For much of the novel, we rotate between Kelsey’s past with David and the present in which she has a boyfriend, popularity, and a wrench in the machine with David moving to town when she left him behind over a year before. As difficult as she can be to read about sometimes–especially when she is calling other girls doe-eyed tramps and hoping they keep their whore slut hands off David–she does feel like a real teen and you can see how much she’s grown as a person between her freshman year of high school and her senior year. If I had to pinpoint one reason I’m happy I read this novel, Kelsey is that reason for all her flaws and strengths.
Even as I started getting angry at the characters, Ciocca writes and structures her story in such a way that you’ll compulsively keep reading even as you’re being grumpy and ranting to whoever has the bad luck to walk by you. Everything about it feels real in ways we wish we didn’t admit to or remember from your three or four years in high school.
What Left Me Wanting:
For all its strengths and the appeal it has to readers who just want romance, Last Year’s Mistake walks the fine line between a genuine conflict and an overblown drama too often and stumbles more than once. The one thing that keeps them apart for 320 pages or so is denial. As silly as it is to try to apply logic to romantic feelings (them being notorious for overriding logic), their specific brand of denial doesn’t have any logic behind it whether faulty or understandable. People will try to find logic in even their most illogical thought processes for comfort or justification when they do horrible things, but neither character bothers trying.
Readers won’t be sure if Kelsey’s hypocritical behavior and sex-shaming tendencies are intended to be present as character flaws or if readers aren’t supposed to see her that way at all–and that Kelsey’s sex-shaming is never condemned or even considered doesn’t leave me with a positive answer. After a certain point, you might start shipping her and David with one another because you don’t want anyone else being stuck with them if you don’t buy into their feelings!
Last Year’s Mistake may not be every reader’s cup of tea, but fans of Katie McGarry’s YA novels and unapologetic YA romance are sure to fall in love with it. Ciocca’s way with words makes me want to stick around and find out what she’s writing next. Anyone who wants an author with a clear memory of how it felt to be in high school for better or worse, Gina Ciocca is your woman and her books will be high on your TBR.
*a lot like Katie McGarry's novels in a good way