Author: Jennifer Hubbard
Genre: Realistic Fiction (YA)
Publication: 2010 by Viking Juvenile
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.
General: This was another book I decided to read for the August 2010 Debut Author Challenge. The unique premise really sounded fabulous to me and gave me plenty of hope for the book. The writing pulled me in at the beginning and kept me reading through to the very end. The author did a fabulous job of writing in the male POV. The whole story is very realistic and believable. All the romance and emotions in the book are uniquely true and raw; nothing tied up in a pretty bow or coated in sugar. It's one of my favorite things about the book--it's down-to-earth.
Plot: The story revolves around a teenager named Colt who has been secretly meeting with the wealthy Julia, a girl from the rich part of town. The first pages of the book begin almost immediately after Julia's tragic death in a car accident. Though Julia was never Colt's to begin with, because Julia had a boyfriend, he is forced to cope with and heal from her untimely death. Julia's brother, Michael, puts together the pieces and is able to present Colt with the journal Julia kept of their secret romance that lasted for a year. Through the journal, we are able to learn about their romance through both Colt's and Julia's voices. One of the things I loved about the novel is that we get all the details from the very beginning of the story; then, as we move deeper into the story, we are able to learn how each detail fits together like the pieces of a puzzle.
The plot of the book is fast-paced and interesting. It's a quick read--just under 200 pages--but tons happens in those not-quite-200 pages. The writing was wonderful, and seemed to effortlessly keep us moving right through the story of Colt's getting over Julia's tragic death.
Characters: I mentioned that the whole plot is very believable and down-to-earth, and that doesn't change with the characters. Every character has a unique personality and a detailed back-story. Every one of them is fine-tuned and thought-out, even with all the finishing touches and a cherry on top.
The Secret Year is a deep and compelling novel of love, loss, healing, and self-discovery. It kept me pulled in throughout the whole book, and it was a pleasant reading experience. Though the ending did seem to come rather abruptly and left me a little hungry for more, Jennifer Hubbard has presented us with a spectacular debut novel and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.
Cover Grade: B