Aren’t you excited? Today I am about to advance a book to the final round of the Nerds Heart YA Tournament.
I’m a little bit surprised with the outcome. I read the first book and had only just started the second, and I clearly thought that book number two might be the winner. I really loved reading the first book, but my attention started to wane a bit toward the end. I thought for sure it would be lovable but easily knocked out of its default position as the winner- being the only book that I had read at the time. That turned out to be wrong, really wrong. But it was a decision that took quite a bit of thinking to come to ultimately.
I read My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Kluger first. I really enjoyed the characters and their stories. The dialogue was fun and witty and the the teenagers had these really interesting lives and voices, and it was just fun. There were several story lines going on in this multi-narrator novel which caught my attention. It’s got a lot of love and fairytale elements. TC wants Ale to be his girlfriend and he comes off a little too cocky for her taste- setting up the drama of the will they or won’t the relationship that will be played out through out the rest of the book. Augie is TC’s fabulous and larger than life best friend who discovers that he is gay long after the rest of his family and friends have figured it out. They also know before he does who is is the boy of his dreams. When he figures it out as well, he has to see if he can get the guy while taking care of his best friends and staging the school talent show. Over the year chronicled these kids go through lots that show how loved and supported they are by their parents and how they are able to love and support each other and all help one another accomplish dreams that are close to their heart.
Next up was Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before, by David Woo. I really liked this book and its characters too. Albert Kim is funny, witty and suffering from severe social alienation which he has instigated himself after having such a hard time making and maintaining friendships. The plot here is familiar as Albert meets and wins the heart of one of the most popular girls in the school while working a summer job at a local hotel. True to form he isn’t able to enjoy that for very long before Mia’s ex-boyfriend is diagnosed with cancer and starts demanding a lot of time and attention. The suspense was wonderful/awful and had just the right intensity. There are very relatable themes of alienation, the struggle to fit in and finding and keeping love throughout this novel. Albert struggles to interact with his peers and Mia’s efforts to establish an identity outside of her boyfriend were engaging for a time, but the book dragged a bit faltered under Albert’s frustrating inability to connect, and what felt like a rushed ending marred a promising start.
That being said, it was hard for me to pick between these books. There were things that I loved about each of them while recognizing that they were both flawed. I loved that they both had diverse characters and/or featured and discussed alternative lifestyles. Both were comedies, but David Yoo’s book definitely had more angst going on. I think both lost their way a little in being a bit longer than they needed to be. Lack of compelling conflict slowed the story in My Most Excellent Year– , and plausibility issues did the same for me with Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before. The ending was also rushed and didn’t resolve or acknowledge any of the issues which came before. My Most Excellent Year did the better job of bringing the story to an end, and was more coherent. Things happened in Stop Me which I just didn’t believe.
And so there you have it, My Most Execllent Year has duked it out and made it to the final round! I am definitely more surprised than anybody.
How exciting! I can’t wait to see what it’s going up against.