A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

on April 2, 2022

If Kluger was attempting to get feel-good Musical Comedy vibes in an epistolary YA (?) novel — and let’s face it, of course he was — he did a great job. This is such a sunshiney charmer of a story, very similar to Almost Like Being In Love. (Unfortunately, a bit too similar.)

Told in chat messages, emails, cast lists, civil-rights focused theatre reviews, and diary entries, this primarily focuses on high schooler T.C., his brother from another mother Augie (their chosen brotherhood is so thoroughly accepted by their families, they each have their own bed and desk in the other’s room), and T.C.’s crush Alé, an ambassador’s daughter who’s hiding a disreputable passion for song and dance. Also in the mix are their parents, T.C.’s guidance counselor, and Hucky, a young, orphaned, deaf boy that T.C. tries to create magic for, as his mother once did for him. And there’s Andy, Augie’s first love, who finally makes him realize he’s gay.

AugieHwong: What would you say if I told you I think I like boys? I mean LIKE boys. I mean the way you like Alé.

TCKeller: “Duh”?

T.C.’s diary entries are addressed to his dead mother, Alé’s to her heroine Jacqueline Kennedy, and Augie’s to his chosen “Diva of the Week,” so you can see why this wasn’t a real shock to anyone. In one of the book’s sweetest moments, Augie’s dad describes them having an important conversation about Augie’s love for Andy and only realizing afterward “we’d never had the ‘I’m gay’ conversation. Has this generation made it superfluous? If only.”

So we have the baseball loving jock and the OTT theatre nerd — it’s very similar to Almost Like Being in Love, except that they’re not in love with each other. The format is also very similar, as is the lack of much differentiation between the voices. Everyone is wry and funny and similarly toned, adult or child. Which begs the question: who is this book for? It’s published for young adults, but I suspect the extreme innocence and sentimentality won’t fly that well with a lot of them. For adults — this adult, anyway — the pop psychology commentary on heterosexual relationships gets jarring, as does the apparently endless amount of money, time and space everyone seems to have. “Booklist” may have gotten it best when it listed at as for 8-12s. The loving passion the characters have for sports, performance, social justice goals and each other would make anyone look forward to high school.

Or perhaps a better way to think of it would be that it’s a coming-of-age story, and thus, in a way, for just about anyone. As one succinct GoodReads review put it, “This is an absolutely ridiculous book and I smiled the entire time I was reading it.”

One response to “My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

  1. azteclady says:

    Recently, Wendy the SuperLibrarian wrote that sometime we just need a “brain candy” book, and to appreciate them for what they are. This sounds like it is one such read.

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