Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca

last years mistake by gina ciocca Last Year’s Mistake by Gina CioccaBuy Last Year’s Mistake
Special price $14.54 Regular price: $17.99
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: Melissa on June 23, 2015
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Before: Kelsey and David became best friends over the summer before freshman year in Gina Ciocca’s Last Year’s Mistake. They were inseparable until a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke and everything in her life crumbled – including her friendship with David. When her parents decide to move away, Kelsey can’t wait for a chance to start over. The only kink in her plan is that David doesn’t want to let her go. After: It’s senior year, and Kelsey has everything she wanted: a new group of friends, popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Everything’s perfect until David’s family relocates to the same town and shakes it up all over again. Old feelings bubble up to the surface, threatening to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness and making her realize that she never truly let David go. And maybe she never wants to.

Alternating between the present timeline and the past, Last Year’s Mistake slowly unveils everything – good and bad – that happened in the past between Kelsey and David. One of the things that I loved was how realistic the world Gina Ciocca creates is. She doesn’t sugar coat anything, but rather, develops characters who are three-dimensional and who make mistakes with friendships and both current and budding relationships repeatedly. For example, Kelsey pushes her friend Maddie away during freshman year when Maddie changes the way she dresses under the influence of the popular crowd because she is jealous of and disappointed in her, but it’s for the wrong reasons. Still, these types of mistakes didn’t leave me face palming because, in my opinion, they present her as a “real” teen, and I always assumed that she would find a way to correct the things that went wrong both this year and last year.

Beyond Kelsey, my favorite characters were David and Candy, one of her Newport, Rhode Island friends. On the one hand, David is swoon-worthy in a way that Kelsey’s senior year boyfriend, Ryan, never was to me. He always has other girls, like Amy and Isabel in Norwood, Connecticut, and Violet, in Newport, fawning over him, and even Kelsey admitted to herself that he was cute upon meeting him. Of course, cute guys are common in YA. Where David stands out from the pack, however, is in the way that he always goes out of his way to make sure Kelsey is okay, really understands her in a meaningful way, and plans romantic gifts and evenings just for her. As for Candy, it’s easy to see that she is more than a bubbly cheerleader. Beyond David, in fact, I’d say that Candy is probably the peer who knows Kelsey best and is a real friend to her. She knows Kelsey’s feelings better than Kelsey knows them herself, and gives her advice when she needs it. She’s also one of the few girls with whom Kelsey doesn’t have any drama, which was a nice change of pace for me.

If you’re wondering about the drama that seems to plague most of Kelsey’s female friendships or what fault I had with Ryan, then keep reading for the things that I didn’t love so much about this novel. In both the present and past timelines, Kelsey infrequently lapsed into slut shaming several of the female friends, ex-friends, and outright enemies with whom she comes into contact, including Violet, Maddie, and Isabel respectively, toward the beginning of the novel. Whether she was referring to Isabel as the “Sloppy ho” because of an argument involving a sloppy joe in the cafeteria or using words like “tramp” or “whore” in anger over jealousy, I was always taken aback by this type of language. Don’t get me wrong – I do think that it is realistic language and usage for some teen girls, but as an adult, who would love to see women sticking up for one another and not tearing them down, it was hard to read and took me out of the story. That said, most of the instances are within the first third of the book, so if you can set your feelings aside (or if you don’t have any negatives thoughts about this), then you may still enjoy the book as I did.

Ryan, in my opinion, was a little harder to swallow than the language issue. He may have been a hot guy, and I’m glad that Kelsey enjoyed his company, but personally, I need more than looks to be satisfied by someone, and I don’t think he delivered. In the very first chapter, he jumps all over Kelsey with suspicion and jealousy about the guy friend she used to know – David – who had a St. Christopher Medal just like the one in Ryan’s car. This behavior rubbed me the wrong way, and when it was followed up with Kelsey needing to talk him down from his jealousy over David when the latter enters her Newport high school, my ill opinion of him was solidified. In short, I thought he was a complete jerk. While I don’t mind love triangles in novels if both love interests are evenly matched, Ryan seemed like the weak link in this one, which put a damper on it for me.

So should you pick up Last Year’s Mistake or will it be a choice you wish you could take back? To answer that question, you have to take a look inside you: can you get past the toxic way Kelsey refers to other girls toward the beginning? Can the presence of one swoon-worthy guy and one maybe less-than-enchanting one in a love triangle get your heart racing? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you’ll likely find Last Year’s Mistake to be a fun, realistic teen romance. If not, you might want to move along.

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