I have to admit to being a little confused this month. For some reason I kept thinking that the “suggestion” for the TBR Challenge this month was “other genre besides romance”. My boss had given me the book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See and I was definitely interested in reading it. I started it and frankly it just wasn’t my thing. I’m sure it’s a lovely book but I just could get into it. So I decided to throw caution to the wind, be a rebel and NOT go with the suggested theme. *gasp* I know, I really know how to break out of the mold, don’t I? lol I picked up My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Imagine my surprise when I went over to Wendy’s blog and discovered that the ACTUAL theme (not the one in my head) was “Fairy tale themes (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella etc.)”. Yikes! After that discovery I sat down at the computer and looked at quite a few fairy tale themed lists discovering in the process that I didn’t have anything in my TBR that was fairy tale themed. I stuck with the Kluger. I’m so glad I did.
Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She's pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he's got a crush on a boy. It's not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it's totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.
TC and Augie have been best friends and brothers since they were six years old. TC’s mother had died and Augie was the person that helped TC deal with it in his own six year old way. Augie’s parents became Mom & Dad to TC and TC’s dad was Pop to both TC and Augie. When they were in 9th grade Alejandra came to live in their town of Brookline, Massachusetts.
TC, Augie and Alejandra (aka Alé) are now in the 11th grade and are assigned to write a paper on their Most Excellent Year. They all decide to write about their 9th grade year and the story takes off from there.
In 9th grade the kids were asked to start a diary/journal and write it to someone – kind of like Anne Frank addressed hers to “Dear Kitty”. TC decides to write his to his deceased mother. While some might think that a bit morbid it was one of the most touching things I’d ever read. He got to tell his mother everything that was going on in his life and ended every entry with “I Love You, TC.” I got teary on more than one occasion while reading TC journal.
TC writes about lots of different things in his journal but the main two are Alé and Hucky. He’s got it bad for Alé and is constantly trying to find ways to get her to like him. She detests him from the get go but as we read on we see how he kind of wears her down in his own wonderful way. He’s constantly trying different things that always backfire on him and my heart went out to his 14 year old self and his tale of woe. Then there was Hucky. Hucky was a six year old boy who knew – somewhat freakishly - which pitches to hit while TC was playing baseball. At first TC didn’t actually believe that Hucky was real (but someone sent by his mother to look out for him) but soon found out that there was much more to Hucky than he first thought. Hucky was a deaf child who lived at a children’s residence. Hucky was introverted and had a love like no other for Mary Poppins – believing since he was four that she would actually come to live with him. TC introduced Hucky to lots of different things and slowly brought him out of his shell with love and understanding.
Augie is a singer and dancer and writes in his journal entitling each entry “Diva of the Week” and writing to stars such as Liza Minelli, Lauren Bcall, and Angela Landsbury (to name just a few). Augie discovered in his 9th grade year that he was gay. Apparently everyone else knew but Augie hadn’t quite figured it out yet. When he did realize it it was because he started liking a boy, Andy Wexler. Andy and Augie’s relationship was heart-warming and hilarious at different times. His journal tells of his trials and tribulations in being a diva himself as well as directing his 9th grade talent show and acting and singing in the school play.
Alejandra is a diplomats daughter. She writes…at first, to Jacqueline Kennedy. That changes eventually but I don’t give you that particular spoiler as it’s just so good. Alé’s father finally settled down when she was in 9th grade and moved to Brookline so that he could work at Harvard. Her parents have incredibly high expectations for their daughter and her diplomatic future but as Alé writes in her journal – she’s a total diplomatic failure. She makes such massive faux pas that her brother Carlos has to constantly save her butt. Alé’s year was about following her dreams of dance and song and making decisions to break out of the mold that her parents have cast her in. Of course dealing with TC’s plots to get her as his girlfriend was a huge part of the journal as well. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
All three of the journals show us what great friends that the three become over that year of their life. Those entries also show us the incredible people that the trio will become when they grown up as they learn so much about themselves in that pivotal year in their life. The love, friendship and emotion is shown to us in such a strong way that you almost feel like you’re there watching it all happen rather than reading about it after the fact. Kluger is one of my all time favorite authors. Every one of his books hits me in an emotional way but each one in a different way. I laughed, I cried. I read parts to my 9 year old daughter and had her laughing and crying with me as well. I can’t recommend this book - or any book of Kluger’s for that matter – enough.