My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger 2008
IQ "I figured out that it's not just the people we love, but the people we let love us back who us how high we can really soar." Augie pg. 391
My Most Excellent Year is told in alternating viewpoints of Anthony Conigliaro Keller (called T.C.), Alejandra Perez (Ale) and Augie Hwong. Augie is T.C.'s best friend (he is the only one allowed to call T.C. "Tick") and they've been brothers since they were six (after T.C.'s mom died). They are not biologically related but try telling them that (they get stares when they say they are brother since Augie's Chinese and T.C. is white, but they get around that by saying they have different mothers). Augie is passionate about musical theater and soccer. He's also gay and everyone knows it except him. Ale is the daughter of a former ambassador and she has so many connections. She's also really into musical theater, but she's never considered it anything more than a hobby, she is going to become a diplomat or government official. All T.C. wants to do is make Ale fall in love with him and save Bucky Weaver (you'll have to read this book if you don't know who that is). Add in a large spoonful of Mary Poppins, a deaf boy named Hucky and Japanese American interment camps and you will have yourself My Most Excellent Year.
This book is hilarious. Within the first few pages I was already chuckling as T.C. explains that every member of his family has the name of a famous Red Sox player "I even have an Aunt Babe and an Aunt Ruth. (This was 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). " (pg. 2) Ale, T.C. and Augie are the greatest group of friends. Witty, kind, loyal and a tad bit insane. They do some frustrating things (Ale made me finally understand why guys think girls are so impossible to understand. I didn't even always understand her reasoning on issues of romance, and I'm a girl!) but almost always redeem themselves. This is one of the rare YA novels where the parents don't fade into the background. We meet Augie's surreal parents (both accept the fact that he's gay without question, they always know what to say and his mother trashes every Broadway play that comes to town), T.C.'s engineer father (his romantic endeavors are so cute and he's so supportive of T.C.), and Ale's parents (her father was an ambassador to Mexico, I'm not sure what her mother does). Ale's parents weren't as prominent as Augie and T.C.'s but we learned more about them than usual for a YA novel. Ale, Augie and T.C. have to keep a diary during their freshman year for their English class. Augie writes to a different diva every week (ranging from Angela Lansbury to Judy Garland), T.C. writes to his mother and Ale writes to Jacqueline Kennedy. These diaries provide an intimate look at their thought process and help keep the story moving.
I have two minor quibbles with this book; the adventures the kids have and the baseball references. This book isn't the most realistic in portraying the escapades of high school freshman. These kids are too perfect (learning sign language in a week, while in school? Right). However, they are also original and really funny which makes up for their amazing academic and athletic abilities. They also have fantastic parent(s) who are laid back and very unique (and rich. It's never explicitly stated except in the case of Ale, but they all must have had a lot of money and time on their hands). Parents really do shape their children and if these kids hadn't ended up with the parents they did (and if it wasn't a book), this book wouldn't be nearly as good. In hindsight, the impracticality of this book should have annoyed me, but it didn't. Everything just flows so well, you don't question it. Most importantly, we all know the Yankees are better than the Red Sox :) Seriously though, there are a lot of baseball references and I'm not the biggest fan of baseball, so many of the references went over my head, but I learned a lot.
My Most Excellent Year contains a wonderful air of incredulity but readers will be so charmed by all the characters, the swift moving plot and the setting of Brookline, MA that they won't mind. The IMS, emails, letters and newspaper articles all add to this story and give a better idea of the events and characters. The humor will delight readers and the actions of the characters are truly inspiring and very touching. Readers will walk away from this book knowing a lot about Broadway and its divas, the Red Sox and knowing that they will have to decide whose better: Jack Kennedy or Bobby Kennedy? (It's hard to say, but I choose Jack)
Disclosure: I'm a Cubs fan first, Yankees 2nd, no room for Sox of any kind (White Sox on a very very bad day). From the library
PS Sorry for such a long review but I LOVED this book. I want to re read it and fall in love all over again. I'll have to go out and buy it.