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Title: Our Year of Maybe
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Simon Teen
Category: Young Adult
Release date: January 15, 2019
Synopsis: “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 blurry, 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.”
Last year, Rachel Lynn Solomon’s debut YA contemporary novel You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone blew me away with its unflinchingly honest look at sisterhood, Jewish identity, health, and growing up. Her 2019 release, Our Year of Maybe, is undoubtedly an equal match of masterfully crafted characters, gorgeous prose, and an incredibly important story.
Our Year of Maybe explores many complex themes all at once—organ donation, self, unrequited love, sexuality, queerness, religion; this could have easily become messy, but under Rachel Lynn Solomon’s deft hand, it is a skillfully woven novel that is rich and real. She writes about chronic health conditions with care, and created two equally moving perspectives.
Peter has spent most of his life under the watchful eye of his parents, and in post-transplant life, he returns to public school for the first time in years; there, he gets to explore who he is outside of his friendship with Sophie. Peter, who is bisexual and is out to his parents but not Sophie, is drawn to a classmate and fellow musician named Chase. It’s the first time Peter has played music with other musicians and the first time he meets other queer teens, and it becomes a pivotal experience for him. Solomon captures how formative queer community can be for teens, and how these new friendships become intimate in a way quite different from that with Sophie. Meanwhile, Sophie begins to form friendships with the girls on her dance team, who she’d always held at arm’s length because she thought Peter was the only friend she needed. It’s heartbreaking to watch Peter and Sophie both feel tremendous guilt over growing outside of their friendship—Peter feels like he can never repay Sophie for what she did, and Sophie still holds on to the possibility of something more. Solomon also offers flashbacks to reveal more about Sophie and Peter’s relationship, which added so much depth to their story.
Solomon is incredibly skilled at creating lovable, flawed, and multi-dimensional characters. Sophie and Peter both felt so real, and their alternating perspectives were handled quite well, with each of them having a distinct voice and being driven by different passions (Peter for piano, and Sophie for dance). Sophie has been raised in a practicing Jewish family, while Peter is half-Jewish and longs to explore what that means for him. This juxtaposition of experiences within the Jewish community was lovely, and a reminder that there is no one single way to be of faith. For myself, as a queer half-Jewish reader, Peter felt so close to my heart and I felt so seen when reading his chapters. Sophie also has dyslexia, and this representation was presented in a positive way that didn’t treat her dyslexia as a problem, but rather, just part of her life. Sophie listens to audiobooks, and I love that OYOM asserted that listening to audiobooks IS reading.
The supporting characters were also well-developed, from Peter and Sophie’s respective families to Peter’s bandmates to the dance team. There was so much positive representation in this novel, including the own-voices Jewish rep, dyslexia rep, bisexual rep, Asian-American rep, multiracial rep, and teen parent rep. Sophie and her sister Tabitha, a 17 year-old parent of a toddler, have never been close, and I adored reading about them trying to understand each other and build a tenuous relationship. Though not the main story, this plot line really shone bright.
Readers who enjoyed Rachel Lynn Solomon’s 2018 debut novel You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone will love Our Year of Maybe without a doubt, and it’ll leave them eagerly waiting for her next one. It’s also perfect for fans of Autoboyography by Christina Lauren, This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow, and readers of Brandy Colbert.
Our Year of Maybe is an outstanding YA contemporary that captures the pain of unrequited love and friendship growing pains, while delivering an authentic look at Jewish identity and queerness. It’ll make you root for Peter and Sophie to find their way back to each other, but also, to find their own way apart from one another. It’s an intense novel that gives plenty of room to cry, but also has so many smile-inducing moments, like chinchillas taking dust baths, prank calls to hotel room service, and graphic-novel inspired Halloween costumes. Our Year of Maybe is truly a must-read, and the novel you’ll wish would never end.
Thank you to Simon Teen for the review copy!