Like Boy Meets Boy, My Most Excellent Year is what you want the world to be. The teen voices, while not authentic, are funny, intelligent, loving, and self-reflective. Six-year-old Hucky is so real, he jumps of the page and makes faces. I loved the format, alternating narration from the point of view of different characters through writing assignments, email, IM, and other correspondence. The question is, what 14-year-olds know that much about musicals? Obviously not of this world.
Elena and her sister, Dora, are opposites yet very close, until Dora begins to vanish into deep, psychotic depression. She spends time in a psychiatric ward that is so bad, she asks Elena to save her. Elena is left to figure out how she can rescue her sister without betraying her confidence. Schumacker creates vivid characters by sharing little moments of intimacy that tell the reader so much about who they are. This is a great story about how depression impacts a family, and how Elena untangles her own identity from her sister's.
Frankie is a student at Alabaster, and expensive and competitive boarding school. She blossomed during the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, and when she returns to school is surprised by the attention from her senior-stud crush, Matthew. He becomes her boyfriend, and while she tries to be satisfied by that amazing fact, she is troubled by the fact that he is more devoted to his best friend, Alpha, than to her. And while she likes being part of his group of friends, she senses that her status among them is tenuous at best. Most of all, she hates the way everyone underestimates her. So, when she discovers the existence of a "secret" society at Alabaster, she endeavors to become its secret leader. This is certainly the most feminist teen book I have ever read, and that along with its clever humor and sensitive introspection makes it an absolute pleasure. The boy's interactions seem at times contrived, but Frankie with her self-reflection and deception is spot-
Robin (AKA Birdy) joined the army after 9-11 and is sent to Iraq with a Civil Affirs unit. His job is to help convince Iraqi civilians that Americans are good people who want to help them. he finds this difficult without clear instructions, and when he can barely tell the difference between his enemies and his allies. The other members of his squad become his best Friends, and it seems clear that they are chosen for their duties because of their compassionate natures, their common ability to sympathise with anyone, even the enemy. Birdy and his friends express their doubt and confusion about the reasons for the war, and manage to find moments of joy and friendship within the insanity. The book has not so much a plot as a series of events that alternate between chaotic and boring, but that is what war is, right?