My Most Excellent Year is most excellent

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger; published by Dial Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008; 403 pages.

TC, Ale and Augie have an English assignment during their junior year of high school: write an essay entitled “My Most Excellent Year.”  While the content of their papers open and close this book, it’s their journal entries that tell us their stories which revolve around love, activism and identity.  TC is dealing with buried emotions stemming from his mother’s death when he was only six years old.  Ale is trying to be the dutiful daughter of a Mexican diplomat but struggles with a growing desire to be a performer.  Augie is struggling with his identity; he realizes he’s gay in his freshman year but his first boyfriend wants him to “act more like a guy,” which contradicts the person Augie has been his whole life.  Hucky, an orphaned six year old boy, enters their lives.  By helping Hucky, all three teens look outside themselves and change a little boy’s life in addition to their own lives.  TC’s “three things” he should have known all his life end the book—summing up the story, illustrating his growth, and providing us with a few things to remember in our own lives.

Written from the perspectives of three teens coming of age and struggling with their identities, My Most Excellent Year is a deceptively complex book:  I found it easy to read and thoroughly engaging but introspective and full of life lessons.  I found that I slowed down to savor each page.  In addition, the use of instant messages, email content, and diaries is an inspired method for telling a story about teens, for teens.  The story of self-exploration and personal development will appeal to young adults. 

I have discovered a theme in many of the books I’ve read for this project: the value of keeping diaries or journaling.  I hope that teens are encouraged to keep a journal or diary after reading this book.  Although it reads like a light novel, there is so much more to offer in My Most Excellent Year.

4P     4Q     Grade Level 9-12

mymostexcellentyearCover Art: Mary Poppins’ umbrella with a baseball bat handle protects magical mauve stars on a sky blue background—not exactly gripping graphics for teens.  The overly flowery font for the title isn’t that appealing either.  The skinny, flowery white font is hard to read on the dark background of the spine.  These unfortunate choices may keep teens away from the book—and that’s a shame.

From Reading List: Sexual Identity

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 3amoeba
    Aug 12, 2009 @ 10:51:11

    Benji,
    Thanks for the comment–sometimes I connect to a story and the words just flow; with others, I can’t seem to put a coherent sentence together! In this case, I was entertained and enthralled by the characters so that summarizing was easy. I wish more of our classmates had read this one–I know there were many comments about the depressing nature of YA books, but had they read about Ale and Auggie and TJ, they’d’ve been pleasantly surprised.

  2. benjireid
    Jul 30, 2009 @ 17:17:37

    Nancy-
    This was one of my very favorite books from the entire summer of reading. I was most impressed that you were able to faithfully summerize this difficult plot in so few words!

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