Review: The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

05 Mar

With Book Club Notes (at the end)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh dear.

The characters and situations seemed so plausible that they have me looking at my daughter’s upcoming high school years with immense terror.

None the less, I very much enjoyed reading this book.

Summary via

From the widely praised author of The Yokota Officers Club and The Flamenco Academy, a novel as hilarious as it is heartbreaking about a single mom and her seventeen-year-old daughter learning how to let go in that precarious moment before college empties the nest.

In The Gap Year, told with perfect pitch from both points of view, we meet Cam Lightsey, lactation consultant extraordinaire, a divorcée still secretly carrying a torch for the ex who dumped her, a suburban misfit who’s given up her rebel dreams so her only child can get a good education.

We also learn the secrets of Aubrey Lightsey, tired of being the dutiful, grade-grubbing band geek, ready to explode from wanting her “real” life to begin, trying to figure out love with boys weaned on Internet porn.

When Aubrey meets Tyler Moldenhauer, football idol–sex god with a dangerous past, the fuse is lit. Late-bloomer Aubrey metastasizes into Cam’s worst silent, sullen teen nightmare, a girl with zero interest in college. Worse, on the sly Aubrey’s in touch with her father, who left when she was two to join a celebrity-ridden nutball cult.

As the novel unfolds—with humor, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and penetrating insights about love in the twenty-first century—the dreams of daughter, mother, and father chart an inevitable, but perhaps not fatal, collision . . .

The keys to this book were the characters, particularly the main mother daughter pair, and the intricate weaving of their stories.

I genuinely liked both Cam and Aubrey, even if I wanted to grab each of them and point out exactly what they were doing to screw up their lives. There were plenty of those times, but in almost every case, I understood where they were coming from. Cam wanted Aubrey to have a better life than she had, and was prepared to pave the path without quite connecting that Aubrey’s ideal situation could be different than her own. Aubrey wanted to break out and make her own decisions, but didn’t know how to go partway. When she rebelled, it was complete.

Both of them were fully well intentioned, as were all the secondary characters, some of which were even more screwed up than Aubrey and Cam. While there were a few tertiary characters this may not be true of, but other than the cult Aubrey’s dad is involved with, there are no real bad guys, just flawed human beings. That’s something I liked about the book.

The depth of the confusion between Cam and Aubrey is pointed out in their alternating chapters. Cam’s chapters are set in the book’s present; Aubrey’s are almost a year earlier. The author does an amazing job of interweaving the two narratives. I could see the situation as it is through Cam’s eyes, I saw how it got that way through Aubrey’s. Neither of them has a full understanding of the situation, and with the dual narration, it’s easy to see why.

All in all, this was an interesting and thought provoking read.

Book Club Notes

All of us enjoyed the book.  Some of us related to it more than the rest. I could see echoes of my own relationship with my daughter, others have children about ready to head for college.  Even those that didn’t feel a personal connection to the characters still appreciated the book.

We discussed the characters, the situations, and how real they seemed.  We talked about the construction of the story, and how that contributed to our understanding.  I think we all admired the writing.  We spent some time trying to nail down the setting.

All in all, it was a good discussion, and I’d recommend this book.

My book club won copies of this book via a TLC Book Tours Book Club giveaway.

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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Book Club, books, M, reviews


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