Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.
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Our Year of Maybe
SOME DANCERS ARE GAZELLES. THEIR legs slash the air like scissors through silk, and their arms beckon the audience closer. They are works of art, pretty things to stare at.
I am no gazelle. On dance team, none of us are.
We are lions.
Montana Huang, fresh off a unanimous vote for captain last week, leads us in rehearsal in the gym—five, six, seven, eight—and then we roar to life. We toss our hair, swivel our hips, bare our teeth.
“Sophie!” Montana growls, her brows leaping to her hairline. “The second eight count starts with punch-punch-hip-circle-hair-flip, not hip-circle-punch-punch-hair-flip.” She demonstrates.
Admittedly, I’m a little distracted today, but not the kind of school’s-almost-out distracted some of the other dancers seem to be. “Sorry,” I mumble before Montana restarts the remixed nineties hip-hop song.
Sophomore year, I quit the studio I’d been dancing at since I was a kid. I needed freedom from my teachers squawking, “Back straight!” and “Chin up!” and “Don’t forget to smile.” I didn’t want to smile all the time—sometimes I wanted to look angry, because the steps were raw and ferocious, because I felt angry. I wasn’t delicate, and I didn’t want to be.
And I saw the way guys watched the girls on dance team during assemblies and football games.
I wanted Peter to watch me that way.
Once a week I take a jazz class at my old studio to stay on top of my technique for the team. But back when I took competition classes, I was at the studio four days a week, sometimes until ten p.m. It was too much.
Punch-punch-hip-circle-hair-flip. Run, run, run, and grand jeté. Heads down, new formation. Again and again—“Sophie, are you with us?”—and again.
“Great last practice,” Montana says when we’re all sweat-slick and out of breath. “Check your e-mail for our summer schedule, okay?” A chorus of yeses. A grin from Montana. “We’re going to be rock stars next year.”
I chew the cap off my water bottle and pin loose strands of red hair back into my ponytail. Junior year is officially over. In the locker room, my teammates trade summer plans. They hope we’ll have a real summer this year, the possibility of a tan. They talk about parties I won’t be attending despite the “maybe” I marked on all social media invites. “No” has always felt too brash to me, too final. I guess I like having options. Sophie Orenstein: perennial maybe.
“Anyone want to carpool to Grant Gleason’s party this weekend?”
“Did you see the finale of Dance Island?”
“I need a better smudge-proof eyeliner. Was it dripping down my face all practice and no one told me?”
My summer will be spent first in a hospital room and then recovering from a voluntary surgery my parents are still convinced I shouldn’t have volunteered for.
For me, it was never a question of should or shouldn’t.
Only a matter of when.
The curtains of his first-floor bedroom window are open when I race across the street to his house. In my life, I have never simply walked to Peter’s house. I am always on fast-forward, eager to get to him. A lion, though Peter is not exactly my prey.
His legs are stretched out on the red plaid comforter, one arm triangled behind his head, the other balancing a book on his lap. When Peter’s nervous or concentrating hard, he draws his bottom lip into his mouth and keeps it there, like he’s doing now.
In Peter’s room, each of his hobbies gets its own space. In one corner: his vintage record player and stacks of LPs. Along the wall opposite his bed: an alphabetized bookshelf. In another corner: his pet chinchilla, Mark, the most adorable creature on this earth, and his maze of a cage. Next to his bed: his Yamaha keyboard and pages of sheet music, though we don’t play as the Terrible Twosome as much as we used to. School and other commitments got in the way. I’m hoping that will change this fall. And half hidden by his closet: a storage bin for his medical supplies.
I drum my fingers on his window, and Peter glances up from his book and beckons me inside. I shake my head and beckon him over to me instead.
“You look like shit,” I say when he opens the window, instead of hello.
He bows, dark hair slipping past his eyebrows. “Thank you. I try.”
A long time ago he made me swear to always tell him the truth. Everyone lies when you’re sick. They say you look great when you do not, that things are going to get better soon; they just know it. Peter hates those platitudes.
Even when he isn’t feeling great, though, he is still beautiful. Full, dark eyebrows, strong jaw, hazel eyes that focus so intently on mine, that make it hard to look away.
And things are going to get better soon. That one is true.
“What are you reading?”
He flashes the cover at me: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. “I’ve got a paper due for my gender studies class.” Because he’s homeschooled, Peter often opts for advanced classes. They almost always sound more interesting than what I’m taking at North Seattle High.
“Learn anything interesting about me?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve got your mysteries allllll figured out.” He feathers his fingers as he says this. “You could always read it and learn for yourself.”
It’s probably Peter’s deepest desire for me to love reading like he does. Though I’m not as terrified of it as I was when a diagnosis of dyslexia illuminated why I struggled so much in elementary school, I don’t read much for fun.
“Maybe I will.” Glancing down, I say, “I see you’re wearing my favorite pants.”
It’s this ancient pair of navy sweatpants he basically lived in a few years ago. They’re threadbare at the knees, the seams on the sides nearly splitting apart. I don’t even think the elastic waistband is still, well, elasticky. But I only tease because I love him.
“Don’t pretend you don’t want to burn them.”
“Oh, I’m burning them. After the surgery. Don’t worry.” I clear my throat. No more joking around. “Are you okay to go for a walk, or do you have to do an exchange? I wanted to talk.”
As I say this, the half-moons under Peter’s eyes become more apparent, the sag in his posture a bit deeper. “I’m fine for another couple hours. I could do a short walk.”
He tosses some alfalfa into Mark’s cage and zips a North Face fleece over his plaid button-down. This boy is so Seattle it hurts. Then he climbs out the window and into the evening with me. I’m practically chasséing into his backyard, tugging on the silver chain of the tiny Star of David necklace I wear every day, my heart a wild thing inside my chest.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
It’s Wednesday, and we may not have a chance to talk like this until after the transplant Friday morning.
“Extra energy from practice. You’ll come see us perform in the fall, right?”
“Definitely. Hopefully I can go to every game.” The uncertainty hangs in the air. Hopefully the transplant will go smoothly. Hopefully no complications. Hopefully it will work. We are optimism soup. “Where are we going?” he asks as I lead him through the greenbelt behind his house and into the woods. We wind around trees that have been here longer than either of our families.
“Patience, ratty-sweatpanted one.”
He makes a tsking sound and pats the thighs of his pants. “I like these pants. I’m gonna be sad when you burn them.”
If Peter and I were together, we’d hold hands on this walk. I’d trace the knobs of his knuckles, lean in close, bury my face where his neck meets his shoulder. He’d press me up against a tree, kiss me until we both were dizzy with desire.
Sometimes being around him is agony, the gap between what we have and what I want too wide to ever cross.
After about ten minutes, we reach a clearing with a pond. We played here all the time as kids. In his portal fantasy phase, Peter was convinced that if we found the right rotting tree trunk or patch of grass, we’d tumble into another world. But we haven’t been here in years. The pond is an unhealthy gray-green, and the ground is decorated with crushed beer cans. It used to be the place we’d go to hide from our families, back when our parents said more to each other than “good evening” when they happened to take the trash out at the same time.
I hug my sweatshirt tighter around me, wishing I’d changed into something warmer than gym shorts after practice.
“Are you having second thoughts?” Peter asks suddenly, his voice threaded with panic.
“No!” I say quickly. It’s true—I’m not. It’s just that I’ve been anticipating our surgery for so long that it’s become impossible to imagine our lives on the other side of it.
His shoulders soften, and he lets out a long sigh. “Okay. Because. You know you don’t have to do this, right? I mean, of course I’m thrilled you’re doing it, and my parents are thrilled you’re doing it. But you don’t have to. You know that.”
I do. But I love Peter more than the world. More than my parents, more than dance, more than my sister, Tabitha, and my niece, Luna. It’s easy to fall in love with someone who’s a master of their craft. Peter at the piano has an intensity I’ve always admired. An electricity, like if I touched him in the middle of a Rufus Wainwright song, he’d burn my hand. Lower lip between his teeth, dark hair in his face, shoulder blades rolling beneath his T-shirt as he moves up and down the keys. I can never help imagining if he’ll ever touch me with the same kind of gentle desperation.
Performance art has always connected us. Our music tastes overlap but aren’t identical, and when we play together, we feed off each other’s energy. My heart never feels closer to his than at the end of a song, when we’re both out of breath, grinning at each other like we’ve created something only the two of us will ever understand.
Aside from that, Peter is a certified Good Person. A good friend, even before my feelings for him turned romantic. When I had to repeat fourth grade because my reading comprehension was below grade level and my report cards were abysmal, Peter read aloud with me at home. I was still a grade ahead of him, but he was patient while I made my mouth form unfamiliar words like “chronological” and “tangible” and “eclipse.” I remember whispering a word to myself first, worried I’d mispronounce it if I said it out loud. The letters were always jumping around. “It’s just me,” Peter would say. “Try it.” It was only after I’d been held back and continued to struggle that my parents brought me to a specialist. Girls are often diagnosed with dyslexia later than boys. It explained so much, though it didn’t excuse the teasing I’d endured, the kids who’d called me stupid. I wasn’t, my specialist said. I just learned differently.
“You have a bigger brain than they do,” Peter said. “They’re jealous.” I snorted, but then he told me he’d been reading up on it—a very Peter thing to do—and there was scientific evidence: usually the left hemisphere of a dyslexic person’s brain is larger than the brain of someone who doesn’t have dyslexia. Plus, he said, John Lennon was dyslexic.
When he started homeschooling, a mix of online courses and a couple at a local homeschool center, I spent my afternoons and weekends with him, ignored other kids’ invitations to parties and sleepovers until they eventually stopped coming.
He is solid and constant. The moon and the stars.
I would do anything for this boy, and I’d have done it sooner if I could, but I had to wait until I turned eighteen a couple months ago to see if I was a match. Sometimes I wonder if the reverse is true—if Peter would do anything for me. Deep in my bones I know that if Peter were healthy, if my kidneys had failed instead of his, he would. He’s just never had a chance to prove it like I have.
I unzip my backpack and spread a blanket over the ground. “I wanted to give you something,” I say as we sit down. “Before the surgery.”
“You’re already giving me something kind of huge.”
“Fine, something you can actually hold.” Making my face super serious, I pull Operation out of my backpack.
He bursts out laughing. I adore Peter’s laugh. It’s like your favorite song played on repeat. “Stop. You’re the best. You’re already the best, and then you do this? There isn’t even a word for what you are.”
His words swim through my veins and try to convince my heart he feels what I feel.
“Fantastic, brilliant, wonderful, perfect.”
“All of those. You are all the adjectives. You and your big brain.” Every so often, that joke pops back up.
Beautiful, intriguing, irresistible—those, too? I don’t say.
We scoot closer to each other on the blanket, Peter’s thigh against my thigh, Peter’s hip against my hip. My entire left side hums with electricity, but I’m careful not to press myself into him the way I want to. I am constantly pretending that Peter touching me is not the most incredible feeling in the world. I’ve trained my breath not to catch in my throat, willed my heart to slow down. I am more aware of my body when I’m with him than when I’m onstage.
“Why are you doing this, Soph?” he asks, idly brushing a thumb across my knee, a gesture that nearly splits me open on the forest floor.
He’s asked this question so many times. A voluntary surgery like this is no small thing. The only thing in my life that comes close, four stubborn baby teeth when I was eleven, can’t exactly compare.
I’ve gotten so used to sick Peter that I wonder what a healthier Peter will be like. He won’t be on dialysis anymore. He won’t sleep so much, eat so little, throw up the small amount of food he’s able to get down. He won’t hurt.
“You are my best friend and favorite person,” I say. “And you really, really need to start wearing jeans again.”
He doesn’t laugh. “Are you scared?” He whispers it, though we are the only people around. Like he wants to keep our conversation a secret from the trees and sky. He reaches over and squeezes my hand.
“Yes,” I say simply, squeezing back. I can’t be dishonest with him, not about this. Even though there is no way I’m changing my mind, I’m terrified of what will happen when I am unconscious. When they cut me open and put part of me into Peter.
On the blanket, my phone lights up with a message from my dad.
Where are you? Luna’s party starts at 6.
It’s five till. “I completely spaced,” I say with a groan, smacking my forehead. “It’s Luna’s birthday.”
“Wait. Before you go.” He reaches over and pulls up the hem of my sweatshirt. His hand fumbles between the sweatshirt and my tank top for a second, like he’s searching for where, exactly, the kidney I’m giving him is located, and then he strokes my back. Slowly I exhale. Through the thin cotton fabric, his fingers are warm.
There are a thousand other reasons I’m doing this, but still, this gesture makes me think what I have only allowed myself to think about on the rarest occasions: that maybe, after the transplant, Peter will want me, too.
“Don’t worry, Soph,” he says, replacing my nerves with something even scarier. “I’ll take good care of it.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon is even better than her debut, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. There. I said it. Now, obviously this is my opinion, but I just related to Sophie and Peter, the two main characters and POVs, in OYOM better than I did to Adina and Tovah, the two main characters and POVs in YMMWIG. I understood the yearning, the unrequited love and crushes, the friend break-up, and the uncertainty of your place in the world/who you are. The story couldn’t feel more nostalgic to all the messy feelings of my high school life if I had written it in high school. As always, Solomon adds depth to her characters through their faith (the characters are Jewish and half-Jewish, as said by the characters themselves), their families and friends, and through their relationships to each other. Peter feels like he owes Sophie something for her giving him a kidney and Sophie feels like it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if Peter just happened to love her back now. Both characters are complex, imperfect, and, sometimes, selfish. But at no point did I feel like I disliked either of them. I understood where they were coming from, why they felt how they did, and I think Solomon really toed a fine line of creating these characters, creating appropriate tension, and deconstructing their friendship. I highly recommend this beautifully written, heartbreaking, and relatable story.
Sophie and Peter are best friends. Peter has long been on the kidney transplant list, so when Sophie is found to be a match, they are excited. However, Sophie is secretly wishing that once Peter has her kidney, he will magically love her back. As a child, Peter had feelings for Sophie, that she didn't return at the time. Now the roles have been reversed, and Sophie is in love with him. The reviews on this one seemed fairly high, but I thought it was just mediocre. I wasn't really caring for either main character. A friend giving up a kidney for a friend, well, I thought that could be interesting. You are giving up a part of yourself, willingly going into surgery so that they can have a better life and live. It's a wonderful thing. This one just wasn't much for me.
Once I started reading Our Year of Maybe, I couldn’t put it down. It starts with Sophie with her dance team at the last practice before summer break after junior year. She’s giving a kidney to her best friend and crush Peter. Her fam isn’t as happy about this as Peter’s and things are tense. Peter now has the health and energy to to back to public school, and stand up to his parents while Sophie’s feeling the pain in different ways. I totally get Sophie’s adaptation and camouflage around people. I connected with Sophie’s personality struggles more while Peter’s new life and romance were achingly adorable. Their families are dynamic and flawed and you’ll have no problem keeping them and all the friends straight. There’s dance team girls and a band. I like how unrequited love doesn’t get solved with another romance. It’s…tricky. MY FAVORITE SOPHIE QUOTES: Sophie Orenstein: perennial maybe. Now that he’s in school with me, he’ll know what I really am when he’s not around: a burnt-out light of a person. “I didn’t know you were capable of that, ” Corrie says. The truth is that neither did I. FAVORITE PETER QUOTES: I’m the miracle, but Sophie…Sophie is the hero. In the past, I always envied groups like this, who were loud in public and laughed too much. Now I’m too loud. I laugh too much. The terrible truth: Sophie is both a reminder of everything I went through and everything I can do now. These are all quotes from early on in the book to introduce you to them. My absolute favorites are towards the very end and would be spoilers. Their journey together and apart is amazing. I can’t really find the words to go into detail without giving away anything. It’s….AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. THINGS I LOVE ABOUT OUR YEAR OF MAYBE: Teen Mom Making it Work. YES! I love her sister Tabby, her niece Luna, and the baby daddy. Very honest and decent portrayal about how having a child while a teen changes everything and makes some things so much harder. Reality of chronic kidney disease, dialysis, and catheters. Sophie has dyslexia Girl masturbation with a vibrator Sophie and her dad connect ad introverts hanging out in silence. Sophie, Peter, Tabby and the girl’s dad all have passions for sound and music but in different ways, together similar but not. Picking quotes was so hard because I swear there’s a highlight every couple of pages. It explores toxicity in relationships with family, friends, and romance. For me, the best books keep me reading to through the acknowledgements. Teary eyed and clutching my chest, I read Solomon’s acknowledgements thankfully for everyone she mentioned. It moved me enough to clarify what I would be proud of as an accomplishment and what I want to do going forward. Which sounds simple and stupid, but I’ve been struggling with where to go in my life for awhile. I love this book. I think about it weeks after finishing and I have no doubt I’ll continue to do so. This book set my year off with the best kind of start.
Solomon continues to write beautiful books which portray real-life in all its messy, sad, wonderful glory. Be prepared to keep a box of tissues with you for the end of the book, and if you’re like me and had a crush on your childhood best friend who never saw you that way, go ahead and get a second box because you are going to need it. The chapters from Sophie’s POV explore the crazy, almost obsessive, things we do for young love, even if it is unrequited and how it can become toxic to even a healthy friends. While the chapters from Peter’s POV shows how sometimes that unrequited love isn’t a choice as he falls for Chase and struggles to accept his own emotions because he doesn’t want to break Sophie’s heart and ruin the friendship.
Having missed out on her debut last year, I knew I had to get my hands on Solomon's sophomore novel. My teens at work kept telling me she's an author to watch, so I did listen to them this time. I just wish they had told me I needed to have some tissues for her books lol If nothing else, I learned one thing from this novel. I get wayyyyyy too attached to characters. And this one was no different. I got way too attached to both Peter and Sophie. While reading this I cringed through the entire thing. So many times I was upset for one of them doing something to the other. Even if it wasn't with ill intent. This entire situation was such a slippery slope and I hated that I knew both of them were going to end up broken at some point. I also really loved Solomon's writing style. Although it was a bit slow at some points, I really enjoyed it. I also liked that she chose to write this in dual POV because I don't think it would have been the same just from Sophie or just from Peter. At one point though, I do wish I could have gotten into Chase's head too, just to see exactly what he was thinking. Also, I knew I would fall for this after Part I. I was in tears at my desk (I finished that part at work) and I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster it would take me on. Solomon definitely drew me in with this story and immediately made me want to read her debut. The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is the ending. I agree with what Dahila said in her review, I wanted more. *SPOILER* We spent so much time looking at the havoc this friendship caused, but we don't get to see much of the good for Sophie. I was happy to see that Peter was happy, but I wanted more of Sophie's "after Peter" life. *END SPOILER* ook was so special and different from everything I've read before. Even though I've never read her before, I'm glad I listened to my teens. I can't wait for them to read this one too! At least I can warn them about the tissues.
Every once in a while, I get a book that makes me so glad that I have a book blog. Without my book blog, I would never have seen or known about Our Year of Maybe, and I would have missed out on a wonderful, contemporary novel. Sometimes, I am so thankful that I get to read these books and get to live in these stories for a time. In this coming of age story, we find best friends, Peter and Sophie, on the cusp of major life changes. Most obviously, Sophie is giving Peter a kidney. But beyond that, the pair are figuring out their relationship with a healthy Peter, who they are as adults instead of children, and what they want to do as high school comes to an end. The reason I loved this book is simple: I related to it so much. I’ve never experienced the pain and terror of a potentially life ending illness. I’ve also, thankfully, never been in need of an organ transplant, so you may wonder how I could relate to this story. For me, these issues were almost secondary to the characters and events taking place. Rachel Lynn Solomon so perfectly writes about the feelings of first love, unrequited love, and complicated friendships, with a deep understanding of being a teenager trying to figure out these complex emotions. There were moments from Sophie’s point of view that I literally felt in my chest how she was feeling, because I remember all to well what that was like. Later in the book, Sophie’s mom gives her some advice that I wish I had when I was younger. After recounting her own struggles with love, she says, “You are going to stop feeling this way. I can promise you that. I wish I could tell you when, but this kind of unrequited love doesn’t last forever, kiddo. It just can’t….Our hearts wouldn’t be able to take it.” Full stop. I could have saved myself so much heartache and time if only I figured out and believed that emotions are temporary, fleeting, and though their scars may linger, the acute pain will ease and change. They have to, otherwise, our hearts wouldn’t be able to take it. Go read this book. It’s easy to read, funny at times, and so freaking relatable that I am little worried Rachel Lynn Solomon read my high school diary. There’s a giveaway below and some links to buy Our Year of Maybe if you aren’t the very lucky winner. Can’t wait to hear some of your thoughts.
Our Year Of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon 5⭐️ Thank you for Simon Pulse, Rachel Lynn Solomon and netgalley for an E-Arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Beautiful, compelling, incredible story about friendship, love, heartbreak, forgiveness. Our main character: Sophie Orenstein, an Aspiring choreographer would do absolutely anything to help her best friend, Peter who has been sick his whole life with kidney disease. Sophie has to wait until she turns eighteen years old to make one of the biggest decisions of her life.... will she be a match for Peter, who has been on the transplant list for a new kidney. From there comes a beautiful story about friendship, whether the friendship will survive such a event. Love; in more ways then one heart can handle. Forgiveness; one way may not always be the correct way to life through ones life. Things I loved about this book: - The setting was in Seattle - Friendship/heartbreaking realistically - DIVERSITY/REPRESENTATION - Family coming together - Dual POV Rachel deserves a reward for this one, I hope everyone reads this book once it’s released until the world!
This was an absolutely beautiful book that tackled so many important issues. This book didn't drag nor did you feel weighed down by all the heavy topics. Sophie and Peter have to navigate life after a transplant and what it really means to give and receive a kidney. There's a lot of talk on feeling guilty or indebted to someone because of what they've done for you. A kidney is a huge deal but there are everyday instances that could cause someone to feel this way too. Sophie and Peter are inseparable, but they have to navigate high school and what it means now that Peter is "healthy". How do you go from being each other's everything to just being a part of their life? How do you set aside your romantic feelings for someone when they're all you've ever wanted? Our MCs are messy and they make a lot of mistakes, but that's a part of being human. This whole situation is complicated and while Peter and Sophie hunt for the right answer they might just find there isn't one. Another big topic in this that I absolutely adored was toxic friendships and friend breakups. One of the most important lines in the book is about when romantic relationships end, you can always fall back to being friends. But when a friendship ends, that's just the end. Religion is a huge part of this book and I learned a lot about how Judaism works. I loved seeing it from so many characters perspective and watching our characters come to terms with religion and what being Jewish means to them. I think everyone has had a similar struggle in their lives and it was really refreshing and comforting to see similar struggles with religion in a YA novel. Also, I loved that Peter is unapologetically bi AND Jewish. I really want to see more of that. Being gay and religious is obviously a struggle but it isn't always THE struggle when it comes to questioning religion. Overall, this was a beautifully written book that tackles difficult issues while pulling you into its world. These characters will find a place in your heart and you'll laugh and cry along with them. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon Pulse through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*