The Secret Year
Author: Jennifer R. Hubbard
Source: ARC from author at KidlitCon
Who I Told I’d Read It: the author
Nobody would ever believe that a princess from Black Mountain would ever go out with a guy from the flats. So Colt Morrissey doesn't even try. Besides, he and Julia like being the only two people who know about them.
When she dies in a car crash, there's only one.
Colt goes through the first year after Julia's death, trying to get on with his life. At the same time he's also living in the previous year, through a notebook full of letters Julia wrote to him and never sent. He reads them carefully, seeing their relationship through her eyes and trying to make sense of her, of himself, and of what happened between them.
I feel like I should have loved this book. I knew that Colt was going through grief in a strange and bottled-up way, but it felt like there was a sheet of glass between me and him. I was never quite able to immerse myself in his story.
One of the things that really kept me from buying into the story was the stated class differences. And that's the problem, it was all stated. Somehow, for all the scenes of big mansions vs. houses with broken-down cars in the yard, I never quite got the us/them mentality. There were some attempted dramatics, some nods at class clashes, but nothing that really illustrated the gulf between Julia's world and Colt's. Since this is what circumscribed the whole relationship, it meant that the secret of Julia and Colt also didn't quite work for me.
I did like that there is no Magical Healing Power of Love in this book, although I thought there would be at the beginning. Colt gets involved with two other girls in the course of the year, and neither one fixes him. In fact, the secret of Julia is what drives both away, in different ways.
I also liked that it was told from a male perspective. This is the kind of story that is most often written from a female perspective, so that was something interesting and different.
In the long run, I'll look out for more of Hubbard's work, because I liked the way she wrote and I think I want to see how she'll do with a different story. But this one just didn't do it for me.