If you’ve been following me a while, you know how obsessed I am with Rachel Lynn Solomon and Our Year of Maybe. How? Well you might have seen my Interview with Rachel and my review already so you know how much I adore this book. Without further ado, I’ll just stop gabbing and let you see the guest post from Rachel! Make sure to enter the giveaway as well!
Our Year of Maybe
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.
A big part of OUR YEAR is co-dependency. Can you talk a little more about your decision to write a story that revolves around the bonds we tie to each other? The ways this bond can become toxic, can become more about our own expectations.
Hi Lili—thank you for having me for this guest post!
OUR YEAR OF MAYBE has been a lot of different books. I wrote a first draft in early 2016, when I was querying YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE after leaving my first agent. I didn’t think YMMWIG was going to go anywhere—I’d had so many close calls with agents, but no one seemed to be falling in love with it the way I hoped. So the only thing I could do was write the next book.
The premise came to me exactly as it is now: the aftermath of a kidney transplant complicated by the fact that the donor is in love with the recipient. But the characters weren’t quite the same people. In that first draft, Sophie, the donor who is desperately in love with her best friend Peter, was manipulative, vindictive, and cruel. She was very clearly the villain of the story. And she stayed that was for a while—when I got “the call” from an agent after 6 months of querying (and nearly 100 queries), YMMWIG wound up selling rather quickly in a two-book deal to Simon Pulse. It was even specified in my contract that OYOM would be book 2 in that deal, and I was absolutely over the moon. I’m still full of a tremendous amount of gratitude.
But then I did something foolish: I set aside OYOM for an entire year while I worked on YMMWIG edits and drafted an adult book I later shelved. When I opened OYOM back up, it was not the book I thought it was. I didn’t want Sophie to be the villain, but I didn’t want her to be a martyr, either. I wanted her to be messy, imperfect, and full of desires she didn’t quite know how to express. In this way, she was a lot like my teen self.
Growing up, I constantly tied my self-worth to other people. I was convinced if I had a certain type of friend, or a certain boyfriend, then I’d be perceived as “worthy.” I conducted extensive research on things I didn’t even like in order to fit in. I went along with what other people wanted to do, always. I changed my personality daily. If someone didn’t like something I did, I automatically discarded it. I told two different boyfriends “I’ll do anything, I swear” if they promised they wouldn’t break up with me. My crushes weren’t crushes, not really—they were obsessions. I have the bad poetry to prove it.
I gave so much of myself to other people—to cute boys, to cool girls, to adults I wanted to impress—hoping if I scraped away just enough, I’d be rewarded with their attention or affection. Maybe it happened sometimes, but it was always fleeting. There’s a reason I’m no longer in touch with anyone from high school, despite living half an hour from where I grew up, and it’s that I still feel a lot of shame about the girl I was back then. I wish I didn’t.
And this is the brush I knew I had to paint Sophie with—she’s the ultimate version of who I was in high school, so obsessed with Peter that she literally gives a piece of herself to him. From the first chapter:
He reaches over and pulls up the hem of my sweatshirt. His hand fumbles between the sweatshirt and my tank top for a second, like he’s searching for where, exactly, the kidney I’m giving him is located, and then he strokes my back. Slowly I exhale. Through the thin, cotton fabric, his fingers are warm.
There are a thousand other reasons I’m doing this, but still, this gesture makes me think what I have only allowed myself to think about on the rarest occasions: that maybe, after the transplant, Peter will want me, too.
This, I realized, was the core of the book: Sophie struggling to hold onto her friendship (or maybe more) with Peter, and Peter guiltily pursuing opportunities that are possible solely because of Sophie’s sacrifice. Neither character is a villain—though in another draft, Peter spent some time in that role. Both of them are just trying to be as happy as possible while hurting as few people as possible.
The book OYOM eventually became—the book it is today—is one I hope my teen self would have seen herself in. It might have made her uncomfortable, but I hope, more than anything, that it would have made her brave.
And if it’s what you need, I hope it makes you brave, too.
About the Author
Rachel Lynn Solomon lives, writes, and tap dances in Seattle, Washington. Once she helped set a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place. She’s the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (out now from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse), Our Year of Maybe (1/15/19), and Today Tonight Tomorrow (2020). A short story of hers will appear in the anthology It’s a Whole Spiel (Penguin Random House/Knopf, fall 2019).
Prize: Win a signed copy of OUR YEAR OF MAYBE by Rachel Lynn Solomon (US Only)
Starting date: 9th January 2019
Ending date: 20th January 2019