For What It's Worth

Sunday, January 17, 2010

REVIEW: The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

The Secret YearColt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?  YA Fiction

I was hooked from the first page of this book.
Colt is from the poor side of town with junk cars littering his front yard, while Julia lived up on Black Mountain Road in a house with an alarm system and servants.
After meeting one night on the riverbank, they start a secret relationship in spite of - or because of - their differences. Julia already has a boyfriend, Austin. Even though she seems unhappy with him she would rather keep up the charade and keep seeing Colt on the side. At first Colt is ok with the arrangement. He has no desire to go to country club parties or hang out with her rich, snobby friends but there are times he wishes he could at least acknowledge knowing her in public.

"When she passed me in the halls, her eyes would glide over me like I was part of the walls. That turned me cold. I liked to break that glide, to catch and hold her eyes."

When Julia is killed in a car accident, Colt has no one he can talk to, no way to say goodbye to her. He goes to her funeral but only as a fellow student and has to watch as Austin plays the part of the grieving boyfriend.
Soon after her death, Julia's brother gives Colt a notebook of letters that she had written to him over the past year but had never shown him. Through this notebook he tries to relive their relationship trying to find out what it meant to her and try to find a way to grieve and move past the loss of her.
Jennifer's writing style is simple, beautiful and raw. The story is told from Colt's perspective as he reads Julia's notebook, but at times I felt I was reading Colt's diary, and that I shouldn't be, it felt so personal. Or like I was a fly on the wall, watching him as he struggles to let Julia go and start new relationships.
I didn't always understand or even like Julia but I could see why these two got together. I also liked getting a guy's perspective in a story for once.
The book is primarily about Colt and Julia, but it touches on so many things. Class issues, friendships, families, teen sex but it's all part of the story and never feels overdone.
It's not always an easy read emotionally, but it's well worth it. I read it in about 5 hours. Like I said, I was hooked - only putting it down to feed my dogs and to get the mail!
Loved: The writing style. That it was from a guys perspective. Original and uncompromising.
Nitpick: Don't have one. Ok Maybe one - I loved Colt's brother Tom and would have liked to hear his story too....but that's not really a nitpick, more of a wish for another book from his POV.

Rating: 4 out of 4! ( the first perfect rating for the blog!)
Buy here The Secret Year
Jennifer R. Hubbard blog
This book is part of the class of 2k10

Next up! A review of another 2k10 book - "Leaving Gee's Bend" by Irene Latham
I'm hoping to read & review them all!


  1. Well, I don't like cheaters' stories, but I do like forbidden love, so I'll have to at least give this a look. :-)

  2. I don't like cheating either & I'm not a big fan of the love triangle. I don't think you'll mind it in this book though.....the characters aren't always likeable though - but that's what I liked about it. It was complicated, like real life :-)