Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review - The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Published by Viking
On Sale Date: January 7, 2010
Hardcover, 192 pages

Summary from the author's websiteSeventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal Julia left behind. But Colt is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

Colt and Julia were together for a year but, no one knew about them.  Living in different parts of town (Julia on Black Mountain and Colt on the flats) no one would have suspected anything was going on between them or that they even knew each other.  Then Julia died in a car accident and Colt was the only one who knew their secret, until he is given Julia's journal.  This journal was filled with letters and poems Julia wrote to Colt throughout their relationship.  Colt finds himself living in both the present and past.  As he reads Julia's letters, Colt relives the times they spent together all while trying to move on.  Just when he thinks that he has gotten over Julia and found someone else he loves, Colt must deal with the consequences of his secret.

The Secret Year is a beautifully written and authentic read.  For such a small book, it deals with many topics, including love and relationships, class struggles, secrets and truth, and learning about who you really are.  The main storyline is about Colt and Julia's relationship and its repercussions.  The sub-plots involving Colt's brother, Tom's revelation of his own deep, dark secret, and the growing tension between the social classes did not take away from the main story.  Instead they added depth to Colt's struggle with his grief.  The conflict between the kids from Black Mountain and the students from the flats explained part of why Julia kept Colt separate from the rest of her life, while Tom's storyline showed Colt the importance of being honest about who you really are.

The characters feel so real, they jump off the page.  Colt's grief and guilt over Julia's death is palpable.  It is obvious that these feelings guide his every action.  Slowly, the reason for Colt's guilt is revealed making him an even more sympathetic character.  The most interesting character is the one the reader gets to know second hand.  We learn about Julia through her letters and Colt's memories of the time they spent together.  She is hard to pin down, at school she was part of the rich, popular Black Mountain Crowd, but while alone with Colt she could be thoughtful and introspective.  Julia's inability to break up with a boyfriend she wasn't sure she loved, while cheating on him with someone who might understand her better than anyone else makes it hard to like her.  In the end however, her love for Colt won me over.   

Part of me wanted to race through and read The Secret Year in one sitting but, I made myself read it slowly, doling out a chapter or two at a time so that I could savor the writing.  It was easy to sink right into the story.  The characters and setting felt so real, it felt as though I could climb into the story world and meet Colt, Tom or Kirby or take a walk along the Willis River. Although I was sad when the story was over, the ending was hopeful.  Overall The Secret Year is an amazing book.  I know that it will make my favorites of 2010 list (and it's only January).

You can find more information about Jennifer Hubbard and The Secret Year at her website:
and blog

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to have my own copy of this book! It sounds pretty good :)


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