Next Year, For Sure is written by author Zoey Leigh Peterson. This is Peterson’s first novel and is an easy read, although covering traditionally unfamiliar territory in fiction. Next Year, For Sure opens on the scene of Chris, a main character, discussing religion, God, and Emily—the object of his desire. Chris describes his attraction to Emily as a “crush” and clarifies that the crush is in his “molecules.” Emily is vibrant, care-free and full of conversation. The situation is made all the stickier by the fact that Chris already has a girlfriend. One who he lives with, shops with, sleeps with. One who he has committed the last nine years to.
Unlike most people, Kathryn, Chris’ girlfriend, accepts the news of Emily well. Next Year, For Sure is what some would call a provocative read, answering the question of: can you really have everything you want? The book really explores the feelings that Chris has about wanting to potentially open up his relationship. Peterson is skilled in exploring the appeal of Emily while examining the relationship that Kathryn and Chris have built together. As the chapters jump between Kathryn and Chris, readers gain an understanding of the ways in which the characters have cared for and built their relationship up.
While the reader is thoroughly guided through the emotions that Chris has, not enough is done to explore the complexities of Kathryn’s feelings. Instead, in Kathryn’s chapters we often see less detail, less description regarding her thoughts and feelings about the opening of their relationship. For instance, Chris’ feelings, relationships, and how they affect him as a character is explained at length. The reader is not afforded the same opportunity to get to know Kathryn. On one hand, the reader can clearly interpret the struggle that Kathryn is undergoing: “do I encourage him to do something he wants/that makes him happy or do I protect my own feelings?” “Is our relationship really going to be any different if he wants to occasionally see someone else?” While on the other hand, we can see that for Chris, Emily is captivating, alluring. As the book progresses, the reader gleans that it’s not about sex or having sex with other people. But instead it’s about those warm feelings you get sharing your favorite food with someone you love, it’s the feeling of curling up on the couch with your person and reading a good book.
The book spans about a year in time, and the reader is able to visualize how Chris, Kathryn and even Emily change. We are drawn into the world of Chris and Kathryn as they work through the news of Chris’ crush. We feel the weight of Kathryn’s sorrow on the first night she told Chris he could spend the night at Emily’s. We feel her fear, her deep-rooted worry that the person she loves will stop loving her, when she shows up, sobbing on Emily’s doorstep, just a few hours later. We are guided through the complex emotions and the judgement that comes with sharing your open relationship status. We watch as Kathryn’s best friend decides that the situation is too much and unnatural. As Chris is away with Emily on a trip, we feel his panic as Kathryn becomes extremely ill. What do you do when the person you love is sick and needs you, but you chose to spend the week somewhere else?
It’s during this trip that the opening of Chris and Kathryn’s relationship finally applies to Kathryn. It’s in the moment of Kathryn’s need that someone who isn’t Chris comes and steps in. In this moment, we watch Kathryn fall into the space of possibility and what if? In the heartbreaking span of only a few months, Kathryn falls for this other person, Moss. We watch as Kathryn and Chris become a foursome, ebbing and flowing with the people they’ve chosen, before becoming Kathryn and Chris, again. The same, but different. Very different.
Kathryn is happy with Moss. A happiness she maybe never had with Chris. It’s not long before Kathryn and Chris break up. From the reader’s perspective the break up seems to be confusing and at times painful, more so for Chris than Kathryn. The dissolution of their relationship is clear to see as they try to figure out what boundaries should be in place, and who bought what. They have some difficult choices to make, some tough conversations to bear.
As the book draws to a close, we see Chris growing unhappy with what Emily can offer. Emily, however, is happy with what she can offer Chris. She has always been clear about what she could give and couldn’t. Kathryn and Chris have remained friendly and the book ends with one final call between the two. Chris is explaining what is missing with his life and Kathryn is encouraging him to go fulfill his life. Chris is saying that he wants closeness, a relationship, someone he can come home to every night. Kathryn ends her part of the call by reminding Chris that he had that, and in the end, it wasn’t enough. The sadness that has seeped throughout the entire book is clearly present in those final words. Next Year, For Sure is an easy read that will have you in tears as you sense both main character’s pain.
Kara Smitton, The Juncture Mag staff
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