The Year I Stopped Trying

Knopf. Nov. 2021. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593118283.
Gr 8 Up–No one notices 16-year-old Mary Davies; even the name of her best friend, Cara Shah, she believes is glamorous where hers is plain. An excellent student, Mary is used to meeting the expectations of others, but she’s never put “what I want” on her to-do list. Then one day her history homework goes missing, confusing Mary at first but also allowing her to ask: What if I gave myself permission to just let go? Her grades drop to C’s—she’s nowhere near flunking out—and she tries her first cigarette, which make her feel as if she can “do anything.” She asks out Mitch, whose hair is pink and who’s absent a lot. She learns that he hides in the library stacks so he can draw, and studies something he loves—woodworking—outside of school. He has more of a plan than she does. Mary splits her time between Mitch and a part-time job as a barista, joking around with Elyse, a new employee whose sly sense of humor and interest in Mary sparks a friendship, and maybe more. As Mary realizes she and Mitch are just friends, it becomes more clear that she’s attracted to Elyse, who’s gay. Mary and the other teens are white, while Elyse is Korean.
VERDICT Focusing on the subtle metamorphosis of one funny, high-achieving teen who decides she’d rather know herself than please others, this book embraces coming of age and coming out with humor, candor, and grace. A must for all collections.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing