Three three-dimensional best friends, families that genuinely love each other, disability and homosexuality just tossed in like the normal parts of life they are, and it’s even set in Boston! Sold.
The plot is complicated — there’s a deaf kid, a theater production, a wacky road trip to New York (does it count as a road trip if it’s on a train?), a baseball memorial at Manzanar — but it basically boils down to a coming-of-age love story. These are a dime a dozen on the YA shelves; it’s the details that make a book stand out (or not). Fortunately there’s nothing generic about My Most Excellent Year. (Did you notice the bit about the baseball memorial?)
My only gripe is that the year — and I say this as a person who loves happy endings — is too excellent. Need tickets to the Red Sox? Good thing you have a bodyguard who knows a guy! The kid you’ve adopted is obsessed with Mary Poppins? Well, of course Julie Andrews is going to decide he’s the cutest thing ever and be his best friend! If you establish a pattern where everything works out for the best every time, the stakes never get high enough to worry about the characters. By the end I was rolling my eyes at each plot twist.
Despite this, I found it warm and fuzzy and entertaining, though I didn’t adore it the way a lot of people seem to.
(Side note: What’s with all the framing devices in YA? Is it really necessary to use the Autobiography Assignment trope? Can’t you just tell a story? I know I’m being too harsh here, but it’s starting to remind me of my students whenever they’re asked to give a speech: “So, I stayed up last night worrying about what I was going to say in this speech. First, I looked up ‘speech’ in the dictionary…”)