Debut author Kristin Dwyer describes her new novel, Some Mistakes Were Made, as a kissing book. But wrapped up in the outer layers of a kissing book is the powerful story of trying to break generational cycles of poverty and trauma.
Ellis Truman has spent a year apart from her best friend Easton. One whole year without a call, a text… anything. Since then, she’s lived with her aunt out in California, far away from his family, her adopted family, the Albreys, after a mysterious incident tore them all apart.
But Tucker, the middle Albrey brother, convinces Ellis that she can’t miss his mother’s 50th birthday party, and reluctantly, she agrees. Even though it means returning to her absent mother, her incarcerated father, and… Easton.
As the story unfolds, we transition back and forth between scenes of Ellis’s childhood meeting Easton and falling in love with both him and his family. As a poor kid from a broken family, Ellis has always been the outcast at school. Easton was the only one who saw her for the person underneath, which is why she clung to him and his family so tightly.
A romance without the feels
While this book is primarily categorized as a romance, it is that element that fell the most flat for me. Personally, I did not enjoy Easton’s character. In almost every scene, he was either angry at Ellis or brooding about something. Yet, ultimately, we never get to see his wounds. We don’t know why he cares for Ellis so much or why he’s so broken without her. We see more scenes of Ellis pining for him than scenes of Easton himself. I never rooted for their relationship, so I never invested in the romance of the novel.
One of the highlights, however, was the rest of the Albrey family. Found family is one of my favorite tropes, and it’s on full display here. Both Tucker and Dixon have a warm, funny sibling dynamic with Ellis that gives me all the feels. The relationship between Sandry, the matriarch, and Ellis, is what really tugged on my heartstrings. Anyone who’s had a chosen mother in their life will relate to the love between the two, which makes their time apart even more heartbreaking.
Ellis’s relationship with her parents was another powerful part of the story. For someone like me, who grew up always able to rely on her parents, it was jarring to see the life of a kid who came home to an empty house and lived with parents who cared more about their own happiness than their child. Every scene between her and her mom or dad hurt to read. Seeing a different kind of family dynamic opened my eyes.
While the narrative jumping back and forth between past and present added tension, I would argue that it is too much tension. From the beginning, we know that some event tore Ellis from the Albreys and drove a wedge between them, but we don’t learn what that event is until almost the end of the book. In my opinion, this is far too long. About a third of the way into the book, I was already bored and frustrated—even more so by the final reveal.
My first impressions of this novel were negative overall, but the more I reflect, the more I appreciate what it had to offer. Readers who love teen angst will certainly love the romance, and those who prefer family drama will find that as well. For all YA lovers, it’s worth the read.
Some Mistakes Were Made was released on May 10, 2022.