My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park

by Steve Kluger | Teens |
ISBN: 0142413437 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 11/14/2014
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, November 14, 2014
I really love Kluger's work, so I was glad to find this fair-condition ex-library softcover at Better World Books for another release copy.

I've adored Steve Kluger's work since I first stumbled upon Changing Pitches, and have enjoyed his later books, Almost Like Being in Love and the wonderful Last Days of Summer. In contrast to the previous novels, this book's aimed at a young-adult audience, but just reading the flyleaf made me smile, and it's definitely up to the standard I've come to expect from Kluger.

For a sample, here's the jacket blurb (from the hardcover edition):

***
TCKeller: What's "flap copy" anyway?
AugieHwong: It's what they put on a book jacket to tell you what's inside, you rock-head. We can use the one from Liza Minnelli's bio as a template.
TCKeller: Or not.
AlePerez: This is positively mortifying. They were just supposed to be classroom essays! I can't believe the entire world is about to find out how I played Anthony like a violin for five months.
TCKeller: I let you do that. Hey, why don't we open the flap with a quote about the 1918 Red Sox--
AugieHwong: No way, dude. If you're looking for a warm-up act, we open with Bette Davis in All About Eve.
AlePerez: Hello? Jacqueline Kennedy would be a far more appealing, not to mention intelligent, choice. Besides, I outrank both of you.
TCKeller: Oh, yeah? I have a Carlton Fisk rookie card.
AugieHwong: I have Angela Lansbury's autograph.
AlePerez: I have a Secret Service agent.
TCKeller: Guys! Why don't we just forget the flap copy and start at the very beginning?
AugieHwong: A very good place to start...

***

I liked the author's bio, too:
"Unlike Hucky Harper, Steve Kluger turned six years old long before iPods (but well after they invented Oreos). When he was in fifth grade, he read A Wrinkle in Time and immediately wrote a fan letter to Madeleine L'Engle, who replied, 'I wouldn't be surprised if you grew up to be an author yourself.' Rather than argue the point (he'd always seen himself as the next Ethel Merman instead), he took her advice. He has believed in the Boston Red Sox and Mary Poppins for his entire life, although once in a while he's been tempted to think twice about the Red Sox."


I wouldn't rate this one quite as high as Kluger's for-adults books, but I still enjoyed it very much. It's blessedly low-angst - in fact, maybe a bit TOO low-angst, given that the main characters are all teenagers {wry grin} - and is loaded with likeable characters and entertaining situations, all framed in the form of a junior-year project: the students have been keeping journals since freshman year, and most of the events of the story unfold via those writings, as well as emails and text messages between the main characters (and, in some cases, their parents - not sure how those wound up in the class project!).

TC is a Boston-bred lad from a Red-Sox-mad family; everyone's named after Red Sox players. ["TC" stands for Tony Conigliaro, and "I even have an Aunt Babe and an Aunt Ruth... a lucky coincidence. They met thirty-eight years ago at a Bobby Kennedy rally in Rockport and they've been together ever since. Aunt Babe swears they would have fallen in love even if Aunt Ruth's name had been Sheba, but I'm not so sure."] TC lost his mother to cancer when he was 6, and has chosen to address his school-project journal to her.

Augie Hwong is of Chinese descent. His mother specializes in acidic reviews of musical theater (she refers to "Carousel" as "music to beat your wife by" {snerk!}). His choice of journal-recipient is his "diva of the week," from Liza-with-a-Z to Angela Lansbury, and his own flamboyant nature and fascination with musical theater and dresses with lots of sequins and feathers on them suggests that, when he finally comes out, nobody is going to be very surprised.

Alejandra Perez is the precocious daughter of a former ambassador to Mexico, and so for her, attending public school is a bit of a culture shock. [It's a bit of a shock for the other kids, too; she's the first person they've met who has her own Secret Service agent!] Oh, and TC falls for her at first sight, but his courtship methods don't - initially - impress her much. [Three guesses how that works out!]

The events that unfold in this book include such relatively mundane ones as schoolwork, sports, and who's dating (or wants to date) whom, and some offbeat ones such as the mysterious little blond kid who starts tipping TC off as to what pitch to expect when he's batting. Just where Fenway Park and Mary Poppins come in to all this will be made plain as the book progresses, and the various romantic subplots work themselves out in a highly satisfactory manner. In fact, if I have a quibble about the book, it's that everyone and everything are maybe a wee bit TOO nice, pleasant, clever, and {gulp} sensitive - not that people can't be that way, but it seems rare for even the best-intentioned to manage it so consistently for so long!

But if you allow for a certain level of "fable" there, I think the book works very well, and I enjoyed it, especially as the various plot threads began to come together near the end. Along the way, there were lots of bits of regional humor that appealed to me but might make no sense to anyone who hasn't spent time in or around Boston. (Example: trivia discussion items at family hour included "why Route 128 is also I-95 South and I-93 North. And how." That's a question I'd asked myself after being baffled by area road signs, but those outside of the 128 circle might find it rather dull.)

There are some wonderful scenes of families and friends just hanging out, cracking each other up over small things. And the parent-child communication here is truly marvelous, from gentle teasing to remarkable sensitivity over things like dating and coming out and such. [In some cases this, too, borders on the too-good-to-be-true, but it's all so sweet and ordinary-seeming that I can't help hoping there are more of these types of families out there than the media or pop culture would lead one to believe.] The bit where Augie's parents try to explain the basics of football to him in musical-comedy terms had me howling, even as it made a certain eerie sense: "turnover: what happened to anyone who upstaged Ethel Merman".

There's a subplot involving lobbying for a cause - reinstating a banned ballplayer in one case, adding a ballpark at the Japanese relocation center at Manzanar for another - and the book's references to methods, from web sites to contacting senators and reporters could be a blueprint for any clever and motivated folk with their own issues to espouse. [Did I mention how bright, energetic, etc. this cast of characters is?]

Random bits that may give you some idea how off-the-wall this can be:

o "He's definitely ready for Snow White and the Little Foxes."

o "I'm sorry, but I just can't sing a song called 'I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.' I have a NOW card."

o All About Eve action figures.

If that last one doesn't sell you, I give up. {grin}

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, November 17, 2014

Released 4 yrs ago (11/17/2014 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

I'm adding this book to KateKintail's YA bookbox, which will be on its way to its next stop soon. Hope someone enjoys it!

Journal Entry 3 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Thursday, December 11, 2014
This book enjoyed a brief stop in San Jose, CA before continuing its journey in the YA Bookbox!

Journal Entry 4 by wingKateKintailwing at Burke, Virginia USA on Sunday, April 19, 2015
This came home in my YA Bookbox. Thank you!

You write the BEST journal entries, Gory!

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