Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

The Gap Year by Sarah Bird
320 pages
Published July 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

The gap year usually refers to that year that some students take between their senior year of high school and their first year of college. But in Sarah Bird's latest, the gap year refers, instead, to the year in the lives of Cam and Aubrey Lightsey when suddenly, without Cam having a clue as to why, a gap developed between the two.

Cam and Aubrey had always been close, right up until Aubrey's senior year of high school when she suddenly started keeping a lot of secrets from Cam. The attitude that most teens exhibit had only rarely reared it's ugly head and flat out disobedience was almost unheard of. Cam, a quasi-rebel resigned to living life in the suburbs, is so wrapped up in her job as a lactation specialist that she hasn't even noticed the changes in Aubrey that started even before that year.

Then Aubrey suddenly gets a friend request on Facebook from a man she hasn't seen in 16 years...her father. And she begins a relationship with the high school's star quarterback. Aubrey knows that her mother will not approve of her relationship with either man, particularly not with the man who left Cam when Aubrey was only an infant to join a kind of religious cult. And Aubrey is certainly right. Cam is mortified with Aubrey's relationship with Tyler Moldenhause, but not as much because of what sport he plays as because she blames him for taking Aubrey away from her. As for Aubrey's father, it's not until Aubrey disappears, two days before she's supposed to leave for college that Cam even realizes that Aubrey's been in contact with her father. Suddenly the two need to work together to find their daughter and it's then that Cam fully discovers that he knows a lot more about the person Aubrey is now than Cam does.

When I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the chance; the story hits so close to home. My daughter is heading into her final year of high school and we are probably as close as any mother and daughter I know. Yet I also know that teens are capable of living a life of which their parents are entirely unaware. To paraphrase "Jerry McGuire," Bird had me at hello.
"Although I am a slob and raised Aubrey with plenty of messiness, my worst enemy - Recent Studies - now tells me that I should have gone the extra step and provided actual squalor. Recent Studies says that the absolute best thing for building antibodies is close contact with livestock. If I'd only put a goat in the playpen with my baby, she probably wouldn't have asthma today."
Yes indeed, Cam is living a life filled with regrets and concerns as she prepares to send Aubrey off to college and it really resonated with me. I'm a person who still lives with the guilt of having cut my son's fingernail too short the day I brought him home from the hospital...twenty three years ago. While I can't say that I could relate to Cam on every level, I frequently found myself nodding my head in agreement with a comment or observation she made. And I've been around enough teens in recent years to find Aubrey to be an equally reliable and true voice for her generation. Am I worried, after reading this book, that I might not know my daughter as well as I think I do? Heck, yes. Which is an excellent gauge of how well Bird has captured the relationship between a mother and daughter.

Bird uses dual narrators, both Cam and Aubrey, but in a style I've not seen before. While Cam's chapters are set in the present, over the course of a few days, Aubrey's are set in the past, catching the reader up on what has happened in the past year from her perspective. It's a wonderful tool to keep the reader engaged and to emphasize the differences in perspective and highlight the lack of communication between the two. The book is filled with humor but grounded it's serious story line. It makes for a very satisfying read and one I'll definitely be passing along to other moms.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour! For more reviews of The Gap Year, see the full list of tour stops and to learn more about Bird, visit her website.

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