Olive Watson did not have a good 2011. She managed to break up with her boyfriend Phil whom she loved, be embittered at her mother’s remarriage, lose connection with her best friend since college, have affairs to forget, and more. When she wakes up in 2012 and finds herself in bed with someone she doesn’t remember leaving the New Year’s party with, she panics. When she discovers that it is her ex-boyfriend who had broken up with her the previous February, she panics even more. Except Phil is happy to see her because in his mind, they never broke up and 2011 has only just started.
Thus begins, The Repeat Year, in which Olive has to somehow figure out how and why she is repeating 2011 and – she hopes – not repeat it again. I’m fascinated by this concept created by author Andrea Lochen. Nothing is clear for Olive. Is there something she’s supposed to do? Some action she’s supposed to take? Some change she needs to make? Her main goal is to not lose her boyfriend Phil, and she makes changes to herself to do her best to ensure he doesn’t break up with her. However, part of the reason he’d broken up with her in the first place was because she had cheated on him that previous February when they’d been “on a break” and she struggles throughout the book with whether she’s lying to him by not telling him about what happened in her previous 2011 and deciding that there’s no way to tell him and she has to just make it up to him somehow.
Olive does run into a family friend, Sherri Witan, who is also someone who is repeating a year and has repeated years multiple times in the past. You expect Sherri to be a mentor for Olive, but she really isn’t. Instead, she’s battling cancer on her own and hiding out from the world for the most part. As much as Olive vows to be there for her, she is a typical young woman who has other priorities and “forgets” her promise – frequently.
While Olive has good intentions, she still seems fairly shallow and selfish to me. She isn’t making changes to be a better person or trying to make other people’s lives better, she’s doing it to ensure she doesn’t repeat a year. And she doesn’t always do the best job of it. She far more gracefully accepts her mother’s remarriage – although her brother turns into the obnoxious twit in her place – which is touching to watch as it seems like Olive is truly growing there.
With Olive’s job as an intensive care nurse, there is plenty about her life that is stressful, and watching patients die – again – and console their family members – again – is a challenge that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to face. Olive eventually breaks under the pressure and confesses about her repeat year to her best friend and roommate Kerrigan who doesn’t believe her at first but later does. Relieved to have a confidant, Olive shares so much with Kerrigan, though perhaps too much, as Kerrigan is a mostly solid friend who still makes some poor decisions.
My favorite characters in the book were actually Kerrigan (through 90% of it) and Olive’s mom Kathy. Kerrigan is a hoot and a half, especially when you hear about her and Olive’s history together. Kathy, on the other hand, is the kind of mom I would want. She’s there and loving and just so approachable. There’s something about her that just tugs at my heartstrings.
The book, of course, essentially ends once you find out if Olive “successfully” navigated her repeat year and the plenty of surprises that were thrown her way. There were bits and pieces of the book that I didn’t like, and I found myself not rooting for Olive as much as I wanted to because she seemed so shallow and selfish to me, but the concept is fascinating, and it was a highly entertaining book that I finished quickly. Definitely keep it in your beach tote this summer, a fitting addition to the BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge.
We have a copy to give away to one of you! Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win (U.S. only). We’ll announce the winner in our May 29 giveaway column.
Written by Michelle who has a few years she would love to be able to redo. Except she balks at the potential for losing the happiness she has now. She shares what makes her happy – and what doesn’t – on her blog Honest & Truly! or follow along with her on Twitter where she is also @HonestAndTruly.