Twelve Long Months, a novel for young adults by Minnesota author Brian Malloy, is a book dealing with the complexities of human relationships—specifically the relationships that the protagonist, Molly Swain, develops during the twelve long months of the title.
At the beginning of the story, Molly is a high school senior who has fallen in love with her attractive chemistry partner, Mark Dahl. She is utterly infatuated with him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t display any romantic interest in her at all. He is a moody, untalkative person who spends most of his time working at a farm and whose only hobby seems to be drawing. He has no aptitude for chemistry, so she lets him copy her answers. A friendship of sorts springs up, but their relationship seems unlikely to progress.
|twelve long months by brian malloy. published by scholastic (2008). $17.99.|
Molly is an unpopular, overweight teen who is somewhat unhappy with her life. She is, however, intelligent and hardworking. Her main interest, other than Mark, is quantum mechanics. She is particularly fascinated by string theory, which purports to be able to give a coherent mathematical explanation of the nature of the universe. She learns about this primarily through the work of Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe.
After graduating, Molly moves to Columbia College, where Brian Greene periodically gives lectures. Mark, meanwhile, moves to a nearby area to get away from his farm, which he dislikes. Molly’s arrival is well-described: Malloy vividly renders seemingly minor sights that she observes along the way so as to make them memorable.
Shortly after Molly arrives, about a third of the way into the novel, she makes a surprising discovery about Mark: he’s gay. She is completely shocked and heartbroken about this at first, but gradually learns to accept it.
A few weeks later, she meets a student named Simon who, like her, is a physics major; she begins to develop a relationship with him. The later portion of the novel details this process.
The ending is both surprising and very unsatisfying. I will not describe it other than to say that it leaves much unresolved.
One of the best attributes of this novel is Malloy’s skillful vignettes, little incidents which have nothing to do with the plot but which serve to give it a more lifelike setting. These are frequently amusing and always interesting. They serve as a pleasant change of pace and tone.
Twelve Long Months is a well-written story with fairly interesting characters, but its appeal is limited. It is very much a teen novel, and probably would not be enjoyed by anyone older than its protagonist.
Cyrus Wolff is homeschooled in Princeton, Minnesota and studies classic literature, focusing on nineteenth century fiction. He is a book reviewer for Amazon.com and writes short stories and essays.