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My Most Excellent Year- Most Excellent

December 12, 2008

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park
Steve Kluger
Dial Books
March 2008$16.95
416 Pages
I picked this up at the library because Sassymonkey reviewed it on her book blog.
I was hooked from the first chapter. And I finished it. That night. Wound up staying up rather stupendously late, actually. Because I just did not want to leave all the characters behind. Even for something like sleep.
The story centers around three friends: TC Keller (also called Anthony, or Tick), his brother Augie, and Alejandra, or Alle. They alternate chapters telling the story of their “Most Excellent” ninth grade year. And what a year! Augie spends the year figuring out that he’s gay, figuring first love out, and worshiping divas from Judy Garland to Liza Minnelli to Julie Andrews. TC launches a campaign to win Ale, learns sign language, and makes baseball history. Ale has problems of her own- convincing her parents that she’s not diplomatic material, at all, and convincing herself not to fall in love with TC.

The three share the story in alternating chapters. And that’s one of the things Kluger does right. It’s an ensemble cast telling the story, each person quirky, flawed, goofy, sometimes insecure, and hopeful. Even the grownups are fully human, endearing adult characters, which is not something I’ve seen in nearly enough YA novels.

TC and Augie aren’t brothers in the usual sense. They adopt each other, after TC’s mom dies, and TC’s dad and Augie’s parents blur together as an extended, loving family. I especially loved that sense of friendship and chosen family bond, that they all work on, messily and hopefully.
It’s a goofy, honest, wonderful novel. I want to buy it for at least three people.

And if, somehow, all that doesn’t grab you— it’s the only place I’ve ever seen football explained via classic Broadway theater. Genius!

Stay tuned- I have nominated this book for a Cinderella Award, and will be hosting the awards ceremony here on my blog, early next year.

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