Avery and Nora bonded back in first grade when a school assignment revealed that the girls had something in common-they were both adopted.
Years later, the two friends have drifted apart. Avery is at the top of the social ladder at school and Nora…Nora’s not even on the map. Avery knows that Nora has problems, but she’s got her own. She’s trying to get into the Ivy League, and her long-term boyfriend wants to take “a break.”
Then Avery learns the devastating news that Nora’s overdosed. Searching for her own birth mom might be a way to honor Nora and get into the college of her dreams all at the same time. Avery enlists the help of Nora’s friend, Brody, and together the two embark on a quest to find her past. She hopes it will help her hang on to the world she’s built but it may result in losing everything. Avery just might discover that what she really needs goes deeper than genetics…
Tell Me More: It’s strange to be surprised by a book before you even open the cover, but the width of this novel’s spine definitely raised an eyebrow. For the plot that Year of Mistaken Discoveries promises, the length didn’t seem adequate, and I wondered how the depth of the story’s themes might be affected. Sadly, I felt that the themes weren’t carried out as well as they could have been, and much of the reason lies in the extremely quick pace and lackluster character development.
I read Year of Mistaken Discoveries in about half an hour. For perspective, I finished Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (328 pages) in about 75 minutes. This was a fast read, one of the fastest I remember, and the revelations tear past you like race cars. Within the first 50 pages, not only is a character dead, but a relationship is broken, a rejection experienced and a major decision made. Granted, that’s not really a bad thing. But all of these events happened so quickly that I actually had to stop a few times, muttering “wait, what?” as I read. The opening scene, while dynamic, was crammed with so many people and names that I almost didn’t remember the name of the protagonist once I got past it. There was very little time to get to know Avery or Nora before the latter’s death became the biggest influence of Avery’s senior year.
That lack of development also plays a factor in the reader’s perspective of the girls’ friendship. The reader only sees Nora through Avery’s eyes, and there’s no way to shift or alter that viewpoint because Nora is dead. The reader can’t make their own conclusions about Nora’s past actions, because Nora is no longer around to act any differently. And again, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But there simply isn’t enough time to learn more about Nora as a person, and not just as Avery’s ex-friend. It’s almost like watching a movie and seeing the actors not as their characters, but as themselves playing characters. I know who Nora was to Avery, but who was Nora to herself?
Another question that came to mind while reading is: why Brody? Why the trend of girl-experiences-[insert YA genre staple here], girl-meets-boy-who-helps-her-deal-with-said-genre-staple, girl-and-boy-are-together-forever-yay? To young readers and those new to YA, this pattern is quite satisfying, and I don’t begrudge them that. But as an experienced YA reader, I will admit to feeling a little tired of it. The relationship between Avery and Brody plays out exactly as one might expect it to, and while not badly written, it just wasn’t interesting enough to captivate me.
The Final Say: Year of Mistaken Discoveries may not satisfy frequent purveyors of YA fiction with a very quick story and characters that fit their molds perfectly, but it is a good introduction to the heavier themes in the older side of the YA spectrum, and to contemporary fiction.
Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.
Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.