Our Year of Maybe is a tender story about identity, friendship, and what happens when we make someone else into our world. It’s a book that resonates on many levels, from wondering how you can be your best self, to questioning the meaning of friendship.
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.
Our Year of Maybe hooked me from line one. Solomon has this way of writing which is equal parts carefree simplicity and also hard hitting kicks to the feels. On a pure writing level, there were so many lines that I just had to highlight because they were so beautiful.
But not only that, but our characters, Peter and Sophie are characters that you root for, not only because we have dual POV’s in their head, but also because they have these fears that get at the heart of what being a teen is.
In terms of diversity, Peter is bisexual and suffers from a chronic illness – his kidney disease, and Sophie is Jewish.
But besides what you might ‘label’ Peter and Sophie, they get to the heart of the wavering and difficult challenges of life. Both without their comfort blankets, they are challenged to go deeper and further from what they have known. Sure their friendship kept them connected, but Sophie’s sacrifice adds another complex layer to their friendship.
Sophie is endearing. She reminds me so much of myself sometimes, quiet, but with the ability to surprise you when you aren’t expecting it. Peter has this passion that you just want to take a piece of so you can always see that shining light.
The dual perspective allows us to witness the (de)evolution of the worlds which they know and are clinging on to.
And where Our Year of Maybe goes above and beyond, is how much I got to love Sophie’s sister. Through Sophie we are able to witness the family dynamics. The ways we navigate these tenuous and formidable relationships. All the times we felt like our sibling was the favorite child, the moments we look at our sisters and realize we don’t know what they are thinking, or the times we have grown apart.
Some themes or struggles that really stuck with me is Sophie’s unwavering and almost natural instinct to mold herself to people, as well as Peter’s exploration of his Judaism.
Since I’m adopted, I’ve always felt like I belong in this weird Other category. Where I’m not fully American or Chinese. And even though I’m not biracial (although who even knows for sure) I feel stuck in the middle. Sure there’s the term transracial adoptee, but labels and the ways they are used and felt, have always struck a chord within me.
In Our Year of Maybe, Sophie and Peter deal with their religion in different ways. And these discussions are carefully woven in. Whether their religion makes them feel connected to a belief or a community. Or how their family handles differing religions within the family, such as Peter’s family, and how this effects their understanding of themselves. Who gets to be half-Jewish and where lies the tender feelings of belonging from that label?
On the other hand, growing up I felt a lot like Sophie. Like my world could revolve around someone and it felt as natural as breathing. It was never as dramatic as Peter’s health condition, just love. It makes sacrifices feel blunter. Chips you make in yourself hurt less. And moments where the edges of you fade away slower. Which I think is why Sophie’s character, and her emotional journey, just really got to me.
So in a nutshell, both Petere and Sophie’s characters moved cogs within me. This a novel about friendship, about navigating away from an illusion of home, about messy relationships with no clear edges, and about getting to know the darker corners of ourselves we were afraid to see.
What is your favorite contemporary that revolves around friendships?
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