Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay by Rebecca Sparrow

The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay
by Rebecca Sparrow
Reviewed by Maggie: September 19, 2012
Published April 8, 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleFishpond

It's always harder for me to talk about books I love, but basically, I was so utterly charmed by this book that I haven't been able to finish a book since. Yes, people, it's that serious.

Nick McGowan was the perfect all-around guy, good looking, popular, and the top of his class. Then something happened over the summer and he dropped his classes and started acting out. Rumors are swirling about what happened, but no one knows the cause. He's a boarder at his school and after his last stunt pulling the fire alarms, he's on the verge of getting kicked out. In steps Rachel Hill's family.

Rachel Hill is a driven overachiever. She has set hours for study, work, and school. She works as a clown at a children's party place, and she even takes her clowning seriously. She has a clown archrival. She lives with her adorable parents who, to her chagrin, can't help but offer to take in Nick McGowan.

I loved all the characters. Nick reminded me of Heath Ledger's character in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Like with Patrick Verona, everyone has some crazy theory about what happened to Nick over the summer. And Rachel? I loved her goody goody ass from the moment she went to the cool record store in the city to buy some Ramones albums after finding out they're Nick's favorite band. When the sales guy asks if she's a Ramones fan, she replies, "Fuck yeah." Cut to the next chapter after she listens to her very first Ramones albums: "I hate the Ramones." I cracked up and remembered the time a really hot French boy told me about his favorite band, Louise Attaque. I went to FNAC feeling all proud and badass, ready to buy some hot French boy music. Now I don't know what I expected hot French boy music to sound like, but French hillbilly fiddle fuckery was not it. My favorite character, though, was Rachel's wacky, loyal best friend, Zoe Budd. When Zoe finds out Nick is moving in, her response is, "This is great. You get to have sex with him!"

I loved how high school this book felt. Rachel is just so busy with all her work and can't believe her parents would risk derailing her academic career by asking her to the dishes. The nerve. Rachel is anal retentive and a perfectionist but she doesn't fall into the unlikable category because she is so endearingly dorky. I mean, she has Kirk Cameron and Huey Lewis posters on her wall! The way Nick and Rachel's friendship developed felt natural as well. It's the inside jokes and little moments that come from sharing a space and constantly bumping into one other whether you want to or not.

When I first got this book, I set it aside after finding out it was set in 1989. Another 80s YA? But it totally works here. The story itself doesn't feel dated at all and the 80s references (acid washed jeans! cassettes!) are amusing rather than annoying. It's funny that I worried pre-read about whether this book would be a ripoff of Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys. This book is so much better that there's really no comparison.

Just read this book. It's actually available in the States! Rebecca Sparrow writes with such charm and humor that she may temporarily ruin all other books for you, but you'll be cracking up before you know it. You may also find yourself singing, You're just too good to be true...

Rating: 5/5 stars.


  1. You had me at Patrick Verona. Seriously. AMAZING.

    Also, this book looks brilliant.
    Also, this review is brilliant.

    Also... I bet your face looks brilliant. I just can't see it.

    Cheers Maggie.

    1. Don't make me flash you to get you to read this! ;)

  2. This sounds SO good, Magz! I've just checked and my local library has a copy in, I'm going to get it today!

    I love the sound of Rachel, she sounds like a fun character and I think I'm already a little bit in love with Nick.

    And I recently re-watched 10 Things I Hate About You, I can't believe I forgot that movie existed!!

    1. Woah. You forgot 10 Things I Hate About You existed?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING?! Oh Mandee... I don't think I can deal with this right now.

    2. I loved Nick so much! Can't wait to see your review, Mandz!

  3. How exciting! I thought McGowan Boys was kind of a guilty pleasure. I mean, what high school girl wouldn't want to live with a bunch of hot guys? It's so exciting to find an even better book with the same kind of feel. I like the sound of Rachel--though I really hope it is Growing Pains era Kirk Cameron and not after he came out as a religious, right-wing, crazy weirdo. That would be gross. Then again, she IS a clown;-)

    Will read this for sure.


  4. Is this a prequel to The Girl Most Likely???

    And Yay for Brisbane authors.

    And YAY for Maggie :)

  5. Ahhh, I am SO excited to read this one! I just saw your review of it on GoodReads and that, combined with Mandee's positive rating, has made me place it on hold at my library at once! I feel as if this one is just too cute, too precious, and too adorable to pass up and it seems like a fantastically provocative read with deeper issues as well, so I just KNOW I'll love it. Plus, a GIF of Heath Ledger? SOLD! ;) Yet another AMAZING review, Maggie! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

  6. This book sounds so amazing Maggie, I totally remember that feeling of being unable to pick another book up when the last one has had such an impact on you. It's been so long since I've read a book like that! And this is an 80's YA? I am so onto this book asap! :)

  7. I loved 10 Things I Hate About You! This book sounds amazing. I swear I've been cracking up for the last 5 minutes about your "French hillbilly fiddle fuckery"!! LMAO!

    I've actually read a Rebecca Sparrow book: Joel and Cat Set the Record Straight. She co-wrote it with Nick Earls. Pretty funny stuff. Excellent review Maggie. :)


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