Last night I finished My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger. It was, indeed, a novel of all those things, and so much more.
Three teens share their ninth grade year through diary entries, emails, and instant messages. Read it if you enjoy realistic young adult fiction, endearingly real characters, and/or endings that are utterly heartwarming without being cheesy.
The novel is written in diary entries, with chapters rotating among the three main characters. TC is a baseball playing diehard Red Sox fan intent on making Ale fall in love with him. Ale, a foreign diplomats daughter, is just as intent on keeping TC far, far away. Augie, TC’s self-appointed brother, is gay and in love with Andy Wexler, which everyone knows except for him.
You can tell a lot about the characters just by looking at whom they choose to address in their journal entries. TC writes to his mother (Mama), who passed away when he was a child. Ale writes to her idol, Jacqueline Kennedy. And Augie writes to a rotating Diva of the Week. Through their entries, we learn about Hucky, a 6-year-old Mary Poppins obsessed Deaf orphan whom TC takes under his wing; Lori, whom TC’s father is trying desperately (but subtly) to date; Augie’s secret agonies over Andy; and Ale’s newfound talent as a musical theatre diva. The story cumulates in a grand finale that’s about as heartwarming as you can get while still being funny and not the least bit cheesy.
Interspersed with the journal entries are emails to, from, and between parents, school personnel, and family friends, as well as instant messages between the main characters. Kluger gives each character such a distinct voice that you feel like you know them all by the end.
To give you a taste, here’s the blurb on the back. It’s Ale, responding to TC’s note expressing his interest in being her boyfriend:
I appreciate your recent interest, but I’m not accepting applications at this time. Your letter will be kept in our files and someone will get back to you if there is an opening. Thank you for thinking of me.
P.S. It’s not “Allie.” It’s “Ale.”
This one was definitely worth the read. I’ll keep it on my shelf for years to come.