Our Year of Maybe is an astonishingly subtle book. It’s about a toxic, codependent relationship, and what it means to be attached to another person, and the effect that can have on you. I loved Rachel Lynn Solomon’s first book, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and after reading Marie’s interview with Rachel Lynn Solomon, I knew that I had to read this too. It was just as emotional and deep and clever and authentic.
Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for. (blurb from goodreads)
Peter and Sophie are our main characters and total idiots. They string expectations between each other like beads and don’t know how to let their relationship change. are total idiots. They are not good at articulating what they want. Rachel Lynn Solomon is good at writing about pairs of people, the idea of dependence, and I really liked how Peter and Sophie had a lot of good things going for them. They were close to each other physically and emotionally, they trusted each other, they had a long history.
Slowly, though, it became clear that proximity is not enough to support a relationship. It’s easy to be friends with someone when they never go anywhere. Sophie struggled with the fact of kidney donation—she enabled the freedom that took Peter away from her. Peter was confused but he was also kind of a jerk. The relationship between him and his parents was sort of cloying and explained a lot about him. I respected this a lot, the way that Rachel Lynn Solomon writes her characters in context so you understand how they became who they are.
But despite this psychological component, Solomon isn’t too hard hitting with it. She doesn’t use family background as a bludgeon, it’s more like a needle slowly weaving the Sophie and Peter tapestry—and eventually, tying a knot at the end.
The side characters in this book are truly excellent. I thought that Montana, the dance team captain, was so good. If there were more dance team captain is like her, there’d be more dancers too. And her girlfriend Liz, who is something of YA fangirl, was a breath of fresh air as well. I particularly enjoyed the choreography camp, because that was the scene when I realized that Sophie was becoming a person who didn’t need Peter to tell her who she was. Tabitha, Sophie’s sister, was pretty cool, and a dose of reality. I guess a lot of books about teen moms are about the teen moms, but the reality is that teen mothers are part of other people’s stories too. I didn’t like Peter’s boyfriend nearly as much, but the band dynamic was really well done.
Both Sophie and Peter are artistic people, and they have their own personalities. They felt totally distinct, which was good, as in books with more than one person narrating, there’s always a bit of a risk of that not being the case. I liked that I learned more about music and dance through reading this. Sophie and Peter’s fluctuating romantic and friendship love from each other sort of derives from what they could be together, how perfectly matched, dancer and musician.
As a whole, Our Year of Maybe is a book that begins with taking a risk—or as Sophie sees it, making a bargain. Bargains are supposed to be balanced things though. There is a weight that they both have to bear, a seesaw of their need for each other as it stretches and grows and morphs. It’s a totally exquisite book, unexpectedly psychological, and ends on the most perfect, bittersweet know—in C sharp minor, perhaps, a dancer leaping in the background.
have you read this book? do you prefer like bittersweet endings or do you prefer unambiguously happy or sad ones? tell me in the comments!