Forever for a Year by B. T. Gottfred
Fans of romance, teen angst, realistic fiction, child-parent relationship issues–this is your next read! Yes, all of you.
I’m so glad I went to the Ontario Teen Book Fest and found some authors who are new to me. If you are one of my students, you know how blah I feel about formula romance (but that I still have lots of it in my library because I am a big believer in reading stuff you want to read, stuff you enjoy). I decided to give Forever for a Year a try because the discussion at the book fest made it sound like it was worth a chance. So glad I did–because, sweeties, this is NOT your formula romance. But here’s the great thing for you formula romance readers–I think you’re going to like the book as much as the rest of us.
Carolina and Trevor seem to be an unlikely couple-to-be on the first day of their freshman year of high school. Not because they hate each other and then stop hating each other. They are immediately, irresistibly drawn toward one another. But Carolina’s best friend’s older sister, who is popular and going to show the two girls how to become popular, puts the nix on the possibility of the relationship.
For his part, Trevor has just relocated from California to the small town of Riverbend, Illinois so that his family can try a fresh start after his depressed mother tried to commit suicide. Emotionally, Trevor is also in a dark place. He has no real sympathy for his mom. His little sister appears to be the adult in the family. They have a truly hot mess of a dynamic. Though Trevor is unenthusiastic about school, he is interested in Carolina the moment she lends him a few sheets of paper. But his cousin lets him know that Carolina was a nerd in eighth grade, so she is not someone to bother with.
Happily, the pair decide to make their own moves. Their first love is sweet, silly, obsessive and realistic, including early slobbery kisses and the need to search for information about ‘sex stuff’ on the internet. As they increase their sexual expertise, they increase their obsession with one another, endlessly texting, making declarations of love and more.
Eventually, the sort of obsession the pair have with one another has to falter; they have to remember the other things they care about in their lives like friends, school, and sports. They question their own relationship just as they question their parents’ relationships (Carolina’s family situation is a hot mess that almost equals Trevor’s.) Still, it’s very hard to come apart, so–very realistically, I believe–they continue to make up. How they negotiate their first love is a lot of fun for the reader.
High school housekeeping: Although Forever for a Year is a long book (over 400 pages), it moves very quickly with the back and forth between the two characters’ narrations of events. Trevor and Carolina are both very sweet, but they do explore both their emotionality and their sexuality, so this is a book for mature readers. While the issue of first love is at the heart of the novel, the tour through family dynamics and behaviors of far-less-than-perfect parents will enhance the book for teen readers. If you’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s books Eleanor and Park and Fangirl–and liked them–definitely give Forever for a Year a try.