is about. Beginning with sex with Zev, Isabel finds herself thrown in a series of morally complex situations; her life and experiences so far have not prepared her for the moral consequences of her actions. Ultimately this is the story of a young woman who has yet to form her opinions about the world. She has yet to learn to read the warning signs. She is vulnerable.

The novel is told by Isabel in retrospect, so some of the story with its themes of inexperience and naivete is told now with the voice of experience. Daisy Alpert Florin follows Isabel into middle age, so we see how the path that she took at Wilder influenced the rest of her life, and at one point, as we see Isabel later in life, she admits that her “need to link sex with secrecy was born that spring.” The denouement, which I shan’t reveal, seemed a little too dramatic and out-of-line with the rest of the novel, but that said, this is a remarkable debut novel. It’s understated emotional content packs a powerful punch.

After finishing the novel, I chewed over its structure. Initially I anticipated that the Zev incident would propel the rest of the plot, but instead it served as a door into the rest of the story. It is a bold move to throw out a topical subject such as this and then maneuver it to the starting line. (And incidentally, Isabel does arrive at a conclusion about sex with Zev by the end of the novel.) Underlying the tale is the implicit idea of the complications of sex. Two people approach sex imagining they are on the same page–but when the final chapter is written on any sexual relationship, it becomes clear that those involved had their own versions, their own stories. Zev is insensitive to Isabel, and without an iota of intimacy, he uses her in the most intimate way. But what of Connelly? This is a relationship of full consent, yet in spite of that, does Isabel have any idea what she is getting into?
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My Last Innocent Year was absolutely gorgeously written but I think I was hoping for a powerful female and raw emotional journey out of this book and that is not what I got. I feel like I might have hyped this up too much in my head and it just didn't meet my expectation.
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Warning: this book deals with some triggering topics, such as nonconsensual sex, an emotionally manipulative relationship, death, and suicide.

Thank you, NetGalley for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In My Last Innocent Year, we follow our main character Isabel, as she recounts for us her last year of college. The book begins with a nonconsensual sex encounter, leaving Isabel questioning what consent really means, and how is it defined.

This really was a beautiful exploration of the beginnings of womanhood. Isabel is questioning her place in the world, in several different ways. The book explores what it feels like to be a girl trapped in an adult body, and how being a woman affects so many areas of your life. We see Isabel struggle with her place in the world, and whether she deserves to take up space, like the men around her seem to do. It explored the way friendships can be toxic, and the deep-rooted desire to fit in among our peers. The way it was written, with Isabel looking back on herself when she was younger, was a clever writing choice. She often would say what she would've done differently now, or how that decision the younger version of her made would have an impact on her for years to come.

I was disappointed how consent was not really discussed. The nonconsensual sex encounter was glossed over when I thought it would be a more important plot point. It seems like it is forgotten almost immediately after the start of the book. Also, the relationship between Isabel and her Professor felt odd. Because of her childhood, I could see why Isabel was initially attracted to the professor, but I had a hard time seeing why it continued. The nuances of their relationship, and why it is toxic for many reasons, are not really explored. Their relationship also would have been a good way to discuss consent and sexual coercion, but we really never got that. From the description of the book, I was expecting to read more about how these events altered and change Isabel, but her feelings almost seemed passive to these two main events.

All-in-all, I did enjoy reading about Isabel's journey, even if I felt like some parts were lacking.

Edit (February 14, 2023):
Review has been posted on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and reshared on Goodreads.
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My Last Innocent Year is a coming-of-age, character-driven novel set in 1998 at the prestigious Wilder College in New Hampshire. Isabel (Izzy) Rosen is a Jewish college student in her final year when she has a non-consensual sexual encounter with a friend and later on an affair with her decades older, married English professor. The only child of a widowed father who owns an appetizing store on the Lower East Side in NYC, she has struggled to fit in with her wealthy classmates. Izzy is on the cusp of adulthood, trying to decide what she wants out of life and who she wants to be. 

This short novel tackles themes of consent, identity, abuse, mental illness and power dynamics. Though most of the story flashes between Isabel’s childhood and college years, we are also given glimpses of the future as the narrator will interrupt the story as if we’re sitting in a room with her decades later listening to her speak nostalgically of her early 20s.

Overall I enjoyed reading this, I loved the writing style and thought the story flowed gracefully. Though at times I did find Isabel’s passivity to be frustrating, and having finished the book I still don’t know how to interpret her lack of emotion. I wished I could grab her shoulders and beg her to care deeply about something, anything, especially with what takes place in the first chapter.
I initially thought this book would be similar to My Dark Vanessa, but it was not at all. Whereas MDV solely focuses on a teacher/student relationship, this is only one part of Isabel’s story. Though I had mixed emotions about how the events at the beginning were handled, by the end of the novel I was satisfied with how everything was tied up. I hope to read more from this author in the future.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

My Last Innocent Year follows Isabel Rosen during her senior year at Wilder College in 1998 New Hampshire. Following the untimely death of her mother and a nonconsensual sexual encounter with a peer, Isabel enters an affair with her married writing professor.

There were two aspects of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The first was the writing, which has that air of academia about it without all the pretention of someone who's trying to write a book with an academic feel. The writing, and its close focus on character, made it abundantly clear to me early on that Florin is the kind of author who zeroes in on honing their craft at the most granular level. 

The other aspect that I enjoyed, as this is something of a coming-of-age narrative, and it is certainly primarily character driven, was the way in which the narration was framed from the perspective of Future Isabel. We are not reading Isabel's story as it happens, but rather we are listening to her retell it, and while the story may be the same regardless, this viewpoint allowed us to watch Isabel reflect on the future implications of events from a more mature place even as they happened, which for me contributed significantly to my understanding of and belief in her character.

That said, as this is a very Literary Character Driven book, some readers are going to find it pretty boring. Despite the affair, and the kidnapping subplot, there's not a lot that happens in this book that would be considered particularly eventful, and even the ending is marked by the soft potential for character growth at the closing of an expired narrative thread.
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Daisy Alpert Florin's novel, My Last Innocent Year, follows Isabel Rosen as she navigates her senior of college: a sexual assault, mental health, and an affair with her professor, all while trying to figure out what life after college looks like for her. Florin's debut is My Dark Vanessa meets The Idiot and invites us into the lives of the English students at a small, elite university in New England.

Florin is a wonderful storyteller, her tale woven with foreshadowing by placing it against the backdrop of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Like the political scandal, Isabel's relationship with her professor is based on a power dynamic and lies are continuously spewing from the man's mouth.

Even the side characters in Florin's novel are tangible. Debra, Isabel's roommate and best friend, is my personal favorite character. A radical feminist during the late 1990s, Debra takes it into her own hands to make sure that the students, faculty, and staff at her university know, without a doubt, that "womyn are everywhere".

As a former English major myself, I found Isabel's story intriguing and well-placed, and am incredibly impressed that this is Florin's debut. I am anxiously awaiting more from her in the future.
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I think I was hoping for a powerful female and raw emotional journey out of this book and that is not what I got.

This book deals with a lot of heavy issues like rape, stealing, and a student/professor sexual relationship.  I felt like we were following Isabel through all of these event during her time in college, but she seemed kinda blah about it all.  I would have loved more of a perspective from her after college looking back on the events.  There is beauty in realization and wanting change.  It was mostly her remembering Connelly while writing.

I didn't have all the feelings in this book as a reader, but enjoyed from a strictly storytelling way.

Thank you to Henry Holt and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this ARC for my honest review.
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This is an incredibly beautifully written and poignant story. The pacing was a bit slow at times, but that didn’t impact how enraptured I was by Isabel’s experiences and dilemmas. As someone who is close to Isabel’s age, the social context really resonated and I appreciated that the author wasn’t afraid to take chances and go to some dark places – be advised, the title is quite apt. If you like character-driven novels or are a fan of Sally Rooney’s writing you may really enjoy this one!
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I found this novel difficult to fully get into, but towards the 75% mark I became enraptured. The first part of the book was in no means bad, the writing is striking and Isabel’s narrative is poignant and haunting. However at many points this book felt like I was staring at a work of art in that I could see the craftsmanship and appreciate the skill of the creator, but I didn’t really connect to it in any way. This didn’t make the reflections of the book any less fervent, it just prolonged my process of reaching them as I wasn’t immediately hooked.
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It didn't feel very cohesive to be honest. I didn't connect with any of the characters and it all felt a bit juvenile. Maybe I would have liked it more like 10 years ago?
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Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC. 

I feel like Sally Rooney lovers and anyone who enjoys 1990s culture and academia will really enjoy this!  

Isabel is a senior in college who finds herself with a steamy and tumultuous affair with her professor. You learn she’s lost her Artist, free spirited mother, her dad never seems to be proud of her, and she’s just trying to write compelling and memorable stories. 

This goes to dark places. Trust the title! It’s a coming of age, loss of innocence story that is very well done. 

Very reminiscent of Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songridej. If you like that one you’ll like this!
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Thank you NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co Publishing for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is a coming of age story focused on the life of a college student. That feels very strange to say. I don’t see the senior year college student as the “coming of age” age. For a college student, she seems very young. Maybe I’m forgetting what it’s like to be a college student, perhaps I just don’t even know what it was truly like to be in her shoes. It seems that a better age would be a high school senior and not a college senior. 

Anyway, I did not really enjoy this book. I believe people who enjoy a younger and less mature protagonist will enjoy this book. It just missed the mark for me. 

This book is out February 14th, 2023.
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This one was a miss for me - it tried to do too much. I didn’t find the characters likeable enough to feel infested in what happened to them - and a lot happens! Set in a college (usually a winner for me - I love college settings), this plot is all over the place. If the author would have chose even two to delve into, the novel would have been so much more satisfying. Great ideas - but the execration fell short for me. Thanks to Henry Holt for the copy. I’m grateful.
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This book is like a stroll in the park with a old college friend on a brisk fall morning. The narrative is in real time but it feels like a memory. This is going to feel too slow for some readers but I really enjoyed it. Altogether a solid, pleasant, entertaining 3.75 star read :) 

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this novel!
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