Tess Goodwin's life in rural Iowa is sheltered and uncomplicated. Although she chooses to spend most of her free time playing chess with her best friend Zander, the farm-boy from next door, her skills as a bovine midwife and tractor mechanic ensure that she fits in with the other kids at East Chester High. But when her veteran father reenlists in the Army, moving her family halfway across the country to North Carolina, Tess is forced out of her comfort zone into a world she knows nothing about. Tess approaches the move as she would a new game of chess, plotting her course through the unfamiliar reality of her new life. While heeding Zander's long-distance advice for making new friends and strategizing a means to endure her dad's imminent deployment to the Middle East, she quickly discovers how ill-equipped she is to navigate the societal challenges she encounters and becomes convinced she'll never fit in with the students at her new school. When Leonetta Jackson is assigned as her mentor, she becomes Tess's unexpected guide through the winding labyrinth of cultural disparities between them, sparking a tentative friendship and challenging Tess to confront her reluctant nature. As the pieces move across the board of her upended life, will Tess find the acceptance she so desperately desires?
The Next to Last MistakeFeatured
Tess’s bucolic life is uprooted when her dad decides to reenlist in the army.
When her family relocates to North Carolina, she leaves behind her beloved farm, her best friend Zander, and the only way of life she is ever known.
I first got a taste of this story when I read the prequel in ‘Mistletoe and Magic’. It was such a wonderful slice of life story about friendship and first love. It gave a glance into the underrepresented (in YA at least) view of farm life in America. Having loved the short story I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Tess.
There were so many topics in ‘The Next to Last Mistake’ that can apply to so many people. The biggies are first love, adapting to new places, military life, making new friends, meeting and making friends who are diverse. (I loved Tess’s friend group she makes in North Carolina).
As a character I loved Tess. She was a little naïve in the beginning but her character is so loveable. She is a chess-loving, nerd who is good at history and literature but bad at math. I loved how much she loved animals and how she was defensive of her friends. She was also upfront about her fears and shortcomings.
I thought it was great how Jahn portrayed Tess and her sister’s relationship. They are close but also constantly at each other’s throats as most teenage siblings are. There is also a twist that I didn’t see coming and ripped out my heart.
‘The Next to Last Mistake’ is a wonderful and refreshing look at how many teenagers struggle through new situations (with a beautiful cover by the way). Amazing characters, unique plot, interesting relationships make this a great read. I definitely would love a sequel and I can’t wait to see where Tess’ life takes her.
Moving is the worst, but when you're a high school farm girl leaving everything you knew behind, it's much worse. This is Tess' life. When her father re-enlists in the military, the family must move from their sheltered Iowa town to a more southern city that serves as a bit of a culture shock. The story winds through Tess' new beginning as she's torn between the boy she left behind and the new, exciting life she's facing with friends she never thought she'd have.
What I loved:
Everything. This book makes you think about so many things, covering a multitude of important topics. Interracial friendships, what it means to be in the minority and that it's okay to ask questions, the hard life of families with loved ones in the military. It also explores young love at a distance and loss. There were many times I found myself questioning things I'd thought I'd known. It's such an important book. There are so few of those. It isn't merely entertainment. This is the kind of book that should be required reading in schools. Maybe then, kids would have a better understanding of their differences.
What was just okay:
I don't have anything for this category. Everything was perfect.
Amalie Jahn delivers a stellar tale to teach us about life. Good luck putting it down before you reach the very last page, because it's the kind of story you can't tear your eyes from.
Tess finds that life sometimes turns out in unexpected ways as she makes the acquaintance of new friends at her new school, including Leonetta, the girl with whom she is partnered to help show her the ropes of her new school. She also finds herself facing off once again with the school mean girl, noting that certain types of people and cliques are ever present no matter where one goes in the world. Dealing with life and all of its intricacies through her love of chess, she finds metaphorical connections that shape her into a more well-rounded person.
Learning to cope with her father's day-to-day military jargon and life, along with the racial biases that she has never had to even think about due to the mostly homogeneous life she led in Iowa, forces her outside of her comfort zone at times. This is not only good for her, but inherently useful for readers, as it will make anyone think about these aspects of life long past reading the last page of the story.
Readers who love feeling right in the thick of it all, as though they can picture the setting and be dropped right into it, will love Jahn's writing. Whether smiling, gasping, tearing up, or feeling a smattering of all of these emotions, there is something that will make every reader stop and think about how to consider their own lives through Jahn's vivid words.