Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publication: January 15th 2019 by Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+
Source: Public library
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.
Interesting, interesting, interesting. I get the hype, I really do.
Our Year of Maybe toys with some pretty dark ideas with characters that we aren’t used to thinking about those ideas. And that’s kind of what makes it so interesting.
Solomon’s strength in writing Our Year of Maybe is the way in which she chooses to convey her themes. She packs quite a bit into this approximately 400 page novel, including toxic co-dependent friendships, gratitude vs. love, bisexuality (and sexuality in general), and the difficulty of navigating social circles. The focus is primarily on how the friendship between Sophie and Peter changes post-kidney transplant, and while not everyone can relate to changes that major, these themes can largely be extrapolated to how relationships shift over time. Solomon, however, explores this at an extreme, with Peter literally exploring independence for the first time and Sophie being forced to do so when she realizes that her only friend isn’t always going to be there for her anymore. As the two grow to find new experiences, there is naturally some tension, but with the added link of a transplant between the two, Solomon grapples with the idea of gratitude as opposed to love.
Obviously, Peter and Sophie’s friendship runs deep, but Sophie’s massive crush on Peter complicates things, especially when she hopes deep down that Peter will reciprocate after her donation. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way and Peter ends up falling for a cute guitarist instead (which is incredibly cute and handled well), but Sophie ain’t happy about it. What I think was explored really well was how the co-dependent nature of Peter and Sophie’s relationship could have easily been slanted towards Peter. Contrary to expectation, Sophie ends up struggling with the changing nature of their relationships more. After years of rejecting her own opportunities in favor of time with Peter, being forced to confront those choices really showed Sophie how dependent she was on their friendship.
From there Solomon really dipped into exploring social personas, with Sophie feeling as if she was a different person around her dance team and Peter exploring his identity as a musician in a band setting as opposed to how they were together. It reminded me of something that I’ve talked about with friends before–how each and every person you will ever meet will have a different perspective on who you are because of the varied experiences you have with them. Of course, none of those individual “personas” invalidates others as people are all layered, but this concept as being the product of identity exploration is super interesting to me.
Solomon handles these themes with plenty of breadth and realism, which is the biggest positive draw of the book. While her writing isn’t perfect by any means, it’s the many many relatable moments throughout that make this novel ring so genuine. The moments of social panic (we’ve all been there), going to support a friend at a show, funny conversations with friends, and more, there’s just a sense of realness in each scene, even when other parts couldn’t realistically happen whatsoever. The book is kind of trippy in that way and I’m not entirely sure that this makes sense whatosever HAHA.
On her writing, I found it to be somewhat cheesy, riddled with cliches like “holding a breath I didn’t know I was holding” and prose that had the tendency to go corny. The first few scenes especially, what with the virginity pact made between our protagonists and Sophie’s extremely dramatic, laughably corny narration were off-putting. A gutsy choice of opening scene, especially when it’s those first few scenes that can be the difference between a reader putting a book down permanently or choosing to continue. And well I found Sophie obnoxious the entire time partially because of how dramatic she was, but well that’s also my internal monologue a lot of times so I suppose it is realistic. The pacing was also impacted by the writing. There’s only so much angsty teen dialogue I can take before I need the protagonists to get over themselves hah.
Other positives I would like to touch on include the sex-positivity and deft handling of LGBTQ characters. I love me some well-written characters that aren’t caricatures and authors that continue to destigmatize masturbation and sexual exploration in healthy ways.
So overall, a good time? It’s definitely not a personal favorite, but I found the themes refreshing and the pacing good enough to keep me interested.
Yagirl is RUSTY when it comes to book reviews because this is kind of a mess? But that’s aight! Mostly just have really enjoyed reading over winter break and felt like it was time for a trip down memory lane in the form of a book review.