This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi is a diverse young adult contemporary novel that revolves around a group of ladies who work at a bookshop called Wild Nights Bookstore. When they discover that the bookstore is about close up shop for good, they come together to and try save a place that has become a sanctuary for each of them in their own unique ways.
When I first heard about the premise for this book, I became immediately intrigued by it. Chock it up to the pandemic and its negative impact on local and indie bookstores or just my bookworm soul being serenaded, but the concept of three badass ladies trying to save a local bookshop called out to me in excited waves. After reading it all the way through, I feel that this is going to be a title that many people shall be able to connect to, regardless of gender.
This Is All Your Fault takes place over the span of a day and because of that the story does kick off a bit sluggishly as all the plights are laid out and the characters are introduced. However, once we get acquainted with the three ladies, the story just sweeps you up and holds you tightly until the last page. Between the excellent slow-burn friendships, the diversity of representations, and theme of how everything in life is some sort of opportunity, there was very little that I didn’t like about this book.
The characters are the real stars here. There are three girls who are quite different from one another that the book revolves around. We have a Latinx-German lady named Rinn. Then there’s a Queer, Southwest Asian-American named Imogen, whom I adored to bits, and finally there’s a White girl named Daniela that struggles with depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. As I read more about these women, I found something in most of them that I could connect to on a personal level, which kept me invested in their interactions with one another as well as their desire to save this bookstore.
One of the characters is outwardly cold and aloof, making her seem rather unapproachable and disconnected from the rest of the cast members. This is mostly just a way for her to cope with trying to protect herself from a variety of negative feelings and situations. When they eventually begin to thaw and trust others bit by bit, it felt so gratifying and comforting. As someone who also used to close themselves off from everyone for fear of rejection or heartbreak, this brought up a lot of memories for me, while also reminding me the joy and warmth that stems from learning to be vulnerable around others.
Another character suffers from depression and their conflicts with it is what I felt the most kinship with. The portrayal of depression and how it can impact a person’s ability to engage with others, as well as themselves, was wonderfully written. It’s never fetishized or romanticised, nor is it used to garner unnecessary sympathy for the character. The depiction of the suicidal ideation and the anxiety and panic that sometimes stems from living with depression on a day-to-day basis was marvellously authentic and sincere. The anxiety in particular was so outstandingly honest and real that whenever the character had these intense feelings of anxiety, I could feel my own body reacting just from the memory of it all. It can be extremely difficult to describe the discomfort that takes root in the pit of one’s stomach, the unbearable nausea and the shivers and this overwhelming sense of being stuck and sick (to put it lightly), yet the author not only expresses it so earnestly, she does so in a candid and considerate manner. While it can be difficult to read, more so if one has similar conflicts and disorders, I felt grateful for the way that the freshly created friendships helped the character with their mental health.
The third character is the one that I related to the absolute least and also found to be a bit grating. She is a YouTuber and relies heavily on the constructs of social media popularity to feel validation. I’m not someone who is involved in social media culture in such a manner at all. I have a modest Bookstagram that I use to follow authors I love and then there’s this blog where I can fanhuman about my hobbies with like-minded folx, but that is as far as it goes. I know that I don’t have the personality to garner thousands upon thousands of followers and I’m very content with being an awkwardly, eccentric no-name human. So, when people base their entire lifestyles off the culture of social media popularity, I almost immediately disconnect from it. For me, life is about so much more than an online presence. However, I also understand that the present and possibly even the future is steeped in the practises of seeking internet celebrity-status. Nevertheless, it’s just not my cup o’ chai at all, so in the end this character didn’t do much for me.
Given how different these women are, I never truly expected them to build the sort of camaraderie that ends up befalling them, and it was pure pleasure to see it happen. Their differences in many ways help them to come together and find commonalities with one another, laying down the foundation for a slow-build of understanding and empathy that is usually the backbone of deeply profound and long-lasting friendships, which blossoms wonderfully in the second half of the book. So, if you’re a reader who enjoys beautiful friendships, then this is something that will make This Is All Your Fault totally worth the investment.
Beyond the characters, the book is also about opportunities. With the threat of the store closing, it provided opportunity for three unlikely individuals to formulate a closeness and rapport that they never expected. It shows opportunities for people to find creativity and passion where they otherwise wouldn’t have any, such as the girls trying to find ways to help save the bookstore. An opportunity of accepting that one’s mental health doesn’t necessarily mean that they are alone in the world or completely hopeless, something I related to so much. Aside from the positives, there’s also the negatives of opportunities. For example, the store closing due to financial instability in lieu of parking lots is so indicative of the present era’s emphasis on bulldozing over what they feel is unnecessary in a growing age of technology and mass capitalism (i.e. Amazon). Not every opportunity is worth the cost, rather it leaves behind loss of freedom, chances, culture, and even hope.
If there’s anything about This Is All Your Fault that I struggled with, it would be the overarching story. When you place the friendships aside for a second, the main plotline is somewhat thin and underdeveloped while also feeling like it dragged in some places. I suspect this is due to everything taking place during the span of a single day. By the end, I just craved a little more meat from it.
All in all, This Is All Your Fault was a fun and engaging read that is truly about the people and friendships, particularly the different identities of womanhood. It’s charmingly feminist and warm while staying true and empathetic until the end. If you’re a fan of reading books about amazing bonds and fierce ladies with excellent mental health representation, then I recommend This Is All Your Fault to you!
4 paperbacks outta 5!
Please note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Feiwel & Friends and Turn the Page Tours.
Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer. Safi was the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest, and that story appeared in the anthology Fresh Ink. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and cat. This Is All Your Fault is her third novel, following Not the Girls You’re Looking For and Tell Me How You Really Feel.