Title: The Gap Year
Author: Sarah Bird
First published July 5, 2011
302 pages, Hardcover
ISBN: 9780307592798 (ISBN10: 0307592790)
Sarah Bird’s The Gap Year is a heartwarming yet hilarious story about a mother and daughter facing the challenges of letting go as the daughter prepares to leave for college. Cam Lightsey, a single mom and lactation consultant, has given up her rebellious dreams to ensure her daughter, Aubrey, gets a good education.
But Aubrey has secrets of her own – tired of being the dutiful band geek, she’s ready to start living her “real” life, including figuring out love with boys who are desensitized by Internet porn. When she meets Tyler Moldenhauer, a football idol and sex god with a troubled past, Aubrey’s world is turned upside down.
As tensions rise and secrets are revealed, the Lightsey family is forced to confront the inevitable collision of their dreams. With humor, suspense, and insight into modern love, The Gap Year is a must-read for anyone facing the challenges of growing up and letting go.
About the Author
Meet Sarah Bird, a talented writer who has called Austin, Texas home long before it became a trendy city. With ten novels and two books of essays already published, Sarah is now set to release her eleventh novel, LAST DANCE ON THE STARLITE PIER, a captivating story set in the world of dance marathons during the Great Depression.
Sarah’s last novel, DAUGHTER OF A DAUGHTER OF A QUEEN, is based on the true story of the only female soldier who served with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. This book has received numerous accolades such as being named an All-time Best Book about Texas by the Austin American-Statesman, Best Fiction of 2018 by Christian Science Monitor, and Favorite Book of 2018 by Texas Observer.
It has also been selected as a Lit Lovers Book Club Favorite and a One City, One Book choice in seven cities.
Sarah’s incredible talent has been recognized in various ways, including being a finalist for The Dublin International Literary Award, winner of the ALEX award, and recipient of the Amazon Literature Best of the Year selection. She has also been awarded the TIL’s Best Novel award twice, named a B&N’s Discover Great Writers selection, and honored by the Texas Writers Hall of Fame.
Additionally, Sarah won the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship and the Austin Libraries Illumine Award for Excellence in Fiction. In 2014, she was named Texas Writer of the Year by the Texas Book Festival and was presented with a pair of custom-made boots on the floor of the Texas Senate Chamber.
Sarah has won the Austin Best Fiction Writer award nine times and was recently awarded the University of New Mexico’s 2020 Paul Ré Award for Cultural Advocacy. In 2015, she was one of eight winners selected from 3,800 entries to attend the Meryl Streep Screenwriters’ Lab.
Sarah was also chosen to represent the Austin Public Library as the hologram/greeter installed in the Austin Downtown Library in 2017. She is a co-founder of The Writers League of Texas.
Sarah’s writing has been featured in various publications, including Oprah’s Magazine, NY Times Sunday Magazine and Op Ed columns, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Salon, Daily Beast, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, MS, Texas Observer, and Alcalde. As a screenwriter, she has worked on projects for Warner Bros., Paramount, CBS, National Geographic, Hallmark, ABC, TNT, as well as several independent producers.
When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys open-water swimming with her husband and training their corgi puppy not to chew on furniture.
Sarah Bird’s novel The Gap Year, published on July 5, 2011, is a heartwarming, poignant, and hilarious coming-of-age story that captures the essence of family, loss, love, and adventure. Known for her witty and insightful prose, Bird creates a world that is both familiar and exotic, inviting readers on a journey of self-discovery, growth, and transformation.
Told from the perspective of Aubrey Glass, a recent high school graduate who is desperate to escape her stifling small town in Texas, The Gap Year follows her as she embarks on a trip to South America with her new boyfriend, Josh. Accompanied by her eccentric grandmother, Dona, who has a hidden agenda of her own, and a team of misfits, Aubrey navigates the challenges of traveling in a foreign country, dealing with cultural shock, romantic ups and downs, and unexpected setbacks.
As Aubrey comes of age, she learns the importance of taking risks, making mistakes, and facing her fears, and discovers the joy of new friendships, exotic foods, and breathtaking landscapes. At the same time, she confronts the pain of loss, betrayal, and disillusionment, and finds the courage to stand up for herself, her values, and her dreams.
One of the strengths of The Gap Year is its vivid and engaging characters, who are quirky, relatable, and memorable. From Aubrey’s spunky and vulnerable persona to Dona’s wise and quirky matriarch, Josh’s charming and flawed boyfriend, Fletcher’s loyal and adventurous best friend, and Sparky’s sweet and funny dog, each one adds depth and richness to the story, and sparks a range of emotions from laughter to tears.
Another strength is the stunning and immersive settings that Bird skillfully evokes, from the lush Amazon rainforest to the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro, and the dramatic Andes mountains. Through her impeccable research and attention to detail, Bird captures the essence of the different cultures, languages, customs, and traditions, and offers readers a window into a world that is both beautiful and complex.
Moreover, The Gap Year explores a range of themes that are relevant and timely, such as identity, belonging, empowerment, diversity, and resilience. As Bird portrays Aubrey’s journey from a sheltered and naive girl to a confident and assertive young woman, she also addresses issues of class, race, gender, and sexuality, and challenges the stereotypes and prejudices that hinder personal growth and social change.
However, The Gap Year also has some weaknesses that detract from its overall impact. One of them is the pacing, which at times feels rushed or slow, and fails to provide enough momentum or suspense to keep readers engaged.
Some of the subplots also feel underdeveloped or disconnected from the main story, and fail to contribute to the overall arc or themes. Another limitation is the predictability of some of the twists and turns, which can be anticipated by savvy readers, and dampen the impact of the emotional or dramatic moments.
Some of the dialogue and humor also feels forced or clichéd, and lacks the freshness or originality that one would expect from a writer of Bird’s caliber. Despite these limitations, The Gap Year is a delightful and inspiring read that will appeal to a wide range of audiences, from teenagers to adults, who are looking for a heartfelt and funny story about self-discovery and adventure.
Those who have fond memories of their own gap year or travel experiences will especially appreciate the insights and perspectives that Bird offers, and may find themselves reminiscing about their own journeys. Overall, I would give The Gap Year three and a half stars out of five, based on its strengths and weaknesses.
My criteria for the rating include character development, setting, pacing, dialogue, and themes, among others. While I found some parts of the book predictable or uneven, I also appreciated its warmth, humor, and humanity, and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a book that will make them smile and reflect on their own lives.