I Bought a Book from an Instagram Ad (We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds)
Updated: Mar 18
GENRE: YA CONTEMPORARY
LENGTH: 370 pages
Avery Anderson is uprooted in her senior year when her family moves to Bardell, Georgia to care for her ailing grandmother. As Avery begins to get to know her estranged grandmother, long buried family secrets come to light.
As a high school senior, Avery is experiencing what many young people go through; questioning decisions and desires they’ve had for years and rediscovering themselves. School and society expect 18 year olds to have everything figured out, but it’s Avery’s journey that is the more realistic path. I don’t think you’re ever too old to redefine yourself.
The two friends Avery makes in Bardell are Simone and Jade. Simone is Avery’s love interest and her story line is one of struggling with her sexuality and her fears of coming out. She isn’t reduced to her sexuality, however. She’s also bubbly and loves astrology. Jade is the quiet but reliable friend whose family are, unfortunately and disgustingly, racist (though worth noting Jade herself is not). These three girls become friends pretty immediately and there is a particular scene which was super cute and lighthearted. They have their ups and downs, though, as do all friend groups.
Avery’s grandmother, Mama Letty, is a complicated character. She experienced a traumatic event when she was pregnant with Avery’s mom and she kind of got stuck. She turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol to numb her pain. I was convinced I was going to strongly dislike Mama Letty because of her prickly personality, but the relationship she develops with Avery is very touching. She is the true beating heart of this book.
The novel is told through Avery’s first person perspective. This is interspersed with short (usually no longer than 2 pages) third person chapters that offer insight into the history of Bardell and its various residents. The novel touches on a lot of different themes including racism, sexuality, generational trauma, and grief and forgiveness. It’s a story that tells us it is never too late for redemption and to break the cycle. It never sugarcoats the hard parts of growing up or shies away from addressing some of the darker parts of our country’s history.
Without giving a lot away, there are parts of Avery’s story that are left incomplete by the novel’s conclusion. There are a lot of things about her future that feel uncertain still. On the surface this sounds like a bad thing, but for me it was actually a positive. It’s in fitting with the themes of her character and, like I said in the previous section, it feels more realistic and honest than a clear cut happily ever after. Avery’s story and real life both are combinations of healing and pain and searching and love.
When I saw the Instagram ad for this book what drew me in first was the title which I found quite striking. When I read in the synopsis that it dealt with generational trauma it immediately made me think of a historical fiction that I read the year before last (The Vanishing Half) that was one my top books of 2021. Even still, I was skeptical. Instagram isn’t the place I go to for book recommendations and normally I just scroll past them without a second glance. I’m so thankful that I took a chance with this book because it ended up in my top 10 (of the over 100 books) I read last year (2022). It’s well written and handles a lot of heavy topics with the appropriate level of care. This is a stellar debut and though I no longer read a lot of YA contemporaries I plan to follow Hammonds' career and wish her all the success she deserves.