Friday, February 5, 2010

Review of The Secret Year

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Pages: 208
Published: January 2010
Genre: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Seventeen-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 she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept."

What a compelling debut novel!  It was a truly heartbreaking read and very hard to put down.  I particularly enjoyed Hubbard's writing style and the characters in The Secret Year were brilliant and so believable!  The main character, Colt, was such a heartfelt character and I loved that Hubbard told the story from his point of view.  A lot of times when a female author takes on the point of view of an adolescent male, it can fall short; however, I didn't find that with this read.  

My absolute favorite thing about this book was Julia's journal.  Julia's brother, Michael, gives Colt Julia's journal after she dies.   This journal contains a series of letters written to Colt.  Colt never knew this notebook existed and as the readers follow him on what pretty much is a flashback of their relationship, it puts a knot in your stomach and that inevitable lump in your throat.  

The character of Julia, although we never meet her in "present day," is such a vivid character.  The flashbacks were agonizing and haunting; you knew that Colt's loss was tragic and what made it worse was the simple fact that he couldn't talk about it!  Critics say that this novel is a combination of Romeo and Juliet and The Outsiders. I would agree and I'd add in a tablespoon of West Side Story since social status plays a huge role.

Hubbard is extremely ambitious and edgy, which I really like, but to be honest with you, I won't be recommending this for my 7th graders.  There are too many controversial issues discussed, such as underage drinking, untimely death, peer pressure, sex, homosexuality, etc.  With that said, my former students at the high school and my 8th graders would love this book as it covers many of the issues that they deal with on a daily basis.  Ultimately I think this book will make teenagers think about their choices and consequences that may follow.  Hopefully they will think about how one small bad decision can irrevocably change someone's life forever. 

But that is not the reason I didn't give The Secret Year four out of four stars.  I gave it three stars, because the ending left me hanging. When I got to the last page, I read the ending a few times; I was a tad disappointed.  For me, it felt rushed.  I'm sure others felt very content, but I was hoping for something more.  All in all, it was an impressive debut!

Lastly, I'm pumped that Jennifer Hubbard is a Philadelphia author and was recently back in my hometown at a bookstore for her launch party.  I missed it due to the horrid snow we got that weekend.  But I didn't despair, because she will be in my current neighborhood at the end of this month signing books at Borders.  I look forward to stopping by.
Buy It Here:

2 comments:

  1. Great review! Oddly enough, your overall concerns on this book echo some of my own on my current read (BEFORE I FALL). The story is good/intriguing, but I'd caution it a bit to a younger crowd. Anywho...back on topic...I haven't actually read a book with a male main character written by a female author, a point which I discovered a few reviews ago. I may need to add this to my seek out list to correct that. Definitely happy that you didn't totally miss the author signing...alas, we get a few down here, but not in any genre I particularly care for (mostly political). Thanks for sharing, YAY for PA writers...and happy reading!

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  2. Thanks for the awesome comment, GMR! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Before I Fall esp. since we have some of the same concerns. Happy reading to you as well!

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