The Year I Stopped Trying

Katie Heaney. Knopf, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-11828-3
Junior class council secretary Mary Davies, a white, “tightly wound” Catholic 16-year-old, earns excellent grades. Then she accidentally misses an assignment, the world doesn’t end, and she begins to realize how much she is defined by being good. She doesn’t know what her relationship with her parents “outside my achievements and my obedience” looks like; “I don’t know who I am without grades and rules. What if there isn’t anything else?” Soon, Mary has stopped trying in school, devoted instead to seeking a distraction in the form of a boyfriend: specifically, Mitch Kulikosky, a white, pink-haired “bad boy” who was “briefly [her] fake boyfriend in sixth grade” and is now “insanely, stupidly hot.” Frequent after-school drives lead to a mutually felt closeness—but simultaneously, Elyse Jhang, a gay Korean American girl, starts working at La Baguette, the fast casual restaurant Mary works at, and they become friends. In short, often sharply humorous vignettes from Mary’s first-person perspective, Heaney (Girl Crushed) offers a quiet narrative that shines in its depiction of the indignities and boredom of high school jobs, the malleability of identity, and navigating expectations versus desire. Ages 12–up. Agent: Allison Hunter, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/21/2021
Release date: 11/16/2021
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 256 pages - 978-0-593-11829-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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