Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Pre-order it here.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
From the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone comes a stunning contemporary novel that examines the complicated aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends.
Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.
** I received a free ARC of Our Year of Maybe in exchange for an honest review**
Wow. This book was incredible. I couldn’t stop reading it, but unlike other books, there weren’t sections to skim over to get to the good parts– the story was tight with dialogue and action but not so much it was overwhelming.
The characters were strong and well-rounded, unique but not perfect (in the best way). Their actions were understandable and motivated and their feelings felt real without being smothering. Even the minor characters, like the parents, felt alive in the few scenes they got and were clearly separate entities rather than just One of The Parents. The writing itself was strong, the dialogue genuine, and the plot realistic without being cliche.
I loved that this book took on a lot of topics that are not always covered in YA literature, but treated them as Things That Happen rather than Big Deals. For one, the main characters are Jewish (as opposed to the classic Christian protagonist) but are apologetically struggling to figure out how (and if) that defines them, as well as what role they want religion to take in their lives. (And, unlike some stories, there is no clear answer, or a right or wrong decision). Furthermore, the main male protagonist, Peter, is bi but the book is not a Coming Out Book where his sexuality Defines Who He Is, just as sexuality does not define one in real life. He doesn’t know everything about being bi, or queer culture, nor does he need to be a PhD level expert in both by the books end in order to justify his place in the queer community.
The idea of recovery from illness (and the struggles as well as opportunities it brings) is a topic that is not explored as much as the idea of Fighting Illness and Being Cured. Indeed, we often focus on survival, when often surviving can be the beginning of a larger challenge– living, especially when the way you view yourself (and your life) has changed immensely. Indeed, surviving does not guarantee an easy road ahead, something Our Year of Maybe emphasizes. Relationships change, for better or worse, and one must figure out how they fit into the world and how they want the world to fit them.
All in all, this is a great book- both as a writer and a reader. It is a great story, created through great prose and writing, that tackles tough issues in the way they were meant to be tackled. Anyone looking for an example of how to write a great YA book, or anyone looking to read one should pick up Our Year of Maybe.
In terms of the end, I both loved it and wished it was different. I know it is the right ending for this book. Peter and Sophie shouldn’t be together– because their relationship wasn’t as healthy as they initially thought it was (and literature shouldn’t condone such things, just because its Romantic or Poetic- in this THANK YOU RACHEL, the book world needs more stories like this), because relationships don’t work out just because you’ve been through a lot together or love each other or whatnot, and because you can’t be in a great relationship until you know who you are on your own. Also, while bi characters (and people) can be in heterosexual relationships without denying that part of them, they can also be in same-sex relationships and have a happy ending.
For these reasons I’m glad it ended the way it did.
But, of course, I would have liked it to have worked out, especially because I hate that she gave him everything- her time, her kidney, etc– and he gives her basically nothing in return. This is especially true since it seems to be a common theme in our society– women giving everything just to get some semblance of attention/love/respect in return. Having said that, though, I think Rachel does a great job in making sure the book does not condone this behavior and showing that it doesn’t end well to go about love in this way.