Nico is a relatable teen who pumps up the radio to drown out her pain and struggles to express her emotions in healthy ways. Alcohol and drug use are prevalent themes as she grapples to come to terms with the loss of her sister, and the characters she meets on the road steer her path towards self-discovery, though some fall into neat stereotypes. Goldberg doesn’t shy away from heavy topics such as addiction, abortion, and suicide; however, some readers will feel the topic of suicide (described by Nico as “the easy way out”) and Nico’s distaste for therapy could be presented to a young adult audience with more compassion and empathy.
Just as the title evokes Soul Asylum, each of Goldberg’s chapters is named for a vintage rock cut, and the manuscript is divided into “Side A” and “Side B,” a welcome motif for readers who spent their formative years rocking out to grunge. Nineties references pepper the story, from Nico’s “MAC Viva Glam Taupe Lipstick” to her Sony Sports Walkman to the Liz Phair classic that closes a chapter with an emotional punch. Goldberg’’s storytelling is heartfelt, assured, and polished. Readers wanting to relive the alternative rock scene of the era will immediately bond with Nico as she struggles to step out of her grief and into the light.
Takeaway: A heartfelt story of a teenager on the verge of a breakdown discovering her strength on a 90s grunge roadtrip.
Great for fans of: Elizabeth Keenan’s Rebel Girls, Meagan Macvie’s The Ocean in My Ears.
Design and typography: A+
Marketing copy: A+