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The Year of the Gadfly Hardcover – May 8, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Part Dead Poet's Society. Part Heathers. Entirely addictive."

Harrowing, enchanting, and utterly original.”
-Daily Beast

"A darkly comic romp...vivid and very enjoyable."
-Washington Post

"Engages and provokes."
The Boston Globe

"There is a relentless authenticity in her prose...Miller effectively places here characters in a vice and squeezes the truth out of them."
—The Atlantic.com

"A smoldering mystery set in a New England prep school... The author skillfully ratchets up the tension as Iris (and the reader) finds it harder and harder to tell who the good guys are... A gripping thrill ride that’s also a thoughtful coming-of-age story."
-Kirkus Reviews

"In this engrossing novel, a would-be journalist unearths scandalous secrets at her prep school with the help of a famous reporter’s ghost."
-O Magazine

"A coming of age page-turner."
Library Journal

"Hysterical and moving, The Year of the Gadfly fuses Special Topics in Calamity Physics with Portnoy's Complaint for girls. This book is an imaginative delight."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"A dark, whirling, and compelling read. The Year of the Gadfly is a hilarious and heartbreaking story about friendship, acceptance, and trust — the way our search for them shapes our youth and how that search can haunt us forever."
—Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses

"This novel has so much going for it: the feisty, heartbroken heroine, the ghost of Edward R. Murrow, and a fascinating love story between an albino girl and a gifted young scientist. In a brilliant portrayal of the dark underbelly of adolescence, Miller explores a time when both our identity and our future are at stake, and shows how rare it is to leave that landscape unscathed."
—Ann Napolitano, author of Within Arm's Reach and A Good Hard Look

"It's hard to resist any novel whose young journalist heroine hallucinates that she's in conversation with Edward R. Murrow. But Jennifer Miller has also written a book with the feel of real life—part science experiment, part mystery story, part a coming-of-age narrative sorting out the truth about one's friends and enemies."
—David Ignatius, author of Bloodmoney

"Jennifer Miller is a writer of exceptional promise, with instincts that are equally astute for insight into character, innovative structure, memorable phrasing, and startling plot turns that compel the reader to read on. In The Year of the Gadfly, her literary gifts are on virtuoso display; readers will be drawn deeply into this narrative and never want to leave it!"
—Carol Goodman, author of The Lake of the Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water

Book Description

HMH Hardcover, 2012
Previous ISBN 978-0-547-54859-3
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547548591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547548593
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,554,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The idea of a student journalist as gadfly at a prep school with secrets to keep intrigued me, but this book is more complex than that; indeed, it ended up feeling too complicated for the number of narrators and the number of themes and ideas. By the time they ultimately connected in the final 50 pages or so, I was too tired trying to keep tabs on the various elements to more than nod in acknowledgment that author Jennifer Miller had pulaq1drsled off what I had previous feared might be impossible, and provided a coherent ending.

The story here isn't really about a single troubled student, but rather, two groups of troubled students, one in 2000 and one in 2012. They are linked in a somewhat strained fashion, as Iris, the young girl who is the "gadfly" of the title in 2012, arrives at Marian Academy in the fictional Berkshires town of Nye, and ends up living in the home of Lily, daughter of the school's headmaster in 2000. Lily, it quickly becomes clear, was involved with a teenager named Justin, whose twin brother Jonah is now Iris's science teacher. What happened to Lily and to Justin is, ultimately, at the heart of this novel; their experiences at Mariana are having disturbing ripple effects in the present as both Iris and Jonah Kaplan embark on their inquiries into the past. The story unfolds in stages, with Jonah and Iris in the present and Lily in the past each taking their turn to shed more light on the various characters and mysteries, all of which have a very Gothic feel to them. Typically, in books of these kind, as the author peels back one layer after another, it's like focusing a camera lens, very very slowly; the picture becomes slightly more evident with each new layer revealed. That doesn't always happen here, however.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm a huge fan of Pat Conroy's "Lords of Discipline," which features many of the concepts successfully used by Jennifer Miller in "Year of the Gadfly": a flawed narrator, a tight-knit, elite school environment, authority figures of questionable honesty, and a series of unraveling secrets.

Miller actually has three flawed narrators, and they are all wonderfully original. To present them, Miller took on the enormous challenge of writing from two first-person perspectives in 2012 AND a third-person perspective from a character in 2000. So the story repeatedly shifts in perspective and time.

If it's confusing as I describe it - don't worry, because it is NOT confusing in the narrative. In fact, this imaginative decision is what takes the book a step ahead of most conventional fiction.

Miller's big risk pays off in an original and compelling structure that very much helps carry the story. I think the close, first-person connection enables a reader's deeper investment with multiple levels of the story, which is sometimes difficult when there's only one point of view. Even Miller's third-person narration is so tight that it's basically another first-person POV. The reader is very much in the story at all times, never disconnected or 'above it all.'

I felt invested with the characters and if I didn't directly 'identify' with them (like a 15-year-old girl), I cared about the decisions they made and the revelations of any personal details. Each character was fully-realized on the page.

This story features quite a lot of twists and turns, so to avoid spoilers I will avoid plot discussion.
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Format: Hardcover
In "The Year of the Gadfly," Jennifer Miller describes the tribulations of fourteen-year old aspiring journalist Iris Dupont, who has limited social skills, speaks to the ghost of her "spiritual mentor," Edward R. Murrow, and is disconsolate over the loss of her best friend. Iris moves with her family from Boston to Nye, Massachusetts, where she will attend Mariana Academy, a New England prep school. Mariana is a pressure cooker of raging hormones, academic competitiveness, and teenage angst, but there is one bright spot--Iris's brilliant biology teacher, Jonah Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan is an entomologist and an expert on extremophiles--"extreme-loving microbes from which all life originates." Some of these creatures live in boiling water; others can survive after being frozen; and still others thrive under pressure "that would crush a Mack truck." Kaplan is a demanding educator who challenges his students to reject conformity and think creatively. Iris is fascinated with Kaplan who, like her, is an iconoclast with a hidden core of grief.

The author is an astute observer of adolescent misery. She understands the exaggerated emotions of high-school kids who must cope with sexual tension, peer pressure, and inflated parental expectations. If Miller had devoted her narrative to Jonah's unusual teaching style and Iris's transformation from a self-centered rebel to a more broad-minded and tolerant individual, "Gadfly" might have been more conventional but also more readable. Instead, the author gives each character alternating chapters; this turns out to be more distracting than entertaining.
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