Is there anything that electric chemistry can’t overcome? The past may be gone, but love has a way of holding on in this romantic debut novel told in alternating Before and After chapters. The summer before freshman year, Kelsey and David became inseparable best friends—until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke and everything around her crumbled, including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decide to move away, she can’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. But David’s not quite ready to be left. Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town. Old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never let him go. And maybe she never wants to…
Last Year's MistakeFeaturedHot
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
I went into this book nervous about the now and then format. Would it be confusing? Would it mean I would easily be able to see any twists coming? It did end up being a bit predictable but it was easy to follow.
I liked getting to see the difference between freshman Kelsey and senior Kelsey. She had changed a lot in the few years, she came across as more confident and sure about who she was, but I missed getting to see that growth through the book. I also would have liked to have seen more interactions between Kelsey and her girlfriends instead of it being mostly Kelsey with her boyfriend Ryan or with David. It made the book feel like it was driven by the love triangle.
I did like Kelsey’s emotions throughout the book. She was innocent and insecure in the freshman year, more confident in her senior year while maintaining a lot of that innocence. her confusion over what she felt for Ryan and David was very believable and I could understand why she felt torn between them. I also really enjoyed the family interactions, Kelsey with hers, the glimpses of David with his, and both families together.
I wasn’t completely sold on any of the romances. None of them really had a chance to grow since the plot was split between the now and then. It felt like more time was spent devaluing Kelsey’s relationship with Ryan and making the blame one-sided than building anything new with David. Maybe I could have gotten more into it if Kelsey and Ryan hadn’t been an exclusive couple or if Kelsey wasn’t always lying to Ryan about her feelings and past with David.
Overall, I did like the writing style and the POV format but the characters and their love triangle just wasn’t for me.