Hope Collier's Reviews > The Secret Year

The Secret Year by Jennifer R.  Hubbard
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Nov 29, 2010

it was ok
Read in November, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Hmm, where to begin. The gist, Colt is from the wrong side of the tracks (or mountain, in this story) and Julia is the trust fund, bratty princess. They have a forbidden love and no one is aware. She dies. He's sad but can't talk about it because no one knows they were ever together.

Longer version...

15 year-old Colt meets up with an older Julia in a happenstance kind of moment. They kiss for a while and decide they like in it in spite of the fact that Julia has a boyfriend and Colt is poor kid from the other side. Now they meet at the river each week for random, no-strings-attached sex. Problem number one: I have real issues with YA novels that promote gratuitous sex. Call me what you will, but this isn't the message we should send our young people, in my opinion.

Julia wants to keep their rendezvous a secret. She has a boyfriend and a social life to maintain, and Colt doesn't fit the bill for either role. Personally, I think Julia is portrayed as selfish and manipulative. While the story isn't from her perspective, I don't see why Colt would want to be with her regardless. If it was just for sex, that would be one thing, but the story tells of his grief and sense of loss because he loved her. Not realistic for me.

Julia dies in a car crash, largely in part to her partying and drunken state. Problem number two: Please, for the love of all that is moral, STOP promoting underage drinking! I know kids do it. I know some might think it's "normal," but it would be a lot less "normal" if we didn't CONDONE it. Also, that's about the teenagers do in this story. Get drunk at all hours of the day.

So now Julia is dead. Michael, Julia's brother, gives Colt a journal of letters that Julia had written him, detailing their time together. (Another example of Julia's selfishness, the journal is full of ramblings about her boyfriend as well as her thoughts about Colt. Very sweet, huh?) This leaves Colt grieving alone because no one knew about their relationship... that's pretty much the rest of the story. Colt finally meets another girl to have sex with, Kirby. He says he loves her after spending zero time together, so they have more sex. Later on, Kirby finds Julia's journal in Colt's room. She gets angry and asks Colt why he still has it if he's over Julia. He's not over Julia, otherwise the story would be over. She storms out and they spend some time apart.

Colt is lost, so he turns to his (randomly added fact) gay brother. The gay scenario didn't fit in with the rest of the story. The acknowledgment came in at a weird time and didn't affect the story really. I'm not sure if the author threw it in as a proponent or what, but it wasn't relevant. Colt's brother, Tom, who despite his random sexual orientation, actually adds some depth to the story. He tells his younger brother to stop lying to everyone.

The story really didn't have a lot of depth, despite the fact that I think it was meant to. The characters were flat. The dialog was uninteresting. We read it from Colt's POV, but you never get a feel for him. Often times, I didn't know if he was being glib, sarcastic, or if he simply didn't care. None of the characters felt real to me. I didn't connect with them. No one really stood out. A lot of stuff that should have been drawn out for the emotion and feel of the situation, was skimmed over. There is a lot of telling, not showing. I prefer a story that really paints a picture for me. I didn't get that at all with the story. There was nothing to get caught up in. Even now, I don't really know what the "point" was supposed to be? I don't feel like the characters grew in any way or changed. It simply ended.

So, 2 stars because I did actually finish it. I liked the idea of certain parts of the story such as the class division and the letters throughout. I just feel the execution lacked depth and realism.

Again, these are *my* thoughts about the work, not the author herself.

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