It has been a long time since I have felt personally attacked by a book, but that is exactly what happened with The Year of Cecily by Lisa Lin. I was lucky enough to receive an audiobook ARC (my very first!) through NetGalley recently and it was a good time.
Attorney Cecily Chang is ready to grab the new year by the horns and makes a set of resolutions that she is sure will reinvigorate her monotonous life. She’s ready to start…as soon as she’s done celebrating the Lunar New Year with her family. Then she runs into screenwriter Jeffrey Lee (literally). The man who broke her heart ten years ago is the only one who could possibly derail all her plans. While Jeffrey sees their chance encounter as fate giving them a second chance at love and happiness, Cecily does her best to thwart every attempt he makes to rekindle what they once had.
From the get go, I felt a kinship to this story since Cecily lives in San Francisco and Jeffrey lives in Los Angeles, two places this Bay Area native and Disneyland aficionado is very familiar with. The bond I felt with this story deepened as the two returned to their native Brooklyn and interacted with their families. Based on my own experiences and those that I have heard other members of the Asian American diaspora talk about, the portrayal of our main characters’ overbearing, critical, and nosy family members is beyond accurate.
The story moves through time quickly. One moment, Cecily is trying to find some New Year’s Eve coverage to watch on TV and, the next, she is boarding her flight to New York the following month. While you don’t want to bore a reader with descriptions of mundane day-to-day life, there was something about the way time passed in this story that felt a bit jarring and out of rhythm. There was also a bit of a disconnect for me when the story would switch from following Cecily to following Jeffrey within the same chapter. I have read a lot of romance in my time and I am accustomed to one chapter being from one POV, so that was also a bit jarring at times to jump from one POV to the other within the same chapter.
The relationship between Cecily and Jeffrey (as well as their relationships with supporting characters throughout the book) is written so well that I felt like I knew and understood them deeply. The playfulness between Cecily and Jeffrey is so sweet and endearing and I found myself rooting for them, even as Cecily tries to force herself to not get sucked in again. It was hard at times for me to get through the interactions between Cecily and her mother only because it struck such a nerve and reminded me so strongly of my own relationship with my mother. Each character’s actions and motivations were clear and there were times when I was able to predict what they would do in whatever situation they were in.
As a fun surprise, in much the same way that TV shows will produce backdoor pilots to introduce spinoffs, Lisa was able to introduce some characters that were both important to the plot, but that we will also be seeing in the future. I don’t want to give too much away, but I don’t think this is going to be the last we see of this world.
The narrator provided a dynamic performance that had me zoned in completely, even when there were things going on around me that could have easily distracted me. If I am to nitpick a bit, there were some moments that felt like the pronunciation was not completely accurate for the minimal Chinese throughout the book. This likely would not be noticeable to the average reader, but as someone who grew up surrounded by Cantonese, it stuck out a bit to me.
Another thing to nitpick at was the transition from one chapter to the next. With audiobooks that I have listened to in the past, there is a slight pause and then the next chapter will begin. In this recording, there were such long pauses between chapters that I found myself checking if my phone had stopped playing the book on multiple occasions.
If you’re looking for a second chance romance between childhood friends with some spice thrown in, this is the book for you. Not only is it a good time, it will also make you feel less alone if you are someone that feels the heavy weight of expectations on your shoulders.
The Year of Cecily hits shelves on January 17, 2023 and you can preorder your copy here. The audiobook will be available starting January 26, 2023.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this audiobook from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well!