Friday, April 25, 2008

Mock Printz: My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park

Title: My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park
Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: Dial Books, 2008
ISBN: 9780803732278
Starred Review: SLJ

In this fun romantic comedy, three Brookline (MA) teens share heartwarming, trying and completely hilarious experiences centering on a year in their high school lives. Disarming Anthony Conigliaro “TC” Keller is a big fan of baseball and of the quick-witted new girl Ale’ Perez (a former-diplomat’s daughter seemingly immune to TC’s charms). TC’s incandescent “brother” Augie Hwong comes to the realization he’s gay after falling for classmate Andy, meanwhile supportive family and friends knew before Augie did. The Keller and Hwong clans have merged into a dynamic and loving family where readers will clamor for a seat at their Thanksgiving table. In alternating chapters, the three protagonists tell their story through emails, IMs, homework essay entries, memos and letters (written to TC’s deceased mother, various musical divas and Jacqueline Kennedy). Thrown in the mix are emails to/from/between the adults in their lives, sports articles, playbills and the occasional scathing theater review by Augie’s mother. In the course of this freshman “most excellent” year the teens risk their hearts, make lasting friendships, play ball, face fears, build obscenely large school projects, take the stage, adopt others into their hearts (and homes), realize who they are and what they want, crash Broadway to meet Julie Andrews and (wielding impressive political astuteness) bring baseball back to the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Most Excellent Year is one of those books that left me grinning. The characters, whether main or supporting, are people I wish I knew. The protagonists are bright teens with big hearts and strong loyalties. Apart from having each other, their humor, wit and sometimes surprising maturity all come in handy when they’re faced with heartache, insecurities and other obstacles. I liked Ale’s reluctance to fall into TC’s arms, her gradual realization he was decent guy and they could learn from each other. I also liked how Augie’s coming out was one thing that wasn’t made into a production (and Augie is big on productions). Augie and his family/friends knew the score. They were wondering if his being gay was something that needed to be “announced” (like with some formal decorative card). Or in this more accepting climate and in their supportive homes, if it was about as necessary as TC announcing he was straight and in love with Ale’. Some readers might lose patience with the multi-format narration but most people, teens included, get info from so many different mediums in a single day it might actual draw reluctant readers in. While, admittedly, there are definite elements (i.e. Hucky and Mary Poppins) of the unreal and the “you’re kidding”, it’s all part of the fun. And this book is fun. Besides, what’s wrong in believing in that human-brand magic of friendship and love? Something that doesn’t require a wand, just some trust and well meaning.

1 comment:

Carlie said...

Danielle, I finally finished this last night and I very much enjoyed it. From my blog:

Let's start with a downer, because really, there are many uppers: This is not a perfect book. It drags through the middle and the storyline about Hucky, especially in the end, is pretty contrived. But I was willing to overlook a lot of that (and you should, too) because Augie, Alejandra, and T.C. are warm, caring and delightfully over the top. Tired of patrons who complain that all teen books are depressing? Give them this book and prove them wrong. T.C. and Augie's friendship is unwavering; they overlook the petty things in favor of their loyalty to each other. Although T.C.'s mother is dead and this is a source of angst for him, he always thinks fondly of her and wants his single dad to be happy. Alejandra uses her diplomatic skills to stand up for herself and show her parents that she's taken control of her own life. Augie's parents have known forever that he's gay, and they support him no matter what. Most importantly, this book is a terrific study in what it means to love someone and the many facets love has. (And woe to English for only having one word for "love!") Love comes in many forms in this story, from crushes to missing a family member to a deep bonding of souls to helping someone less fortunate than you. In the end, everyone loves and is loved, and that leaves the reader with a happy feeling. Which I think is something we could all use more of.