Published by Greenwillow Books on May 3rd, 2016
Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
This was absolutely fantastic. I had high expectations for Ask Me How I Got Here because Heppermann’s 2015 release, Poisoned Apples is one of my all-time faves. So, knowing that, and knowing that this was going to be excellent, I do not say this lightly: this book blew me the fuck away.
Once again, Heppermann uses verse to tell us her story. This time, instead of a collection of basically unrelated, solitary poems, the poems in Ask Me tell us the story of Addie, her choice to have an abortion, the depression she falls into after, and the beautiful, tender friendship-turned-something-more that follows. Heppermann’s writing is stunning and flawless and every page left me in awe. Like, I should just stop writing now because how do you top this? She uses so few words, yet each line packs such a powerful punch.
I’ve spoken plenty of times (at least on twitter) how I had an abortion when I was a teenager. Luckily I had a mother who was pro-choice and essentially pro-woman to teach me not to be ashamed of this choice. But I wish WISH WISH I had books like Ask Me How I Got Here and Exit, Pursued by a Bear to help me through the depression that followed. I know that there are so very many women who make this choice and come away from it unscathed, and I think it’s important to push the message that doing this is not the end of the world or your life or who you are as a person. But it is equally realistic to portray women and girls who don’t have an easy time of dealing with this. Just seeing one other person like me in the books I read as a teen would have helped me so much; I am just so grateful that now these books exist to help today’s girls. Adoption and birth are not the only options, and no two people deal with any choice the same way.
Another thing I want to touch on is sexuality. This book, despite being about teen pregnancy and abortion and mental health, is actually very sex positive. Addie’s parents trust her to make the right decisions. There are a handful different depiction of sex, and in all of them Addie is enjoying herself. From oral sex, to p in v, even as far as masturbation – it’s all laid out and none of it is condemned or judged. Even though Addie goes to Catholic school! I thought all of that was incredibly refreshing. Also, it turns out later on in the book that Addie is bisexual. She starts off friends with the girl, and that friendship is empowering and healing in ways that Addie hadn’t expected, and eventually that friendship blossoms into more. So while you’re reading, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Are these girls flirting?” the answer is yes. There are no explicit labels or real discussions about sexuality, since the book is so short and focuses instead on Addie’s mental health journey, but considering Addie has had relationships with people of multiple genders, and never explicitly or implicitly decides she’s off boys for good, I consider this to be bisexual representation.
Basically, this book was the full package. It was written skillfully and artfully. The various friendships throughout the story show us the different ways we connect with people in our lives, depending on which sides of our selves that person sees. I loved the supportive and loving and forgiving relationship between Addie and her parents. And I absolutely loved seeing an endearing and loving boyfriend, even if their relationship didn’t last in the end. Ask Me How I Got Here is such an important, vital story that say so much within such a small number of pages. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves contemporary, sex-positive YA, and complex characters navigating complex relationships with one another.