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BOOK REVIEW: Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

| 25 December 2014 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

Simon Pulse
March 2014
Hardcover, $18.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell




When I met Nora in first grade, I desperately wanted to be best friends with her, partly because she said she was going to be a mermaid when she grew up, but mostly because she was also adopted.

Avery and Nora were once the very best of friends. They bonded over the important things, like being adopted… and mermaids:

“Do you really want to be a mermaid when you grow up?” I asked. Nora shrugged. “Maybe. I like to swim. I might miss having legs, though. And you can’t have a TV underwater. Not having a TV would get boring, I think.” I nodded. You couldn’t argue with logic like that.

But when they reached high school, Avery became a cheerleader and less and less time was made for Nora, until they barely kept in touch at all.
One night, Nora comes to Avery with the news that Nora’s birth mother has gotten in contact with her, and Nora wants to talk, but Avery is a little too busy, like always.
The next day, Avery gets the news.

Nora’s dead. She committed suicide.

“Do I have to say anything?” My skin turned clammy. What if I started babbling about all kinds of random stuff? I could talk about the time when we read her mom’s Harlequin romance novels out loud and made a list of the terms used to describe a penis. Her favorite was “he unleashed his pink steel.” Sure, that would be a great story I could tell everyone in their moment of grief.

Back at school, Avery is partnered up with Nora’s other friend Brody for their senior project – a presentation of sorts that each senior must give in groups of two. Avery is recently single and, as such, unable to work on her project with her ex, and Brody’s partner was Nora. Nora and Brody had been looking for Nora’s birth mother for the project, and Avery decides this will be the perfect task to continue on with.
She tells her parents it’s to impress the selections committee at the university she wants to attend, and she tells Brody it means something to her to finish what Nora had started, even though they hadn’t been friends in years.


You know the story, we all do.

Main Character is shaken by a sudden, dramatic event, forms friendships and deepening relationships with people so different to those they would normally hang out with. Main Character keeps secret from New Best Friend or New Significant Other.
Reader waits for shit to hit the fan.


There was a lot that was clichéd or predictable about this novel. It followed a clear formula, and made sure to hit every checkpoint on the way, but it also dealt with adoption – a theme that has been emerging more in recent years, but of which there was surprisingly little before. And it didn’t feed into the stereotype that all cheerleaders are bitchy, mean girls, which was a refreshing change.

The voice was dry and witty, and, while I didn’t love Avery, and found myself wishing she’d realise that her secrets would get her into trouble, I couldn’t help but root for her. She was very much a teenager, with her hormones getting the best of her, and at that age everything always seems like a much bigger deal than it actually is in the scheme of things.


There could have been more in the way of emotion, especially considering the issues faced. It was a bit cold at times, but all in all this was an easy read which made me grin like a fool, but which also had its darker moments without overwhelming the reader with emotions. And I absolutely adored Avery and Brody’s in-joke about Batman and Wonder Woman. 


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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