Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.
Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.
Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.
When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.
And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.
Books set over the course of 24 hours (or any short period of time) have a certain propulsion that is unmatched. Even with my INTENSELY busy schedule, having added 5-10 hours of work to each week, I listened to This Is All Your Fault every night and every morning while walking my sweet dog, Mary Puppins, and I have to say that we both thoroughly enjoyed this novel. When I wasn’t listening to the audiobook, I took every chance I could to devour this quick story on my Kindle.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is not intensely plot heavy with many twists and turns, but it focuses on the importance of independent bookstores and the reach and experience of creators in the online book community in a way that is not cloyingly sweet, which is the fault of some meta-type book-focused books. At many points, I felt like the characters understood my experience. Of course, with book-focused books, there is a requirement for readers to suspend disbelief for some aspects of the story, but in a way that provides comfort and resolution eventually.
This Is All Your Fault follows the lives of three young women who work at the Wild Nights Bookstore: Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen. Rinn is half Latinx and half White, and makes Booktube-equivalent videos. Daniella is the golden girl of the business. She has a lot responsibility on her shoulders and looks cool, calm, and collected, but inside, she experiences anxiety and panic attacks, and expresses herself through poetry, which she is deeply attached to. Imogen is Middle Eastern, and queer, and throughout her story, we see the ways depression affects her life.
My favorite and least favorite part is the eerie parallel to the current American economic situation. Small businesses are in danger of closing, and many locally owned businesses, including bookstores who do an amazing job of promoting independent authors and authors who identify with marginalized communities, have unfortunately closed already. An example is The Strand in New York (as a side note, please support them if you can!). There is a strong emphasis on the danger of capitalist obsession and the extreme danger of prioritizing profit over life, and how large corporations and big box companies dominate the industry even more during times like this. The heartbreak and desperation at times is so upsetting, and it made me want to support our local businesses even more.
I also loved each girl’s different connection to books and interacting with others through reading. Daniella communicates and expresses herself privately through her poetry and there is a part of her that fears vulnerability and her poetry being released to the world in a way that feels uncomfortable. She also has strong feelings for a boy named AJ who also works there, and at the beginning, it is unclear whether he reciprocates those feelings. We see her struggle with vulnerability and self-esteem again here, and her anxiety is so relatable for me, because it overcomes her body, inducing nausea, and sometimes vomiting. It is incredibly difficult for her to regulate herself again, and I really felt this.
Like Rinn, I am (was?) also a Booktuber. I am a super-perfectionist, so it was important to me that I had lighting that I approved of. However, she also acknowledges in the book that being able to choose these visual aspects is a privilege that not everyone has, and in that way, being popular on Booktube has a huge tie to privilege, perhaps moreso than other platforms, although there has been a lot of discussion on this topic in the community. Her experience with reading differs slightly from Daniella’s in that her relationship with books is both personal and outward-facing in that she aims to have reach in her promotion of books and eventually Wild Nights Bookstore. The pressure she feels always having to keep her “face on” and her statistics up, and to be constantly errorless, is something that I think a lot of creators feel.
Like the other two girls, I also found Imogen’s story super relatable. When the book opens, she enters the back room with long hair, and emerges from the bathroom with a shaved head. She has depression and is impulsive, passionate, and unedited. The writing in her parts was immaculate and more lyrical and deep than the other two girls, but they had much in common working towards the common goal of saving Wild Nights.
Ultimately, This Is All Your Fault is a story that feels quick-paced because of the short total timeline, but is actually more character-focused than plot-focused and I think this is so well thought out by Aminah Mae Safi, because it allows readers to feel close to the characters without bogging down the movement and interest. It is timely, especially within the context of this horrible year, and is comforting in a slightly meta but unflinching way, that really says “I see you” to readers, whether it be with the mental health presented, or the connection with books and reading, and a small community working at an indie bookstore.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
This Is All Your Fault is incisive, timely, and genuine. It also is relatable for readers who are involved in the book community, or who may be afraid to show vulnerability to others despite having such an important story and voice to share.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: Three girls Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen, along with their co-workers, work together to save an independent bookstore from closing due to financial difficulty, while working through their own mental health and life challenges.
Genre: YA contemporary
Trigger/content warning: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sexual harassment