Tess Goodwin’s life in rural Iowa is sheltered and uncomplicated. Although she chooses to spend most of her free time playing chess with her best friend Zander, the farm-boy from next door, her skills as a bovine midwife and tractor mechanic ensure that she fits in with the other kids at East Chester High. But when her veteran father reenlists in the Army, moving her family halfway across the country to North Carolina, Tess is forced out of her comfort zone into a world she knows nothing about.
Tess approaches the move as she would a new game of chess, plotting her course through the unfamiliar reality of her new life. While heeding Zander’s long-distance advice for making new friends and strategizing a means to endure her dad’s imminent deployment to the Middle East, she quickly discovers how ill-equipped she is to navigate the challenges she encounters and becomes convinced she’ll never fit in at her new school.
When Leonetta Jackson is assigned as her mentor, she becomes Tess’s unexpected guide through the winding labyrinth of disparities between them, sparking a tentative friendship and challenging Tess to confront her reluctant nature. As the pieces move across the board of her upended life, will Tess find the acceptance she so desperately desires?
USA Today Bestselling author Amalie Jahn is the recipient of the Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Readers' Favorite Gold Medal for her debut YA novel, THE CLAY LION. Her first YA contemporary, THE NEXT TO LAST MISTAKE, won the prestigious IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award in 2020. She is a contributing blogger with the Huffington Post and Southern Writers Magazine, as well as a finalist in the 2015 Kindle Book Awards. A TED speaker, human rights advocate, and active promoter of kindness, she lives in the United States with her husband, two children, and three extremely overfed cats.
When she's not at the computer coaxing characters into submission, you can find Amalie swimming laps, cycling, or running on the treadmill, probably training for her next triathlon. She hates pairing socks and loves avocados. She is also very happy time travel does not yet exist. Stalk her right here in the present day at these social media sites:
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“Every love story is a love story – the only question is what kind of love”
Eleven reasons why I love this book: 1-The writing style is amazing 2-The beautiful bond between girls with so different backgrounds 3-The outstanding metaphors with the chess game 4 -Accepting the diversity in each of us 5-The discussion about Wuthering Heights and it’s faucet of growing in love 6-The male hero, every girl first love, our dad. He’s unique! 7-The eleven list things. 8-Zander 9-The messages, because there is more than one 10-There’s also not a boy that is describe as “hot” and in these days in YA book says a lot 11-Because the Next to Last Mistakes was more then I was hoping for, it made me fell, it made me wonder, it made realize and of course it made me cry.
If these is not enough for you to make you read this book…here is the last one..
Victory goes to the player who make the next to last mistake. During a game of chess you can make mistakes along the way and still come out ahead as long as you learn from those misstep and adjust accordingly.
Thanks NETGALLEY for the ARC and thanks for Amalie Jahn I am your next stalker I will go wherever you go!
Thank you to Netgalley and Light Messages Publishing!
This book stole my ENTIRE HEART. I loved everything about it.
Everything about this story was unique. From the setting, to the characters, to the plot points. I found myself flying through this story in a few days. While being a contemporary YA novel, this book also packed some powerful messages and an emotional sucker-punch to the stomach.
The best part about the story, to me, was that there were some really important messages regarding race. I really thought the author did a wonderful job pointing out some of my own biases and how we all need to look more closely at our beliefs and the language we use.
'The Next to Last Mistake' by Amalie Jahn will have readers considering their own lives through a bittersweet lens as they work through feelings of security, happiness, separation, loss, and inequality, among others. Jahn has written a story that will resonate with readers of all ages, as main character Tess navigates the difficult task of uprooting her life due to her father's reenlistment in the military. While struggling to find a way to come to terms with her eventual separation from being a farm girl in Iowa and sharing her days with best friend Zander, she also wonders about the new life she doesn't know how she will acclimate to in Fayetteville, North Carolina. However, she finds strength she never knew she had, all while learning more about herself than she had even thought possible.
Tess finds that life sometimes turns out in unexpected ways as she makes the acquaintance of new friends at her new school, including Leonetta, the girl with whom she is partnered to help show her the ropes of her new school. She also finds herself facing off once again with the school mean girl, noting that certain types of people and cliques are ever present no matter where one goes in the world. Dealing with life and all of its intricacies through her love of chess, she finds metaphorical connections that shape her into a more well-rounded person.
Learning to cope with her father's day-to-day military jargon and life, along with the racial biases that she has never had to even think about due to the mostly homogeneous life she led in Iowa, forces her outside of her comfort zone at times. This is not only good for her, but inherently useful for readers, as it will make anyone think about these aspects of life long past reading the last page of the story.
Readers who love feeling right in the thick of it all, as though they can picture the setting and be dropped right into it, will love Jahn's writing. Whether smiling, gasping, tearing up, or feeling a smattering of all of these emotions, there is something that will make every reader stop and think about how to consider their own lives through Jahn's vivid words.
Beth Rodgers, Author of 'Freshman Fourteen' and 'Sweet Fifteen,' Young Adult Novels
This book is an insightful look into the life of a young lady whose whole world is changing around her, and her journey to understand who she is and how she fits in. She is forced to confront her own ideas about life as she knows it as she adapts to her new surroundings. A great read for any teen...and any adult who finds him/herself in unfamiliar territory. I highly recommend this book!!
* I received this ARC from Netgalley and Publisher Light Messages Publishing in exchange for an honest review*
This novel has a little taste of it all. The gal pal group, the mean girl, the best friend, the romance, the tragedy. I absolutely loved the cute friend groups in this book and the tragic part of the story caught me far off guard. Something that I would have changed is the amount of the romance, it took way too long to come about so it was never really present till the last pages. This book was sweet but didn't really have a huge plot point so that's why I leave it at a, meh, 3 stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Light Messages Publishing!
Tess Goodwin lives the good life on her family's diary farm in Iowa. When she's not bonding with the cows and giving each and every one their own name, she's enjoying the company of her next door neighbor Zander who has been her best friend since practically birth, planning her next move in the latest chess game, or just spending time with her friends as group. But when her father blindsides the family with his announcement that he not only reenlisted in the Army, but the family is moving to Fayetteville, North Carolina and living on base at Fort Bragg, Tess is left grasping for pieces of the life she once lived including Zander who may be more to her than she ever considered. Entering into a new world and school, Tess makes these instantaneous , interracial friendships that she wouldn't have made other ways back in Iowa and with their support, guidance, and encouragement, they help each other navigate the perils of high school, boys, mean girls, drama, prejudices, and tragedy all while realizing that they are more alike than they realize in their hardships and struggles, but that each one brings something new and uniquely different to the table in her own way making their friendship and bond so special and giving Tess something that she didn't realize she was missing.
I immediately connected to Tess. She lives on a dairy farm (I have lived on a farm for almost 10 years), she loves playing chess (I was taught by a 12 year old how to play when I was 16!), and while she moves from Iowa to Fayetteville, North Carolina, I have lived in NC my entire life. I actually live about 2.5 hours away from Fayetteville and have been to Fort Bragg. So a lot of immediate connections which excited me!
The story is driven with these different, powerful types of relationships that Tess has: to understanding and admiration for this amazing group of girls, to her loving, solid bond she has with her father, to this patient, sweet budding romance with Zander, it shows every one of them in this bright, positive light that we just don't see enough of.
The Next to Last Mistake is a quick, but meaningful, deep read that is not only good for the heart, but the soul as well. Make this a must!
Thanks to Light Messages and Netgalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
This novel follows Tess, a teenage girl living in a farming community in rural Iowa. Her father re-enlists in the army which necessitates the family's move to North Carolina. The story follows Tess' journey as she adapts to this huge upheaval in her life, and her struggle to maintain old relationships and forge new ones.
This kind of rural setting was one that was new to me. I've read a lot of literature set in the rural South, but an Iowa dairy farm was a first for me. The military base setting in North Carolina was also unfamiliar to me personally, but I felt I understood more about how they function by the end of the novel. Both of the main settings were quite unique and refreshing for a YA novel and I liked how Tess was proud to be from a farming background. All too often this kind of upbringing is pitched as something young people resent and wish to escape from.
The novel highlights themes of racism and white privilege as Tess navigates her new High School and makes friends with Leonetta and Alice, two African American teens. The characterisation and dialogue when these issues were highlighted was sometimes a little clumsy but the author's heart was clearly in the right place. The friendship between Tess and her friends was portrayed well and it's clear the author drew upon her real life female friendships when writing this novel. Themes of bullying and controlling romantic relationships are also explored.
Additionally, the main love story is sweet if a little predictable. Without spoiling anything the story also packs in a hefty emotional punch. I also thought Chess was an interesting hobby for a female YA protagonist so kudos for that.
My only mild criticisms would be that Tess is a little too good to be true sometimes. Is it really realistic that a teenager wouldn't complain once about leaving her home, all her friends and even her beloved cow? The use of 'triflin' heifer' as an insult was also bizarre and cheesy. It was hard to believe that any savvy young person would use that.
Overall a solid YA novel that will strike a chord with many young people. Themes of female friendship, racism, loss and dealing with change will resonate with many readers and the story was unique enough to hold my interest.
I've read every book Amalie Jahn has ever written and loved every one. This one, however, tops them all.
Tess is a sweet but sheltered farm girl from Iowa. Her father, driven by duty, reenlists in the Army, prompting the family to leave behind everything Tess has ever known and head for Fayetteville, North Carolina. The hardest part is Tess having to part with Zander, her childhood sweetheart and best friend.
Right away, Tess must contend with a new school with a HUGE student body that is far more racially diverse than she's used to. She makes the acquaintance of Leonetta, an African-American girl who she despairs she has nothing in common with, but before long the two click on a truly beautiful level. From her (and two other girls named Alice and Summer, truly delightful), Tess learns more about herself and the world she lives in that she could have ever imagined.
I cannot put into sufficient words how much I loved this book. The friendships and the bonds between Tess and many of the other characters (including her dad) are what drive the story, along with Tess's passion for chess (to which the title refers).
I can say without fail that this will be one of my favorite books of the year. It's brilliant, with moments that will warm your heart, uplift you, tear you down, educate you, comfort you, and make you want to hug every loved one you have. It will stay with you LONG after you read the final word.
I was given an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley, for my honest, unbiased review. This book releases on March 19, 2019. You can pre-order it on Amazon now.
"We have 16 years of history together, Tess. Nothing can take those memories away from us. You're always gonna be a part of my life, even if you're no longer a part of my days."
This story is about a girl named Tess. She finds out in the beginning of the story that her family is moving from their very small farm town in Iowa to a military base in South Carolina. Tess is a reserved girl, she loves to play chess, and she loves her best friend Zander even more. What she really learns from this move is how to make lasting friendships, what it feels like when you realize you have fallen in love, and how to survive an unspeakable loss.
This was not a typical love story. This was a love story about friendship. It was a love story about family. And it was a story that taught you the importance of having both in your life. How the love of friends, new and old, and the love of a tight knit family can help you grow.
"I'm sure there are good guys in the world who won't lie to us or break our hearts." she says as we approach the door to our English class. "I'm just not sure where to find them."
Tess and Leonetta's friendship was so special. Tess grew up in this small town in Iowa, and really had quite the culture shock when she got to South Carolina. She had never met anyone like Leonetta, and she had never experienced any bias or racism in the town she grew up in. Leonetta taught her so much about life, all the while not judging her for having a simple mind. She was patient with Tess and helped her understand things she might not have ever even learned about had her family not moved. The friendships she gained with Alice and Summer were also special, but I don't think any helped her grow as a person, as her friendship with Leonetta did.
It's not often you find a YA book that isn't centered around the love story, or the hot guy. I appreciated that about this story. This truly was a story about friendship. Friendship from different cultures, and friends teaching other about life, love, and loss. This is a great story for young girls to read.
"I love you guys. You know that. I love you like I've never loved any other girlfriends because the truth is, before you, there weren't any other girls I felt comfortable letting into my life. But the three of you..you taught me what it means to be a friend. A real friend. What it means to have someone else's back even when life gets hard or messy."
"Like when triflin' heifers try to sabotage you at every turn?" Leonetta adds.
I can't review this and not talk about Zander. Zander is the first and only best friend Tess had before her family moved away. They grew up together, and you could tell they loved each other, but they were too worried about ruining the friendship they had to act on it. I think Tess moving helped them realize how much they meant to each other. And their story was a sweet one, Zander was a sweet boy, but it wasn't the focal point of the book, and I don't think that was a bad thing.
Overall I'm giving this book 4 STARS. It's getting 4 stars because, while it was a very thought provoking story, and it was a great lesson, I felt like some stuff was a little drug out. The author talked a lot about racism, and farm life. And while I appreciated the lessons, I did feel like some of it was a little too in depth. I would have liked more story of the 4 girls and their friendship, or Tess and Zander, instead of pages of that. I also thought the ending was SO super sad. I just really wish she didn't feel like it needed to go in that direction to be a good book. But I would still recommend people read this. It was a great story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Inscribe Digital through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The book will be published on March 19, 2019.
Blonde haired, blue eyed, Iowa farm girl Tess Goodwin has her life uprooted when her father reenlists in the military and relocates the family to Fayetteville, North Carolina. “Trading farm crops and silos and tractors for soldiers and loud guns” — it’s a rough transition for Tess. She leaves behind a beloved lifestyle and her best (and in some ways only) friend Zander … for whom she may have some stronger feelings than just friendship. She also enters the very real and dangerous world of the military where “the practice of staying alive is incentivized” with a billboard displaying the number of days with no unit fatalities. However, as they say in her farming community, you “grow where you’re planted,” and this is the story of how she manages to develop in a wildly different environment.
Leaving the homogeneity of Iowa behind, this is Tess’ first experience with racial diversity. Establishing a strong connection with a group of three other girls — military and townie, black and white — she is forced to come to terms with her own implicit biases. While I got a little tired of her feeling “humble and thankful for clemency” so frequently when faced with racial realities of which she was previously unaware, I did appreciate the frank discussions of the topic, exemplified via experiences, educational mini-lectures, and a couple of really good literary discussions drawn from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
A coming-of-age story, it does a nice job of describing the experience for a specific, rather than generic, teen. Tess is a chess enthusiast, a skillful farmer, and has a much closer relationship with her father than her (perfectly normal) mother. The book does a nice job of challenging multiple gender, race, and role assumptions simultaneously.
At times the book feels a little over simplified (problems are solved with far too facile measures) and a few passages feel like mini-lectures rather than the natural expressions of teenage girls, but the characters are appealing, the descriptions of both farm and military life are engaging, and I liked the clear descriptions of difficult racial subjects from the perspective of a white girl who had not needed to consider them before.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Next To Last Mistake follows Tess, a teenage girl who gets uprooted from her hometown in Iowa and moved to North Carolina. She faces the pressures of rebuilding a life in a new town with a huge, new school while not wanting to leave her previous life behind.
This is a wonderful YA book. Nothing too wild happens, but the ending really packs an emotional punch. Tess is introduced to differences in such a way that a small town in Iowa could not present to her, and she grows as a person because of it. This was a lovely, shorter read, and I would definitely recommend this for the YA crowd.
The writing style of this book is absolutely amazing! I really loved this story. I loved the bond between Tess and Zander, and also, the bonds between the girls who come from such different backgrounds. This book definitely gave me all the feels...happiness, sadness and wonder. This is an incredibly unique story and definitely the best contemporary YA novel I've read so far this year. It packed a punch so to speak. It tells of Tess's journey as her life changes all around her and her journey to understand where she fits in, how she fits in and exactly who she is. I highly recommend this book!
“I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”
This book felt true to life in dealing with the changes and emotions that life throws at us. A couple of parts felt just a touch heavy handed to me in discussing racial issues, but overall it's a good story about friendship and dealing with mean people and moving out of your comfort zone.
There wasn't much in the way of actual content but because of some references and implications I wouldn't recommend this for younger readers. The word 'slut' is used (from one of the mean girls at school) and , though in a very non-graphic way.
Thanks to NetGalley for a free review copy of this book. This review reflects my honest and unbiased opinions.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Next to Last Mistake is a story about being out of your comfort zone, displaced, and not knowing how to move on with your life. At the same time it's about opening your heart to new experiences, being willing to listen, and adapting to change. The Next to Last Mistake is surprising in the best of ways as it deals with friendship, family, and saying goodbye.
*Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to this advanced readers copy*
I want to preface this review by saying that I had just finished reading a sci-fi/fantasy prior to picking this up. For me, it is always hard to transition from fantasy to contemporary.
With that being said, the majority of this book was 3 stars for me. I couldn't figure out where the story was going until about 70% of the way through. The later half of the book bumped it up a half a star. The writing and storytelling weren't bad by any means, I just felt a little jerked around at times by certain messages that were trying to be conveyed. There were moments in the story that highlighted racism, stereotyping, and racial profiling but they seemed so random and out of place at times that I felt completely taken out of the story. I feel like these moments were meant to highlight the everyday occurrences some people experience, but they were often told in a manner that felt forced and often times, there was no followup. The reader was left questioning why it was mentioned in the first place.
Overall, I liked the theme of what it means to be taken out of your comfort zone and adapt to change. Life isn't predictable and is merely made up of moments reacting to the circumstances happening around us.
I really liked this book, the writing was good, and although I didn't feel a big connection to any of the characters, I did feel a connection to the friendship that formed between Tess and her new friends in Lafayette. Although I don't play chess and have no idea how to play it, I did appreciate that the author included a lot of parallels to chess, because the main character loves chess.
The Next To The Last Mistake by Amalie Jahn I have to say I didn't like this story at all! There was no real story there even when you started to see a story developing with the friends it all of a sudden takes a different turn and you lose the story! There was so many opportunities for a great story and it just gets lost to me In to much background noise 2 stars
‘The next to last mistake’ is the story about Tess Goodwin, a countrygirl from Iowa. She grew up in the farms with her best friend, Zander and the two have been inseperable for as long as they can remember. But after Tess’s father re-enlists in the army, Tess has to move with her family to North Carolina and leave her whole life behind.
There are a lot of things going on together in the story; deep literary discussions, bullying, veterenary life hardships, racial discrimination and a few others. These issues are quite sensitive and I was really pleased that one did not overshadow the other and all together were not overwhelming at all. The whole credit goes to the author, who with her wonderful and seamless writing, managed to deliver a beautiful book with a beautiful plot.
Tess was a terrific main protagonist. She is scared and skeptical of leaving her comfort zone but that doesn’t stop her from striving in this new life of hers. She makes three new best friends, who remind me so much of my three best friends back home. Tess goes through a major character development through the course of the story and she becomes a well rounded person and I love her so much.
The only problem I have of this book is the romance, or the lack therof. It’s very clear who the love interest is (he is a sweetheart and a gentleman and I highly approve!!) and I would have loved to see more of them together.
Highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something sweet to read.
I love the calmness of the cover. It suits well to the story. Also the combination of the colors is very suitable. The big white writing of the title also fits well into the whole picture.
The writing style was simple and fluent to read. Through the personal perspective of Tess it was really easy to connect with her and dwell in her emotions.
When I started this book, I was not 100% sure what I should expect. I came across the book, liked the cover, thought the short-plot sounds not so bad and like something different for this time. Although I did not have a big idea, what I should expect, I was really surprised how much I've been drawn into the story. I could hardly but away the book. It was a really nice piece of art about real friendship. I specially liked also the end, where the author explained, that she made such great friends in real life. It makes hope, that real friendship is still out there.
The move from her beloved Iowa, her friend Zander and her cows, was really hard to stomach in the beginning for Tess. It was great to see her develop in the story and find her place in this new environment. From the beginning, she appeared like a really nice girl, but during the progress of the story, I was also able to get a glimpse of the strength of this character. Also the other characters were really nice and I liked them a lot. Leonetta was a really interesting character, it was nice to get to know her better. Also Zander was a great friend. One ncharacter, which I also liked very much, was Tess' dad. He was so loving and strong and always tried to do, what is best for his family.
One part, which was also really enjoyable and fascinating, was how much the sport of chess was interwined into the story and how much it suited it.
The end of the story came quite sudden. I must say, I was reading that part on the plane and probably got some looks because I started crying. However, it also held hope. That you are never alone and therefore can overcome a lot of bad things in life.
Fazit: Fascinating drama including true friendship and a lot of emotions. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.
This was actually more than I was expecting. I am not sure WHAT I was expecting, but it wasn't what I read -- and I mean that in the BEST way possible. Many of the situations the MC found herself in, I too had dealt with. This book is definitely something that will hit home for anyone affiliated with the military, and military life. It's not easy to be the new kid, it's not easy to leave your life behind, and it's NEVER the child's choice. These are all key points that connected me to the MC.
One of the best things in the novel was the comparison to Chess. The way the author dropped the references and innuendos was a pleasant addition, adding a flare that I had not encountered previously.
The story's over all arc is sidelined as the smaller arcs of each powerful relationship pushes the story forward. The MC is forced to learn how to adapt and handle all of these, be it her father, Zander, or the new group of girls she encounters. The intimacy and ferociousness of these really bring a life to the story. If not for these, I felt like this would have been a mildly boring read - and more typical of the genre.
While the writing and plots were not something overly spectacular, the characters were wildly different and that made for a fun read. Watching the MC navigate life with the assistance of someone she would otherwise not be friends with was a breathe of fresh air, an acknowledgement that sometimes, life puts you in situations to expose you to a greater world, a wider world -- all for you to learn. Learn to accept yourself, others as they are, and that you cannot change what life has given you, only shape into something you love.
A white farm girl moves to a town where she is faced with the racial intricacies. That pretty much sums it up.
This story could've been impactful but it misses its mark. Nothing happens for a long time and then it seems like everything is happening at once. I liked Tess's friendship with Leonetta and Alice but it was still missing something. Maybe because I was expecting a lot more from Tess coming to terms with her own racial bias. When she does have discussions about these discoveries she makes about her surroundings and even her own self, it comes off a little too forced and a bit preachy. Does that make sense?
What disappoints me the most was that at the beginning for a long time, I was looking for a concrete plot. And when some sort of plot with the friends is about to take shape, the author takes the story an entirely different direction never to turn back. Totally ruined the flow for me!
I loved how Tess comes into her own as a character. She loves chess, has excellent farming skills and is really fond of her cow Sunshine. I also think that the author did well with her descriptions of the two entirely different worlds of farming and military. The characters also had a lot of potential. I admire the efforts of the author in attempting to take such complex and significant ideas. It was the plot that failed her.
I'm just happy that this book has got me in the mood of more books exploring the racial intricacies. Maybe this is the kick I needed to pick up The Hate U give? Any other recommendations, everyone?
By the way, how lovely is that cover? I absolutely adore it!
This book... there aren't enough positive words to say about it.
The story: Moving is the worst, but when you're a high school farm girl leaving everything you knew behind, it's much worse. This is Tess' life. When her father re-enlists in the military, the family must move from their sheltered Iowa town to a more southern city that serves as a bit of a culture shock. The story winds through Tess' new beginning as she's torn between the boy she left behind and the new, exciting life she's facing with friends she never thought she'd have.
What I loved: Everything. This book makes you think about so many things, covering a multitude of important topics. Interracial friendships, what it means to be in the minority and that it's okay to ask questions, the hard life of families with loved ones in the military. It also explores young love at a distance and loss. There were many times I found myself questioning things I'd thought I'd known. It's such an important book. There are so few of those. It isn't merely entertainment. This is the kind of book that should be required reading in schools. Maybe then, kids would have a better understanding of their differences.
What was just okay: I don't have anything for this category. Everything was perfect.
Final Verdict: Amalie Jahn delivers a stellar tale to teach us about life. Good luck putting it down before you reach the very last page, because it's the kind of story you can't tear your eyes from.
I received an eARC of this book via NetGalley, but that does not affect my review.
PS! This review can be construed a little spoilery. I tried to be as vague as I could, but I'm not entirely sure if I managed.
Eleven Reasons to Read This Book
1. Just so you'd get this reference. 2. If you've been living in your tiny little bubble like me, you'll learn more about interracial friendships and the difference your race can make. 3. Other things you might learn about: enlisting in the army, chess (or well, if you're like me you'll just be saying "say what now?" a lot when reading those chess game bits). 4. Unique, sassy, funny, and sometimes brutally honest characters. 5. Main character is a farm girl whose best friend is a boy. This bit is a little trope-y, but cute nonetheless. 6. I personally quite enjoyed the writing style. It was a bit slow at first (hence the four stars, not five), but when I finally got more time to read it, it went real smoothly! 7. It leaves you feeling empowered. 8. It will also give you ALL. THE. FEELS. 9. A girl talking to a cow might make you cry. 10. It's a coming of age story which I found quite refreshing and different to what I've been used to reading. 11. Well, because why not?
Books written for young adults have undergone such a change in recent years. Authors are creating books of substance that dig deep into serious issues that impact young adults and their lives. In The Next to Last Mistake, Tess Goodwin, who has spent her entire life living on a farm in Iowa with her family experiences a huge change when her dad re-enlists in the military and they pack up to move to Fort Bragg. Her entire life as she knew it is turned upside down as she goes from small-town farm girl to living in a large military community and attending a public school more than double the size of the one in Iowa.
In North Carolina she learns new lessons about racial inequality, mean girls, and friendship.
Amalie Jahn's presents the topics of privilege and race through the voice of Tess who recognizes her own privilege as a white female. She challenges herself to grow and to check her privilege regularly.
Romance takes a back seat in this novel, and I am honestly okay with that. It was refreshing to see Tess work on becoming a strong confident woman without worrying about romance.
Tess Goodwin, Iowa farm girl, lover of cows, chess player, and best friend to Zander, the boy next door, is blindsided when her father re-enlists in the military and moves the family to Fayetteville, North Carolina. She worries that she’ll lose her relationship with Zander despite his assurance “You’re always gonna be a part of my life, even if you’re no longer a part of my days”, that she’ll be all alone without him acting as her “relationship liaison”, and that she won’t be able to adjust to a bigger school in an unfamiliar place. When she sees the casualty count billboard on the base at Ft. Bragg (“incentivizing the practice of staying alive”), her fear for her father’s safety is actualized. On her first day of school, she meets Leonetta who, along with new friends Alice and Summer, helps Tess navigate the racially and economically-diverse landscape that her homogeneous town in Iowa didn’t prepare her for. As she stumbles and apologizes for unintentional microaggressions, she builds the first real female friendships she’s ever had and realizes that mean girls exist everywhere. Through letters and phone calls, she also comes to accept that her love for Zander is more than platonic. Is there hope for the two of them becoming more or will distance and time tear them apart?
This is an exceptional YA novel that breaks from the normal tropes and, instead, focuses on healthy friendships, sweet romance, and the strength and support of a loving family. Romance, though present, isn’t the main focus. At its heart, it is the story of platonic love between friends. Jahn uses blond, blue-eyed Tess’s friendship with two African-American girls to highlight the issues of racism, “voluntary isolationism” in peer groups, and white privilege without becoming preachy. By using first person and liberal dialogue, she easily invites us into her characters’ lives. And when tragedy strikes, our tears are inevitable. Highly recommended for libraries serving teens.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Light Messages Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.
How do you cope when you must leave your small town world on a dairy farm in Iowa and have to say goodbye to your best friend, who also happens to be a guy you might have growing feelings for? This is what Tess Goodwin must deal with when the dairy business goes bad and her father reenlists in the army because he feels the pull of patriotism and has skills very much needed in the way in Syria. In short order, she's starting school in Fayetteville, NC at a much larger school where the division between races, something she's never experienced, is big and has implications that make her uneasy, then angry and eventually force her to think about lots of things she's never faced before. In the process of those thought adjustments, Tess makes new friends, discovers what her true feelings are for Zander, the boy back in Iowa, and learns some hard, but valuable lessons about herself and how she wants to see the world. I'm particularly impressed by how well the author gets her message about racism and bias across without being preachy. This is a book with great heart.
1.5 Stars. It took a while to get into this one and once I did, I didn't really feel any connections to any of the characters. Tess is an okay character, nothing out of the ordinary. I guess her "quirk" is that she likes to play chess and is a farm girl at heart. She's nervous about making friends in her new school but makes three best friends very quickly, so there isn't really any suffering there. Tess pines for her best friend across the country, but we don't get a lot of interaction from the two of them so it's kind of dead in the water, in my opinion. Some things just felt problematic to me and then A HUGE SAD THING HAPPENED AT THE END which I guess was supposed to tie it all together. All in all, meh.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Next to Last Mistake by Amalie Jahn is an insightful young adult novel that touches on important societal issues.
Tess Goodwin loves life on her family's Iowa dairy farm. She genuinely enjoys her chores and she loves their small herd of cows. Tess is also quite close to her next door neighbor and best friend, Zander. Her life takes an unexpected turn when her veteran father reenlists in the military, sells the farm and moves the family to North Carolina.
Tess's concerns about going to a new school are unfounded since she is paired with Leonetta Jackson who shows her around school. Despite having little in common, she and Leonetta are soon best friends. Their friendship quickly expands to include two other young women, Alice and Summer. For the first time, Tess is also exposed to a racially diverse environment where she is stunned to see her friends experience racial injustice. Tess is a little insensitive with some of her remarks and observations, but instead of taking offense, her friends help her understand how very different her life is from theirs.
The Next to Last Mistake is an engaging novel that is sweet and thought-provoking. Despite missing the farm and Zander, Tess embraces her new experiences which broaden her horizons and her worldview. The friendships are endearing and the racial diversity and subsequent discussions are informative. Amalie Jahn brings to the novel to a rather poignant yet realistic conclusion. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this fast-paced young adult novel to readers of all ages.