Friday, September 29, 2017

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis Excerpt

Photo Credit: Taina QuiƱones

JENNY FRAN DAVIS was born in Manhattan and spent four months avoiding (but later embracing) millet mountains in a peace- and justice-focused Quaker community in northern California. Fond of big dogs, doo-wop, and Judy Blume, she attended the Chapin School and is currently an undergraduate at Wesleyan University. Everything Must Go is her debut novel.

As a recent graduate of Wesleyan University, Jenny Fran Davis has written a fresh, witty young adult debut told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera that capture a year of the high school experience of one spunky heroine. Where’d You Go, Bernadette for the YA audience, EVERYTHING MUST GO (Wednesday Books; October 3, 2017) features a fiercely feminist protagonist, Flora, who isn’t afraid to stand out from the high school crowd even when that crowd is a colorful group of teens at a high school for the gifted upstate. Capturing the zeitgeist of today’s socially active generation, Flora and her fellow students are full of personality, creating a drama that’s full of laughs and tears and relatable to anyone who is currently or has survived being a teenager.

Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won't admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he'll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tiny Upper East Side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn't show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Davis’s “smart and witty” (Publishers Weekly) debut will take the reader back to those days in high school, chasing after the wrong boys and worrying about high school gossip. As “introspective, feminist, nuanced” (Booklist), Flora’s story will connect with anyone who thought that a love interest could hold the key to happiness, only to discover that is far from the case. Guaranteed to make you fall in love with the personality driven cast of characters, EVERYTHING MUST GO is the perfect book for teens discovering where they fit in during those awkward years or anyone who has ever felt out of place.


"Written through text messages, blog posts, letters, journal entries, and more, Davis’s smart and witty debut captures a girl’s changing attitude and gradual acclimation to a very different environment. Filled with vibrant characters, it balances gentle jabs at pop culture and self-righteousness with thought-provoking ideas about feminist ideals and human frailties." —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

"An introspective, feminist, nuanced story that is difficult to place in any one box. This standout debut is as empowering for readers as it is for its protagonist." —Booklist

"[Flora's] friendships, both new and old, and her strong ties with her family are well-portrayed. Told via letters, emails, and journal entries, this book insightfully handles a problematic relationship and presents a flawed, intelligent, and well-crafted protagonist." —School Library Journal

"The core of Flora's journey presents opportunities for readers to grapple with gender, sex, race, classism—even Marxism...Thoughtful and provocative." —Kirkus Reviews


Huck’s posts, which regularly attract thousands of visitors, are unique in their ability to evoke both modernity and antiq- uity, as well as provide a tentative explanation—a subtle one— about why today’s young people look to the past for answers about their identities and their futures.

I haven’t even told India and Cora about him, because they’d definitely tell me to snap out of it. Every time something gets written up about Elijah and me/Miss Tulip, I feel such a sense of pride, but it’s PRIVATE pride—like an intimate thing between Elijah and me.

Elijah fantasies: 

• We’re in the Met. He pulls me off to the side, into some deserted corner, and starts kissing me.

• I’m standing in front of an ornate bookcase, studying it, hand on my chin. He comes up from behind and drapes himself over me. I spin around; we kiss.

• We’re on the subway. He reaches for my hand; I let him hold it. I look down at my lap and smile.There is electricity at the line where our legs touch.

• Elijah on the Met’s Civil Rights–era dress exhibit:“I could see you in most of the dresses, getting shit done.”

Let me pause here and say that I know this seems like the whitest, most bourgeoisie shit ever. I mean, a hipster fashion blog in which I dress in clothes from 1958? Please don’t lose heart, readers. This was my old life, remember. It’s as painful for me to relive this time as it is for you to hear about it, if not more so.

Anyway, I was his muse, but he wasn’t in love with me. Or was he? Therein lay the problem. He wanted to follow me around the city, photographing me in vintage clothes. He called me interest- ing. He listened to my problems and opened up about his. He told me that I could really rock a Jackie Kennedy head scarf and that I knew a thing or two about tastefully pairing prints. AND YET. He didn’t invite me over to his 107th Street apartment to kiss me. He didn’t even touch me, not even once to adjust me during a photo shoot. We took the subway together on weekends from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Queens, even rode the Staten Island Ferry together, but he didn’t so much as put his arm around me. There was always a thin barrier between us, which I chalked up to his position of power. And although sometimes this barrier was made of metal, sometimes it was made of a gauze that seemed thin enough to tear.

Let me pause again for one more minute. At age sixteen, just as now, I was a fucking woman. It wasn’t that I needed his approval to exist. Even in this time of frissons and jittery stomachs, I knew my power without Elijah. I didn’t need him to kiss me. I just really wanted him to, and that wild desire made my body feel like it was on fire. Let’s be honest. I was in love, and it was the kind of love that made me forget myself.

So he didn’t kiss me, but he talked to me. He told me count- less hilarious stories about Quare, academically rigorous and so- cially conscious, and encouraged me to apply, albeit in a buoyant, slightly jocular way. Until eleventh grade, he’d attended Westwood, Bowen’s prestigious brother school. (Quare was for students in the eleventh and twelfth grades only.) He’d grown frustrated, just as I was growing frustrated, with the stuffy, pretentious private school scene. (Even though I would never say that out loud.)

I thought, maybe if I went to Quare, I’d be interesting just as he’d been interesting. We’d be interesting together. Cue fantasy of us picnicking and reading subversive literature in a field when he’d come to visit me. Cue fantasy of Elijah realizing how adventurous I was, professing his love, and kissing me, preferably in a canoe, on a sunset pond.

One thing happened after another, and before I knew it, I was asking for recommendations and writing my application essay for Quare about the need to make adoption more accessible to same- sex couples.

The Quare Academy

Flora Goldwasser
470 West 79th Street, Apt. 5A 
New York, NY 10024

April 10

On behalf of the Quare admissions committee and faculty, I’m thrilled to offer you a spot in the class of 20—. Quare received a record number of close to 250 applications for just 16 spots, and it’s a testament to your ambition, creativity, and curiosity that you’ve been selected.

Please sign and return the enclosed document, along with a preliminary deposit, by May 10 if you wish to attend Quare next year. Please also feel free to call our office should you have any questions at all; I or another member of our team would be delighted to speak with you.

Infinite blessings,
Miriam Row, Headmistress

As soon as I got the letter, I knew that I would go.
Elijah would be going to Chicago to spend the summer as he always did, studying under his photography mentor, the famous Michael Rosenberg, at Chicago Arts, and I’d be interning at So-theby’s.

I hardly heard from him all summer; he was busy in Chicago. So I did my Sotheby’s internship, ate my last Maison Kayser maca- rons with my two best friends, Cora and India—who still couldn’t wrap their heads around why I was doing this; I told them I was bored at Bowen and needed an adventure, which I could tell they didn’t quite buy, but what could they say?—and packed my nic- est dresses, skirts, and shoes—along with my portable mint-green Underwood Olivetti typewriter to compose letters on the go— into two huge steamer trunks.

What follows are the letters, journal entries, and other sundry items from my first year at Quare Academy, where I had gone to follow my One True Love (or for the adventure, depending on who was asking).

You can purchase Everything Must Go at the following Retailers:


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