Kristin Dwyer’s novel Some Mistakes Were Made is an intricate look at first love, found families, and the struggle of finding your place in the world.
Ellis Truman has lived her life bouncing between two separate worlds: the world of her family, and the world of her best friend Easton’s family. Easton’s brothers are like brothers to her; his house is her home away from the home life she feels guilty for trying to escape. When Ellis moves to San Diego for her last year of high school, she leaves Easton, and his betrayal, behind. After returning home after a year of not speaking to him, Ellis finds herself face to face with all of the problems she’s been avoiding. She must confront her past and her relationship with her families– the one she was born into and the one she chose to spend her time with– before she can move into the future.
This tender coming of age novel follows Ellis and Easton in well-orchestrated dual timelines.We meet Ellis in the present, as she graduates high school in a place that feels foreign to her. As she debates returning home for an event, the narration flashes back to when she was eleven and first befriended Easton. As the present timeline moves forward, so does the flashback timeline. Each chapter brings the reader new information on how Ellis and Easton’s relationship evolved and what betrayal caused Ellis to stop speaking to Easton altogether.
The plot is engaging and highly emotive. As a reader, my heart continually went out to Ellis as she struggled with not knowing where she belongs. Her journey of feeling like an outsider is vividly described, inspiring empathy and immediate kinship between the reader and Ellis, who also serves as a first person narrator. Ellis’s unstable home life and search for a sense of stability is heart wrenching. Some Mistakes broaches tough topics in an understandable and accessible way; these issues are handled carefully and realistically.
The characters are incredibly well developed. Easton’s idyllic home life is seen through Ellis’s eyes, allowing the reader to see the rose-tinted glasses view that Ellis perceives. From the stern but loving mother to the wild stable of brothers and all the physical altercations that occur to the supportive father, the entire family is uniquely cast such that each characters is easily distinguishable and relatable.
Part of what binds Ellis and Easton is their love of words and travel. They each love what the other loves, creating a beautiful bridge to one another out of the beloved things they share with each other. The voice of this novel, despite Ellis’s angsty worldview, is poetic and lyrical. Poetry is a part of how her brain works, because Easton is a poet who shared that love with her. Ellis’s understanding of love, both familial and romantic, changes and grows throughout both timelines. Although her romantic relationship is a lynchpin of the book, it’s her own path to self-love and self-acceptance that is my favorite part of the book. Her journey to see how others express love is beautiful in and of itself.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It’s well-written, with a plot that makes you think about it when you can’t be reading it, and characters that stay in your mind. Although first love is a complicated affair and is handled tenderly, I did struggle with Ellis’s romantic relationship. It felt a little codependent to me, and seeing that type of relationship romanticized can be problematic. At the same time, it is a deeply emotional story; I love when books for younger readers show this amount of emotional depth, as I feel young relationships are often downplayed or treated as less important than adult relationships. It’s powerful to read a relationship being treated as a real relationship and not as practice for a real relationship. It’s entirely possible I have overanalyzed this romantic relationship and saddled it with unnecessary labels, but I couldn’t provide an honest review without sharing this component.
Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristin Dwyer will be available April 26, 2022, from HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperTeen. Thank you to Ms. Dwyer, Net Galley, and HarperCollins for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.
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