ARC Review: Our Year of Maybe
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA contemporary
Publication date: January 15, 2019
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.
**Disclaimer: I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley**
I read Rachel Lynn Solomon’s debut You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone last year, and while the premise itself didn’t immediately appeal to me, the execution sure was amazing. The same is true of her second book, Our Year of Maybe, full of complex characters, heartbreaking situations, and nuanced explorations of Judaism.
First of all, despite the book’s length (almost 400 pages) and serious subject matter–a kidney transplant, Sophie’s unrequited love–I found it addicting. I just had to know what happened! And when I thought I knew where it was going, something else would happen. (But ultimately, I think it ended in a satisfying place.)
The kidney disease and transplant situation seemed well-researched, and overall the book deals with chronic disabilities. Peter isn’t “cured” because of the transplant–he has to take medication–but his life does drastically change. Sophie, meanwhile, also has to take meds and monitor herself. Meanwhile, Sophie also has dyslexia, which impacted her growing up and still does, as she listens to audiobooks of required reading for school and takes a little longer to read Instagram captions. I loved the inclusion of these details. (Sophie is also such a big social anxiety mood.)
The story as a whole deals with the difficulties and problems of unrequited love, of feeling that someone “owes” you, and of having a codependent friendship that is perhaps no longer necessary and now unhealthy. The issues that arise are not glossed over (it maybe even goes a little further than necessary in exploring things). As the characters develop, they are pushed into new situations and ultimately grow as people…yeah, I don’t want to say more without spoiling anything!
The atmosphere of the novel is also well-realized. It takes place in Seattle, and we come to know the families and home situations of both characters well. I particularly liked how they each had their own experiences with Judaism–Sophie isn’t particularly religious, while Peter is half-Jewish and becomes interest in going to synagogue with his father. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Sophie and her sister, who is younger but has a one-year-old child. Also, this book made my “YA Books that Describe the Magic of Music” post for a reason! Sophie is a choreographer and Peter is a pianist who becomes involved in a band, and I LOVED the many references and general vibe of the music scenes.
Lastly, Our Year of Maybe has a mature attitude toward teenage sexuality and relationships. It allows its characters to experience pleasure, and we LOVE consent! And discussions with parents! Peter is also bisexual and has known this–although he has never found the right time to mention it to Sophie. I liked this, but the simplified mentions of it were all of the “I like boys and girls” variety, without any mentions of those who fall outside of the gender binary (which, yes, many people who identify as bi are attracted to!). This is a pattern I’m noticing in quite a few reads and it’s become frustrating.
So if you want a book that’s addicting, heartbreaking, and moving, Our Year of Maybe is a great bet!