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The Year I Stopped Trying
Cover of The Year I Stopped Trying
The Year I Stopped Trying
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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...
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...
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Description-

  • 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.

Excerpts-

  • From the book The first time was a mistake.
    I don’t like to admit that, because I think this whole thing would be cooler if I’d meant to do it from the beginning for some good reason, or even a reason. But the truth is that one day, after ten years without incident, I just forgot.
    There wasn’t anything unusual going on that week. I worked my usual shift at La Baguette, got home, did what was left of my homework, watched a little TV, and went to sleep. The next morning I got up, ate the same breakfast, made the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich and put the same chips and carrots in little plastic bags, and drove my brother, Peter, and me the same way to school. I walked into first period three minutes before the bell, completely prepared for another normal day. Then class started, and the teacher asked us to hand in our homework . . . and my stomach fell into my feet. My face burned. I felt faint and dizzy and a little like I might throw up. Because I had not done my AP U.S. history homework. Somehow, in the list of things I had to do the night before, this one had gotten lost. As everyone around me dug through their bags for their short essays on Manifest Destiny, I flipped through my planner and scanned yesterday’s to-­do items. And there it was, with a line drawn through it, like everything else on the page. But I had not written that essay. I looked through my folder, just in case, but I knew there was nothing to find.
    I sat there, sweating, for the rest of class, planning what I’d say to Mr. Delaney to let him know I knew I’d made a mistake and I’d never do it again if somehow he could find it in him to forgive me. I could offer to do a makeup assignment, a five-­ or ten-­page paper on a topic of his choosing. Or I could pretend I had done the homework but had packed my bag wrong because of unspecified stressors at home. I could say I’d gotten home late from work and set a 4:00 a.m. alarm to finish, but then my phone died, and I was almost late for school. He might believe me and offer me half credit to bring it in tomorrow. I weighed whether the damage to my dignity would be worth it if he did.
    Maybe I would just run.
    Class ended. I hovered for a few moments over my desk, slowly gathering my belongings, waiting for Mr. Delaney to call me over to explain myself. He had his shirtsleeves rolled up just slightly, revealing powerful-­looking wrists and the merest glimpse of a tattoo faded navy. He was a former marine, and the rumor was that under his shirt and slacks he was covered from neck to ankle in tattoos. He loved pop quizzes and had a particular knack for calling on people exactly when they’d decided it was safe to zone out. Once, allegedly, he’d even offered an open-­book final, only to retract the open-­book part on the day of the exam. Mr. Delaney was not a teacher who could be counted on for grace.
    Finally he looked up and saw me there, watching him as the next class’s students started filtering into the classroom. “Yes, Mary?” he said. “Did you have a question?”
    “No,” I said automatically. “Sorry.”
    “See you tomorrow,” he said firmly, and a little patronizingly. So I turned, and I walked out.
    And that was it. After fifty-­two minutes of agony and anxiety, my heart rate up and my head woozy and hot, it was over? I wasn’t relieved; I was furious. I consoled myself by thinking he’d hold me after class the next day, after he’d had a chance to go through the essays, but he never handed them back. He just talked about the themes he’d seen, our...

About the Author-

  • Katie Heaney is the author of the memoirs Never Have I Ever and Would You Rather?, and the novels Dear Emma and Public Relations. She is a senior health writer at the Cut, and you can find her on Twitter at @KTHeaney.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2021
    A rule-following teen falls off her prescribed path in this contemporary novel. Sixteen-year-old Mary Davies misses a homework assignment, and it becomes the catalyst for a journey of self-discovery that involves leaving work undone, skipping extra credit options, and pursuing Mitch, a guy she has a sort-of history with, as she becomes untethered from her self-image as an overachiever. Brief vignettes narrated in Mary's wry, clever, often funny first-person voice propel the story forward, including the ups and downs of her job at a fast-casual restaurant where a new co-worker, Elyse, is a kindred spirit whom Mary is thrilled to befriend. The narrative strikes a balance between humor, wise insights, and spot-on depictions of the awkward spaces that often accompany newfound self-awareness. Mary's Catholic upbringing is an integral part of her character, and many of her musings about faith seem to leave her with more questions than answers. The cast of secondary characters is also carefully developed, and the nuances of their relationships to Mary realistically change as she comes to understand them differently and comes to some conclusions--including ones about her actual feelings for Mitch--that leave off somewhat ambiguously but on a hopeful note. Mary and Mitch are White; Korean American Elyse is gay. Sparing and intelligent, with humor and heart in equal measure. (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 25, 2021
    Junior class council secretary Mary Davies, a white, “tightly wound” Catholic 16-year-old, earns excellent grades. Then she accidentally misses an assignment, the world doesn’t end, and she begins to realize how much she is defined by being good. She doesn’t know what her relationship with her parents “outside my achievements and my obedience” looks like; “I don’t know who I am without grades and rules. What if there isn’t anything else?” Soon, Mary has stopped trying in school, devoted instead to seeking a distraction in the form of a boyfriend: specifically, Mitch Kulikosky, a white, pink-haired “bad boy” who was “briefly fake boyfriend in sixth grade” and is now “insanely, stupidly hot.” Frequent after-school drives lead to a mutually felt closeness—but simultaneously, Elyse Jhang, a gay Korean American girl, starts working at La Baguette, the fast casual restaurant Mary works at, and they become friends. In short, often sharply humorous vignettes from Mary’s first-person perspective, Heaney (Girl Crushed) offers a quiet narrative that shines in its depiction of the indignities and boredom of high school jobs, the malleability of identity, and navigating expectations versus desire. Ages 12–up. Agent: Allison Hunter, Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from November 1, 2021

    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.-Georgia Christgau, LaGuardia Community Coll., Long Island City, NY

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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