Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book review of "The Secret Year"

As promised, here's the second review from my recent trip to Barnes&Noble. (Read the first review.) I'd been hoping to find a particular debut title I'm dying to read, and was surprised to find Barnes&Noble wouldn't be stocking it. So this weekend, I ventured out again, except this time I went to Borders.

I noticed that they have less chairs than B&N. Walking through their YA section, though, was awesome! I definitely plan on going back to pick up a few debut titles from last year that have been dropped from Barnes&Noble shelves. Plus, it was fun to show my friend all the YA authors I'd interviewed. Hah.

The only sad part about it all is that even Borders didn't have the book I wanted. I'd name it, except I'm not sure how this adventure will go. Do I take a chance and order it, or should I continue the hunt elsewhere? Hmm. Shall contemplate this. Stay tuned for updates.

And now my book review: the good, the bad, and my personal experience.

SUMMARY: Colt Morrissey lives in the flats, and Julia lives on Black Mountain. Julia had Austin, her rich boyfriend, and Colt had the silty river, where he would walk alone so many nights.

Then on one such night, Colt finds Julia wading in the river. Turns out, Colt and Julia have more in common than they thought. So for an entire year Colt and Julia meet in secrecy under the darkness of the bridge.

In a way, Colt always guessed it would end--but never with Julia's death. Now, Colt is struggling to move past the romance he wasn't supposed to have, and the secret life that he can't share with anyone, even after Julia's death.

But when Julia's brother gives Colt a secret diary of letters that Julia wrote just for him, he realizes that the questions Julia left in her wake can't be answered by her: only by Colt himself.


The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard is a slim novel that, essentially, follows Colt's life after Julia's death. And it's a pretty decent book. I understood everything Colt did and felt; he was a completely compelling character, and likeable despite the times of human failing when he treated others like a jerk. Also, Julia was a great character.

We never find out how she truly felt about Colt/Austin because I don't think she ever decided. The book is full of that conflict and indecision, which is part of what makes you feel haunted by Colt's story. In this way, it reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

However, there just wasn't a lot going on in the book. There wasn't a particular villain or a particular goal. Colt had questions and guilts, but these changed constantly, and so did the way he dealt with them.

There was also quite a bit of edgy material that involved plenty of open language and scenes about sex, and also quite a few scenes with gay references after Colt's brother "comes out." Mix it all in with the swearing and drinking, and I would not be comfortable recommending this to teens I know.

In general, I found this a decently interesting story that didn't overstay it's welcome and left a mild, thoughtful impression. I cared for Colt by the time the book was done. I was disappointed by the way things worked out with Kirby, but I also think she was the final nudge Colt needed to move on. I appreciated the simplicity of this book and also the fact that Colt sounded like a real guy, not how a girl imagines a guy.

Have a blessed Easter, everyone!

-Creative A

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