Hi everyone! I hope you’re doing well! Sorry, once again for the huge absence, life just got in the way once again, and I know it’s been book tour city central around here recently, but don’t worry I do have some other posts in the works right now too! But today, I was so lucky to be able to participate in the book tour for The Year I Stopped Trying by Katie Heaney, hosted by the wonderful TBR and Beyond Tours! I highly recommend that you check out the other wonderful posts on this tour too – you can find the whole schedule along with links over here or by clicking on the tour banner below!
Title: The Year I Stopped Trying
Author: Katie Heaney
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Booksmart meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower in this novel of overachieving, existential crises, growing up, and coming out, from the author of Girl Crushed and Never Have I Ever.
Mary is having an existential crisis. She’s a good student, she never gets in trouble, and she is searching for the meaning of life. She always thought she’d find it in a perfect score on the SATs. But by junior year, Mary isn’t so sure anymore.
The first time, it’s an accident. She forgets to do a history assignment. She even crosses history essay off in her pristine planner. And then: Nothing happens. She doesn’t burst into flames, the world doesn’t end, the teacher doesn’t even pull her aside after class.
So she asks herself: Why am I trying so hard? What if I stop?
With her signature wit and heaps of dark humor, Katie Heaney delivers a stunning YA novel the sprints full-force into the big questions our teen years beg–and adeptly unravels their web.
So, I initially requested to be a part of the blog tour for this book because of how much the synopsis resonated with me – growing up the oldest sibling (and oldest grandchild) I had so much responsibility and pressure put on my academically and I was constantly pushing myself to be the best at everything – even when it wasn’t healthy for me – and so many times I thought about what it would be like to just stop, to just give up on it all one day, but I never did. And so, connecting with the main character in this way, I knew I had to read it, but I wasn’t ready for just how good this book was on so many levels!
First and foremost, this book definitely reads on the younger end of the YA scale, but as a 23-year-old reader, this didn’t phase me in the slightest because I was just having so much fun reading it – like, literally, I audibly laughed on the train while reading it! But aside from Katie Heaney’s hilarious prose, I was just so overjoyed to see how much was tackled in here that would make this book so unbelievably valuable to teen readers, especially those questioning their sexuality. Not only was the term ‘lesbian’ used so proudly throughout the book, but masturbation was also discussed in a very positive light, and I think it’s so important for young sapphics to see that their sexuality and desire is not something to be ashamed of. There was also a huge focus on compulsory heterosexuality, particularly through a lesbian lens, and it was done in such an excellent way in that young lesbians could see themselves on page and realise that their feelings are normal, while also looking at the concept more broadly in a way that’s easy for younger teens to understand while not being patronising in the slightest. Phew, that was a long sentence! But it’s true – I was so pleasantly surprised by this and it made me both sad that I didn’t have these kind of books while growing up as a wee closeted lesbian, but also so thrilled that young sapphics get to read books like this at important times in their lives now!
I know I mentioned it briefly at the start, that I saw myself in the main character even before picking up the book, but after diving into it I saw myself in ways I wasn’t expecting – like the pit of dread in your stomach when reading Yelp reviews of your work and the anxiety that won’t leave you for months, the wanting to feel that first love feeling in the movies but it never really happening and you’re not sure why, and the wanting to say yes to a boy who likes you because you like him too but only as a friend but you can’t figure out why you’re so terrified to say yes. Just so much about this book felt like looking in a mirror and as terrifying as that was at times, I also loved it!
There are also such wonderful character relationships throughout this book, including between the main character and her brother, the main character and her oldest best friend, and the main character and her co-workers, to name a few. During coming out scenes you can’t help but feel some sort of fear for the main character, but the instant kindness and empathy that she received was so refreshing and necessary in a book like this!
Though at times I wasn’t convinced by the main ‘giving up’ plotline, and I wish that the ending was a wee bit longer to get some more closure, I did overall really enjoy my time reading this book and I can’t wait to read more by Katie Heaney in the future!
About the Author:
Katie Heaney is a freelance writer and was most recently a senior editor at BuzzFeed. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Vulture, The Hairpin, The Awl, and Pacific Standard, among other places. She is the author of a memoir, Never Have I Ever, and the novel, Dear Emma. She lives in Brooklyn.