Review Chasing Nirvana by Elyn Oaksmith

I’m always on the lookout for more books that feature characters with low-income households because I don’t know a single person who isn’t. So when I read Chasing Nirvana’s blurb with this and a MC is into girls, and it’s set in the 90s? Could. Not. Resist.

I received this book for free from YA Bound Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review Chasing Nirvana by Elyn OaksmithTitle: Chasing Nirvana
Author: Ellyn Oaksmith
Pub. Date: November 3rd 2017
Genres: Young Adult
Format: ebook
Pages: 364
Goodreads Amazon|| B&N|| TBD

A girl, a band and a dream. And another girl.

Fran Worth is just another girl trying to make it through senior year in Aberdeen, Washington. But it's 1993 and Fran is gay. Her comfortably off the radar life turns vividly public when a student nominates Fran for prom queen. When confronted by angry parents Fran refuses to back down, promising to deliver her hometown heroes in hopes of winning prom queen votes.

Fran heads out on a 24 hour road trip to Daily City, California with four friends, including her crush who may or may not be gay. Their plan? To sneak backstage to ask Kurt Cobain and Nirvana to come home and play prom. No problem. Unless something goes wrong.

About Ellyn Oaksmith

Elyn Oaksmith Author PicI graduated from Smith College and have a very expensive MFA from The American Film Institute. Some writers will tell you that their MFA was a waste of money. I won't. It gave me great editorial skills and colorful, crazy experiences working as a screenwriter in LA. Cooking on fishing boats in Alaska paid my tuition. Screenwriting and working in the middle of the Bering Sea have a lot in common: hard work, unpredictability and occasionally both make you want to scream.

Besides my family and friends, I love rescue dogs, cats, cooking, baking, open water swimming, kayaking and reading, reading, reading, reading. Did I mention reading?

FYI: Bigotry, Slurs, Hate Crimes, Rape threats and attempt, Japanese stereotypes, brief mentions of the song “Rape Me”. 

Aberdeen reminds me SO MUCH of where I grew up in Michigan with closed mills and factories.  With Fran’s experiences not fitting in with other girl’s questions about crushes really hit home for me too. I just started picking the lead singers of the boy bands and going with the flow. If I’d had this book growing up, I would’ve def. realized some things that I’m still working through a lot earlier.

Some More Good Stuff:

  • Goodwill – I’m literally writing this after getting home from a shopping trip there with my daughter. We found some great stuff like a $10 dress (with pockets!), 13 bucks for brand new Calvin Klein work pants, and pair of tennis shoes. Of course, selection is based off donations, which depends on the neighborhood. Living a big city now gives way more options than small communities.
  • Food banks – I’ve had to use these so often as a teen and young mom. Calling them life savers is an understatement. Of course, there’s some people that resist going because they’re embarrassed and don’t want to admit they need help. My dad has that in common with Fran’s mom, which is why I didn’t even know about them until I was on my own.
  • Fran’s a photography nerd. Adorable. Talented. <3
  • Nikki, Fran’s BFF – Her POV is interesting. She does say, like stuff, a lot. It faded into the background for me and just became part of Nikki. I love how she’s loud and combative and headstrong and plays soccer and dives into things wholeheartedly and half-throughout. She doesn’t worry about Fran’s gayness at all. She is a bit obtuse about the income disparity between them though.
  • Found Families – Fran has Nikki’s family, and the Garcia’s and her road trip crew and some supportive teachers. So many d’awwww moments.
  • Writing celebrities is tricky and dangerous, it can go bad very quickly. This time? I researched to see if it was based on a true story. I’d love to hear how Oaksmith researched and pulled it off. Like, did she talk to Grohl about the book?! (Okay, Krist was so background but he seems like that kinda guy I guess?)
  • Paul, Nikki’s Crush – He’s adorable in a stupid boy boyscout kinda way. His POV is sometimes gross, but always needed. The dynamic wouldn’t be the same and I doubt readers would forgive and understand without it.
    • The m/f romance got the most space, but maybe it was for the best given other issues….
  • Road Trip – OMG that dynamic was dramatic and the problems funny/not-funny. If you find yourself bored, tired of Aberdeen or need some forward movement, this part makes it allllll worth it.
  • Nirvana Concert. Nuff’ said. 
  • Realistic, happyish, hopeful ending. 

The Biggest Drawbacks:

  • There’s only one thing that kinda derails the road trip plot — I thought Mike got the tickets so Nikki’s whole plan doesn’t make any sense.?
  • Allison and her family, well her mom anyways since we never see the dad, are such stereotypes. While Allison and Fran joke about it, pointing it out, that doesn’t solve anything. We didn’t even find out what Allison was doodling all the time.

Want to check out a sample of Chasing Nirvana? Download a three chapter sample here:


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Anyone who comments on any of the blogs during the tour is eligible to win one of 30 e-book copies of Chasing Nirvana.

Anyone who signs up for the Author’s newsletter during the blog tour at this link:  will enter to win one of 5 signed copies of the paperback.


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  1. Ellyn Oaksmith on

    Thanks for hosting and for your review. Love your comments. To answer your question about research, I live in Seattle and many of my friends were in the Nirvana world and have talked to me about it over the years. One was even in a band that opened for him on tour. Plus, there are so many interviews and books about Kurt Cobain. I’ve had some friends who met him say that I got him right — he was funny and smart but completely burnt out at the time Fran met him. Thanks again.

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