Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. However, I read 40 pages of the eARC, and I finished the book in the final published form.
Robin Talley’s PULP is a very unique new novel with a refreshing perspective in young adult literature that highly gets into the idea of representation matters so much in books.
PULP is told over the course of two different years: 1955 and 2017. The two story lines are seamless.
In 2017, Abby is her senior year of high school at a magnet academy that requires her to do a senior thesis project. She has chosen to do hers in a class called Advanced Creative Writing that would require her to write a novel. Before her initial meeting with her adviser, Abby is hanging out with Linh, her best friend and ex-girlfriend, when she stumbles upon 1950s lesbian pulp fiction in her attempts to figure out an idea for the project. At the meeting with her adviser, Abby decides to bring up this new find, and she decides in the moment that she wants to write a book that inverts the tropes of the 1950s genre.
Meanwhile in 1955, Janet has stumbled on her first lesbian pulp fiction book, and she realizes for the first time that the feelings that she had been having about her friend actually have a name for them and that she’s not the only person to feel the way that she does. She writes the author and actually receives a letter back, and she begins to try to write her own lesbian pulp fiction novel. However, being in the 1950s, this is a dangerous time to even be a closeted lesbian let alone one that is actually out. Janet faces pressure from her friend Marie who she wishes could be her girlfriend to keep these feelings secret because Marie has landed a government job where they could fire you for immoral doings like being a lesbian. Janet’s father also works in politics, and this makes it dangerous for her family as well.
In 2017, Abby becomes obsessed with a pulp novel called Women of the Twilight Realm, and she becomes intensely focused on trying to find out the real identity of the author. Life around her is complicated. She is having trouble focusing on most of her school work, forgetting due dates, putting off applying to college, and letting this obsession come in the way of her friendships. She’s worried about her parents who never seem to be home and certainly not at the same time.
The two stories told here are fantastic. The historical perspective from the 1950s is obviously very heavily researched, but it never feels like a history book in any shape or form despite the very true facts around the time. The 2017 perspective also gives voice to the idea that even though your problems may seem small compared to the world’s problems, they are still very much real problems. We witness Abby begin to fall apart over small quiet moments that become large roaring problems in her life. Honestly, this was one of my favorite things about this novel because I feel like these days, it’s too common for people to neglect themselves because they think that their problems aren’t significant enough to need help in handling when the world sometimes seems like it’s on fire constantly.
This is definitely worthy of a read, and I highly recommend.
PULP by Robin Talley is out now.