Dec 3, 2008

My Most Excellent Year

Steve Kluger, My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park, 2008, Dial Books.

Written as a mix of school assignments, letters, emails, instant
messages, and diaries this book revolves around the memories of friends Anthony, Augie, and Alejandra who recall their 9th grade year when they each fell in love, fought, and found out who they really were. Anthony finally comes to term with the death of his mother by bonding with a deaf-kid named Huckey, Augie accepts his sexuality and Alejandra realizes she wants to be a Broadway actress rather than follow in the diplomatic footsteps of her entire family. Interspersed with the teenagers accounts are emails between various adult figures in their lives who comment on the changes these teens are going through.

This was an unusual book as one almost expected it to be a "guy" book despite the title's inclusion of love and Mary Poppins. This was not true. It was more of a book that one could see appealing to teens of both genders, however I do think that probably more girls than guys would read it because of the cover and the format which is popular among "teen girl" books. That being said it was a great read. The characters felt real, relatable, and their lives possible. My only beef is that the story is set in Brookline, Massachusetts and since I live in Brookline it was annoying to try to figure out what his new names for places in Coolidge Corner were. For example, was The Word Shop meant to be The Brookline Booksmith? Things like that irritate me in books, why couldn't he just use the real names? I'm not familiar with the NYC underground music scene but it seemed to me that David Levithan and Rachel Cohn did an okay job with using the real places in NYC as the setting for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The other slighter beef was that Augie's love for show tunes combined with his subsequent coming out seemed a bit too "stereotypical gay teen boy" for my taste. Fortunately the relationship between Augie and his bf transcended anything stereotypical.

I'm not sure the teenage boys I know would like this book, but I would certainly be willing to pull it out as a recommendation to anyone looking for a good fictional book.

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