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The Secret Year

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Take Romeo and Juliet. Add The Outsiders. Mix thoroughly.
Colt 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?

192 pages, Hardcover

First published January 7, 2010

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About the author

Jennifer R. Hubbard

5 books271 followers
Thanks for visiting my page. A few words of explanation about how I use Goodreads:

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 641 reviews
Profile Image for Annalisa.
523 reviews1,341 followers
June 15, 2010
The premise of this book was intriguing. After a year in a secret relationship, Julia dies leaving Colt to mourn her in silence. With all that bottled up grief, it could have been good, but nothing in the book is explored. Hubbard brushes past those first critical six weeks after Julia's death in a few chapters and then continues to skim from scene to scene without delving into anything. The whole book is tell, tell, tell. Even in the last chapter, Colt is summarizing tidbits of his relationship with Julia, things that should have been shown to us the entire novel. Every once in a while, Hubbard included a scene that wasn't a summary of another scene or character, but even then she had to stop often to tell us things she hadn't bothered to show us. Julia's journal excerpts were especially frustrating, just a paragraph here or there of her reiterating her feelings about Colt and her boyfriend, Austin.

Yeah, Colt spent a year sleeping with a girl who had a boyfriend. (And, as a side note, he slept with his first girlfriend as early as fourteen. And then messes around with a girl he didn't like and almost slept with after Julia died. And then he did start sleeping with someone else, in his room with his parents home as though it were no big deal. Has teenage sex degraded that much?) Colt wasn't set up to be a very sympathetic character which could have opened the door for some in-depth character development, but Hubbard showed me nothing in him. I'm at a loss to describe any of the characters beyond flat cardboard cutouts. I felt nothing for this lost relationship since the only thing described about the relationship was that they had sex and some brief comments that they understood each other but never talked about it. I can't tell you in the end if I liked Colt or not. I don't think I know anything about him.

I also found the book terribly cliche. The rich girl from the hills and the boy from the flats. They couldn't be seen together because the two sides of town didn't mix. It even had the showdown between the rich and poor ala The Outsiders without any of the charm and depth. At the "I disown my gay son" scene, I actually laughed out loud at how out-of-the-blue and cliched it was, almost like Hubbard included it for as a gay-acceptance statement. Hubbard tried to use the scene way later in the novel to develop sympathy for Colt as an outsider in a brief scene that once again wasn't very well explored or described.

I should have quit this book early on. I almost did. The only reason I read it through to the end was that I like Hubbard's agent and was hoping for something in it because of him. Plus, it was a short read. I can't say that it was worth my time though.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,214 reviews1,124 followers
February 10, 2020
Contemporary A Thon: A new to you author

Julia and Colt were together for a year but nobody knew it. Then Julia dies in a car accident and Colt is forced to deal with his private grief.

The Secret Year was (hate to say this, because of the content) enjoyable. It was a quick read and while it dealt with a sad subject, I didn't feel sad reading it. I love books about grief because despite being something everyone on the planet has or will deal with. I don't feel like it gets talked about enough.

Colt's grief is compounded by the fact that no one in his life knew about his relationship with Julia. The most important part of grief is the ability to talk and share your grief with other people who also loved that person. I'm not an emotional person. I don't talk about my feelings a lot but when someone I love dies I do enjoy telling funny stories about that person. Humor is how I grieve. So the thought of not being able to laugh and joke about my lost loved one, is unimaginable.

While I did enjoy The Secret Year, I felt that because the book was so short it was lacking in the emotional impact it could have made,192 pages just wasn't enough. So because of that it kinda ended up falling a little flat for me, which is why its more of 3 star read instead of 4.

If you like short YA reads about grief, than give The Secret Year a try.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews738 followers
August 21, 2013
The Secret Year was a book that had been on my wish list for quite some time so when a friend gave me her book to borrow I was quite ecstatic. But what happened is what’s happening to me with a lot of books lately, I have really high expectations set, once I read the blurb I get really excited thinking this is a totally me book, it’s a book I keep thinking of buying but put off, a lot of my friends had really enjoyed the book so that sets the bar even higher. But once reading The Secret Year all my hopes were dashed, oh why book why did you have to let me down?

The Secret Year was told from Colt’s perspective (yes I was actually jumping up for joy, a male pov throughout the whole book; I hadn’t read one in so long and I was hoping it would be achy and intense like Adam’s pov in Where She Went). Colt and Julia had been secretly seeing each other for the last year; they had kept it a secret because Julia and Colt were from completely different backgrounds, backgrounds of people who didn’t really get along. Julia was from a privileged background; she lived in a huge house in black mountain neighbourhood and hung out with the popular rich kids at school. Whereas Colt was from the rundown neighbourhood in the flats. Julia and Colt ended up together one day after a chance meeting and ever since haven’t been able to stay away from each other. But to not draw attention to themselves at school they act like they don’t know one another. The only chance they get to meet is on Fridays, everything is like a huge build-up until that day. That day where they can stop pretending and just be together, where they belong, without people gawking at them like Julia’s boyfriend Austin. But then suddenly everything is just taken away in the blink of an eye, Julia’s pronounced dead after a car accident, as their relationship was a secret between two of them Colt can’t even say a proper goodbye at her funeral, mourn her properly or even tell anyone about it, it’s eating him up inside. When his friends bring her up, he has to remain closed off, show no emotion, even though he’s aching and raw with the hurt. But then Julia’s brother Michael hands him a diary, it’s full with lots of entries that Julia had written to him over the course of their relationship. Can Colt cope with her diary? Can he bring himself to read the entries, and finally bring closure to a secret year that was the most intense of his life?

I’m usually one to stay well away from emotional books, I just can’t cope, afterwards I’m always a snotty mess with puffy eyes, so I was expecting The Secret Year to be a huge emotional rollercoaster. To be honest I did not shed a single tear. Julia’s diary entries were at times heart wrenching and torturous to read, but this book didn’t really move me in the slightest. I expected to feel some sort of emotion but I didn’t.

I found some of the characters especially Colt lacked depth; he kept on flitting from one person to the other. The blurb strongly gave me the impression that it would be solely based on their secret relationship, but by the middle of the story it kind of fizzled out and the story went down a completely different tangent. One I really didn’t like or could particularly care less about. As the story progressed I found myself further and further drawn away from Colt. The second half of the book really was pointless and just exuded a lot of sighing and eye rolling.

Even though it pains me to say The Secret Year was a bitter disappointment; I guess I went into it thinking it would evoke some sort of emotions in me, but throughout the book I didn’t feel emotionally involved with the book or any of the characters. This book didn’t even produce the urge of a sniffle. I kept hoping the book would give me something? Anything. The lesson I’ve learnt from reading this book is don’t set my hopes too high because when they’re shattered into a million pieces, all I’m left with is a huge feeling of disappointment and utter annoyance afterwards.

This review can be found on The Readers Den
2 reviews
January 11, 2012
This book is -awesome- I couldn't put it down, I practically had to put toothpicks in my eyes because I didn't want to sleep! I am actually kind of sad that I am done reading it, I might have to read it again!.... =).
The book was very 'drawing' and actually funny...I loved Colt's humor! and I loved that it was told from him. All the romance type books I read are always told from the women's perspective! Ironically I was just thinking about how I wanted to read a book from a male POV, then I found "The Secret Year" the next day. It was refreshing to read a book told from the males view! I think more books should be told in the male view like this, gives us women more perspective instead of agreeance I think! =)
I was shocked how it starts with Julia's death....I thought, jeez, she's already dead, where could this book go... BUT WOW... like I said, I could not put it down!!! and Colt's Character is just really profound, how he was so secret but honest, mature and confused w/o never really losing himself!
I am almost 31 years old, married, no kids...so I felt almost silly purchasing a young adult book, but as I was walking around the book store, it had caught my eye. I am so glad it did, what a wonderful amazing story. I will be recommending it!
The only things I would have changed is Kirby to be a little more understanding and I would have liked it to end with him looking up from the river water and seeing Kirby standing there with a half smile and then a "thee end" ...Something kind of cheesy! =) But the ending was still great! So no complaints!!! KUDOS to Hubbard!!! =)


...Okay, so I just went and read some reviews on this book...yes...it is cliche...rich girl misunderstood, had everything but wants the poor, down to earth boy, they connect on a deep level that her and her rich boyfriend do not, whom she is only with because it's convenient and her parents approve... the poor boy falls in-love with the "snobby" girl cause he got to know all sides of her and keeps everything a secret because of his love for her yadda yadda yah, we heard it all before, but this story really isn't necessarily about that... the twist is, is that Julia dies in the 1st pages of the book...This book is about him trying to hold on to her and trying to mourn her while still trying to keep everything a secret, he's trying to keep everything the same, as if she was still there but he thinks he has moved on...most books of this nature end with one of the guys getting the girl, usually the "misfit"...this book isn't really like that, no one got the girl...but they realize that had she been alive, the outcome would have been the same!
Profile Image for Aileen.
731 reviews56 followers
June 28, 2009
This book was good, it had situations that many people want while at the same time they think they want but really don't. When you begin this book Colt had been dating a girl named Julia for a year and she had just died, then it goes on to explain how he felt about her, what she felt about him, tons of other things, mainly about his trying to sort out not only his feelings he still had for this dead girl but feelings for others around him, especially when her younger brother gives him her journal about all the nights they shared together. In a way you can both love and hate Colt. You can love him for falling for someone, but hate him for not giving it up, getting past it, moving on, but that's only because we do the same. The best part about this book, is that anyone who has ever loved, or even just liked someone from afar, up close, anything, and lost them somehow, feels the way he does, even if it's just for a moment, and that is what made me like this book.
Profile Image for TinaB.
530 reviews134 followers
January 11, 2019
Perhaps a more fitting title to this novel would have been "The Secret Year I had Sex, more sex and more sex and more sex.

Colt Morrissey has always lived in the flats, while all the rich kids live on Black Mountain, the paths don't associate, its not a big deal to Colt, its just life. That feeling changes during the summer when he begins a secret affair with Julia, a beautiful girl from Black Mountain. Julia has her own life, full of country club parties, friends and a popular boyfriend Austin. Colt has his own life, with friends, working and somewhat messed up parents. The two meet one night down on the river and against everything that makes sense in both their life, they begin to meet secretly on Friday nights for a year. The meetings consist of late night trysts and backseat car romance until Julia is killed in a car accident and Colt is left to grieve alone and handle the misgivings of their relationship.

Julia's brother Michael learns of the relationship when he discovers notebooks and journals his sister kept and decides quickly to get them out of the house. He shows Colt one particular notebook she had about their time together and asks him to keep it. Slowly over the course of the next year Colt absorbs Julia’s words and flashes back to those long Friday nights and the night that ended it all.

The tagline reads: Romeo and Juliet meet the Outsiders, that's very misleading, The Outsiders maybe due to the culture/status thing but as far as the romance in this story, it was causal, no strings attached sex. There was no tragic love or even a real commitment, Julia and Colts relationship was built on lies, deceit and sneaking around. I wouldn't equate their romance to Romeo and Juliet, but maybe MTVs 16 and pregnant.

Colt described in a nutshell was an walking hormone fueled boy with no aspirations, no goals and nothing going on in his life except for what the vagina's in this novel could give him. I had a really hard time feeling sorry for him or any of the characters in this novel, furthermore I had a hard time feeling anything other than annoyed for Julia and Colts backseat of the car relationship and all the idiots who slept with him in the process thinking they were getting a relationship.

Take away the subplot (white trash people) and minus the gay brother added for family drama you get SEX. Basically that’s really all this book was about, sex, more sex, sex dreams, hopping into bed (er.....cars, tree houses, garages, classrooms, lawn chairs, pools..) with one partner after another and then some more you guessed it, sex. At least we get a few big plugs for condoms- hey boys and girls its ok to have lots and lots of hot sex just make sure to use your big boy condoms when you do so you don't get the herpes.
Profile Image for Jenny / Wondrous Reads.
439 reviews75 followers
December 13, 2010
I was really excited to read The Secret Year, but unfortunately, it just wasn't the book for me. I found it quite difficult to get through, and struggled to form any kind of attachment to the characters. The premise is fantastic, and I can't fault that at all. It's unusual and intriguing, and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. To live with any kind of secret is difficult, but to have a whole year that essentially only exists to two people is unimaginable.

Hubbard definitely had the idea for a brilliant story, but I personally didn't gel with any of it. I didn't see why Colt and Julia liked each other as, besides sex, they didn't really interact a lot. Their relationship was very much on the physical side, and I didn't think it was enough to explain why these two very different people felt so strongly towards each other. Their chemistry was lacking, and I didn't particularly like either one of them.

The whole time I was reading this book, I was just waiting for it to go somewhere, for something to happen. I found the pacing too slow, and the story never really got going. I expected Julia's notes to be more interesting, but all she talked about was her boyfriend that she didn't really like, and schools she wanted to go to in the future. There were no revelatory bombshells in her words, which was a shame, as I think that would have turned the book around.

This is a great example of how reading is subjective. I've read nothing but good reviews of The Secret Year, and I really hope my own dislike of the book won't put anyone off giving it a try. Hubbard has her ideas in the right place, and I think she'll only get better as she continues writing. I'll definitely give her next book a chance, and hopefully I'll like it a bit more than this one.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,426 reviews8,330 followers
June 6, 2010
Julia lived on Black Mountain Road - the place for prestigious and privileged kids. Colt lives in the flats, the home of the less wealthy and less renowned individuals. They have been secretly seeing each other for a year - a year filled with sexual tension and passionate longing. That is until Julia is killed in a car accident right before her senior year, leaving Colt alone and despairing to deal with her death. Julia's younger brother, Michael, leaves Colt with a diary filled with entries addressed to him. Colt hopes that by the time he is done flipping the pages of the secret diary that he will be done coping and ready to move on with his life.

The Secret Year was a sensual yet sorrowful read. Readers will be mesmerized by the taboo romance between Colt and Julia as he leafs through her diary. The character development of Colt was superb, and people's hearts will ache alongside his as he delves deeper into his feelings about Julia and her death. The side characters were also developed, my favorite being Tom, Colt's older brother.

While some parts of the plot could have been developed more, The Secret Year was a smoky, somber read about a forbidden romance - somewhat like a modern day Romeo and Juliet. Perfect for a rainy day indoors.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
366 reviews284 followers
April 24, 2011
Jennifer R. Hubbard sold her first novel, The Secret Year in attempting to creating something beautiful. Her novel focuses on a poor boy that lost something that was never his to begin with – which kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it? – and about the girl he falls in love, a young lady who isn’t as stereotypical as the rest of those rich honeys we’re always hearing about in YA television and books.

If you think there’s intrigue enough there, wait until you hear the punch line.

The girl everyone wants to be…is dead.

Hubbard’s novel has been tagged by many popular reviewers as “emotional,” “heartbreaking,” and “romantic.” It, I guess, was kind of all those things. But I had more than a few problems with it.

Female YA authors who create male MC’s have to be careful. They know the minds of a teen girl well, having been one themselves, but let’s face it – teenage boys, at seventeen, are a mystery no matter if you’re dating one, sleeping with one, avoiding one or best friends with one. Many female writers can delve into a teen guy’s mind perfectly (Melina Marchetta, Mindi Scott, Gayle Forman,) but many tend to think that guys these days have a one track mind – and their car is running around Sex Lane. I think Hubbard was among the latter.

Colt was a sex-addict. He was sex craved, and I am not exaggerating. The entire novel, he was contradicting himself!

“Oh, Julia, how I miss thee!” he’d cry to his mirror. (And then would go out swap spit with a girl he didn’t even like…because it felt good.)

“Oh, Julia, how could you have gone out with that stupid guy when you were telling me you loved me?!” he’d shout to her journal. (After reading her letters to him, he has a wet dream about her brother’s ex-girlfriend.)

“Oh, Julia, I love you, you bitch!” he’d murmur to her voice mail. (This, of course, after he remembers something about her that is very, very morally degrading)

I’m sorry, but with a protagonist like this, it was difficult to really get into this story.

And how much of this was a story? The letters that were supposed to star in this were far and few between and the rest of this 200-paged book was filled with common activities, too much drinking – I mean, where are the cops in this town?! – and a lot of s.e.x.

Sex. S-e-x. SEX. You can whisper it, you can scream it, you can bury it or rejoice it. It’s not leaving YA, and frankly, if it’s tastefully delivered, I don’t have a problem with it and sometimes can even enjoy what it brings to the novel. But like in The Secret Year, where, virtually, it’s incorporated in most chapters, most thoughts, and most characters, it loses its sentimentality and wow-factor and je-ne-sais-quoi. Hubbard was going for a love story where her characters met and started their relationship based upon sex, which is fine. What isn’t fine is that only months after Julia’s death, Colt’s messing around with every girl he talks to! Where’s the proof of his love with Julia? Teenage boys are sexual creatures, sure, but the casual sex in this novel is not real nor is it tastefully delivered, despite the poetic bows the scenes were tied in.

But I did rate this novel three-stars, didn’t I? No matter my rants above, there were redeeming qualities. I liked how very anti-stereotypical Hubbard’s characters were, no matter their sex lives. Julia wasn’t just a pretty face in the fanciest mansion around – she wrote, she wasn’t a bitch, and she actually had good friends. Austin wasn’t even that golden boy, either, that seems so common nowadays – he was flawed and fantastic that way. Even Colt had his moments where I, as a reader, could see what Julia saw in him. He treated his friends and parents like crap, but he could tell when enough was enough when it came to bullshitting them. The concept of this novel, despite its delivery, also entertained me and made my throat clog up when some of the truer, rawer emotion came flitting by.

I will read Hubbard’s next novel. For a debut, she did alright. But there are a few things that come with practice, just like the dirty deed itself.

*By the way, I don’t know any guys, no matter what age, that speak and think the way Colt does.

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Audience: Sex-craved, alcoholic teens 14+
Rating: 2.5-3/5
Recommend?: Give it a go.
Profile Image for Jenna Marie ~Scheming Scribbler~.
113 reviews15 followers
March 13, 2022
DNF'ing at 25%. This book's premise is beautifully heartbreaking; a boy recovering from the loss of a girl nobody knew he had known after her death. The writing flowed pretty well, and I loved the idea of him reading her journal. Unfortunately, the romance was very surface level, and it seemed there was no real connection between the characters. It also was far from clean, in more ways than one. It might be a fun book for other readers, but it's not for me.
Profile Image for kari.
848 reviews
March 8, 2012
There are quite a few things about this book that are irksome, the biggest being that there is no tension and therefore no resolution. It merely chugs along, but not really accomplishing anything.
First, the love story between Colt and Julia is a big pile of who cares or to be more accurate, the sex story between Colt and Julia because these two are nothing more than well, I can't even say friends because they aren't, with benefits. They have a chance meeting down at the river on the "wrong" side of town near where Colt lives and then she comes back and offers a no-strings-attached sex partnership.
Let me repeat, they aren't friends. At school and pretty well everywhere but the backseat of her fancy car, she ignores him and pretends she doesn't know him. There is no love story.
After she dies, he is given a journal supposedly written as letters to him and they are just a bunch of her whining about this and that. Again, I didn't feel any love between these two.
So, she has died and Colt accidentally almost starts something with a friend who is a girl and then does start a new relationship which again seems to be mostly having sex in his bedroom with a parent or two in the other room. Is this normal behavior?
None of these characters are really anyone to care about. Colt doesn't seem to have any real goals or at least we never get any hint of them beyond getting this girl into bed and actually he doesn't work hard at that.
There is the coming out of his brother, a rumble between the uppers and the lowers of the high school social classes, but it really all adds up to not much. When the big secret is revealed . . . meh.
Profile Image for Kristy Mills.
1,707 reviews38 followers
May 27, 2010
What is with these weird depressing books I keep reading lately. Geez. I knew going into it that the girl Julia died and Colt, the guy, is trying to cope with her death after having a secret relationship with her. Throughout the whole book I just felt bad for him. He had so many questions he would never get answers to and raw feelings he could never really express. I thought the ending was terrible! I don't feel like anything got any better for him. Yes he realized that he needed to stop living in the past, but I didn't feel like he was really able to get on with his life. Maybe if things with him and Kirby ended up differently I would have felt better about the way it ended, but I thought he was more lonely at the end than he was in the beginning.

I did have one favorite quote though.

I was on my bed, listening to the rain and trying to decide whether to go into the kitchen for another bowl of cornflakes (and hear my mother say for the ten millionth time, "Colten, do you have a tapeworm?") or keep lying there and fall asleep, which would mean waking up starving around two in the morning.

Profile Image for L.J. Boldyrev.
55 reviews31 followers
February 4, 2010
Product Description from amazon:
Take Romeo and Juliet. Add The Outsiders. Mix thoroughly.
Colt 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?

I fell in love with this book from the very beginning. It has a great voice and I loved that it was a love story, and not an overly sappy one, told from the boys point of view. Colt felt like a real boy to me the entire length of the novel. This is a great debut novel and it is definitely not to be missed.
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,188 reviews2,891 followers
February 6, 2010
Three words; 2010 is awesome!

If this is any indication on how awesome the debut authors for 2010 are going to be, we are all in for a very big treat. This is the first official debut novel I've read for 2010, and I could not put it down!

I can't even explain the range of emotions that you are sure to experience while reading this novel. Colt is such an intense character, and you can't help but feel his desperation, his confusion, his frustration. It's strangely addicting. You don't want to be a witness to Colt's emotional roller coaster, but you can't help bit sit back for the ride.

But Colt wouldn't be as memorable without the extraordinary talent of author Jennifer Hubbard. Who has expertly crafted a story of love and loss and ultimately.... a boy finding his way. This is definitely a character driven novel, but Hubbard's talent is just as memorable.

An author to look out for. I can't wait to see this author in by TBR pile again!
Profile Image for Joelle Anthony.
Author 4 books81 followers
October 2, 2009
I got an ARC of this and blew through it in one sitting. I thought it was beautifully written and extremely visual. Definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Brianna (The Book Vixen).
675 reviews996 followers
November 22, 2015
Colt and Julia couldn’t have been more opposite thanks to their social differences. Julia’s the rich girl who has everything she wants; the friends, a car, the country-club boyfriend. Everything except true happiness. Colt is just the poor boy living on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, they had been in a “relationship” for the past year, up until Julia was killed in a car accident. Romeo and Juliet meets The Outsiders.

Julia was killed on Labor Day on her way home from a party. I didn’t get to see her that night. I used to meet her on Friday nights…..We’d meet on the banks of the river, clutch at each other in the backseat of her car, steam up her windows…We did all that for a year, and nobody else knew.

After Julia’s death, Colt is left to grieve alone and secretly because his relationship with Julia was not known. In fact, Julia had a boyfriend - Austin. Colt and Julia’s was the type of relationship that didn’t have strings. Colt detached himself emotionally from Julia, that is until she died. Up until that point, Colt was completely disconnected in the relationship. To him, it was just sex…at least that’s what he thought.

Following Julia’s death, Colt went through a roller coaster of emotions. Michael, Julia’s brother, gives Colt a notebook. It’s Julia’s journal where she penned letters addressed to a C.M., letting go of her emotions and feelings. This notebook has such an effect on Colt. He learns things about Julia that he never knew. He doesn't devour the notebook; instead he takes it in very slowly, absorbing each memory and emotion from a different point of view, through Julia's eyes.

I had been anticipating the release of The Secret Year since last year. Hubbard did a wonderful job telling the story from the male POV. I like that even though Julia is dead from the very beginning, I still got a sneak peek at her side of things. The story isn’t completely one-sided which gives it depth. The unique premise caught my attention and I had to read this book. Affairs happen all the time but the only time we think about them is when they become not-so-secret, which makes The Secret Year believable.

I love the cover of this book! The girl and the guy kissing at the bottom of the book, being secretive. The girl has her eyes open just a bit, like she’s looking at him, watching his reaction. You can barely see the guy's face. His eyes are hidden by his wispy hair. It’s almost like he’s just an illusion. Another thing I liked about this book is the multiple meanings behind the title. Every time I read a book, one of my main goals is to figure out the meaning behind the title. Authors go to great lengths to capture the essence of their book in one short sentence. Or sometimes even just a single word. And when an author nails the title right on the head, especially when there is more than one meaning behind it, I truly appreciate that.

The Secret Year was a great, fast-paced read at just under 200 pages. I was so excited to get this book in my hot, little hands. The Secret Year is a great debut novel. When I was done reading the book, I was glad I read it but at the same time I didn’t want it to end. I can’t wait to see what Hubbard comes up with next.

Review originally posted on The Book Vixen.
Profile Image for Vicki.
2,153 reviews84 followers
November 24, 2020
In a way I guess this is like a modern day Romeo and Juliet - seeing each other in secret because they come from different sides of the tracks. Julia is a privileged child whereas Colt is not. But they don't commit suicide; instead, Julia is tragically killed. When he gives Colt a diary that Julia wrote all about their relationship, one can imagine how bitter sweet that would be. Colt learned a lot that he wasn't expecting from her diary. The "forbidden love" is something that probably many of us experienced as teenagers, so most of us know what it's like to try to stay away or ignore parents and sneak around. But, oh, when your loved one dies and you then hit on/have sex with every person you can...I guess for that teenager it was lust rather than true love. I mean, they were after all teenagers so what else might one expect?

Profile Image for Clementine.
1,446 reviews74 followers
February 1, 2010
In Colt Morrissey's world, things are pretty black and white. The rich kids who live up on Black Mountain stick to themselves and don't associate with the poor, trashy kids who reside on the Flats. As one of the kids from the Flats, Colt doesn't really question the status quo. Then he begins a secret affair with Julia, a beautiful girl from one of Black Mountain's wealthiest families.

Even though Julia already has a boyfriend, and friends, and a whole separate life, the two of them continue to have clandestine meetings down by the river most Friday nights for an entire year. When Julia is killed in a car accident, Colt is left alone to grieve, since no one ever knew they were dating.

But then Julia's brother Michael shows him a journal that Julia kept. It's a journal where all the entries are addressed to Colt. As he gets sucked further and further into Julia's private thoughts, Colt notices less about the outside world. How can he say goodbye to Julia's ghost when he feels her presence in the journal?

Jennifer Hubbard's debut novel for young adults has a fascinating premise with a really shoddy execution. What could be fascinating insight into Julia's world is so flat and so bland that the reader might be inclined to skim over Julia's letters. While Colt himself has some interesting aspects, he becomes so wrapped up in the loss of his first love that it becomes a chore to stay with him as he comes to terms with the finality of that love.

Hubbard peppers the story with some characters that might be interesting if they were ever given the chance to grow. The only character that we get any insight into is his older brother Tom, but even that is fleeting. One can't help but feel like the author had great ideas and couldn't seem to follow through on any of it. All of these characters circle around Colt, but none of them ever get the chance to do anything.

Overall a quick read, and while it's not exactly fluff, there are better titles out there. This reader was pretty disappointed.
Profile Image for Hope Collier.
Author 3 books168 followers
November 29, 2010
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.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for David Brown.
Author 3 books39 followers
June 20, 2015
The Secret Year is a YA romance novel which strives for literary credibility, yet there is very little romance, and the writing never comes close to being classified at literature.

The story is narrated by Colt Morrissey, a boy from the poor section of town called "the flats", who had a year long secret affair with Julia, a rich girl who lived on the affluent heights of the heavenly Black Mountain. The two met roughly once a week down by a river in the flats. Mostly for sex, but sometimes they'd talk. Colt and Julia were not in a relationship since she had a boyfriend she was unwilling to break up with, and Colt wanted nothing more than their physical liaison (which makes his later devastation with her and claims of love for her unbelievable).

Shortly after her accidental death in a car accident, Julia's brother gives Colt her journal/letters addressed to C. M. (Colt Morrissey). Over the next few months, Colt reads through the journal as his life goes on without her. He can't get over her death and behaves as though it was a life altering event for him, even though his life is little different than it was when they were together as their time together was often infrequent and each liaison lasted only a few hours, if that.

At the end of the story, despite having dated two other girls in the space of only a few months (both relationships end because Colt's refusal to let go of Julia's memory) and getting rid of Julia's diary, the reader is left feeling that Colt will never let go of Julia, and that this brief, superficial affair will determine his decisions for the remainder of his life.

The dialogue in The Secret Year is often unrealistic and amateurish. I'm surprised most of it got past the editor it's so bad. The narrative is better, but not by much.

Colt Morrissey, the main character/narrator, is unlikable and weak. He whines and complains more than Louis in Interview with the Vampire. Colt is from a bad neighborhood, the type where one has to be tough and ready to rumble; yet the author fails to capture this aspect of his character, and there is no difference between him and the rich kids used to form a contrast, other than the setting in which he lives.

The reader is given three sides to Julia, yet none of them are ever revealed as the truth. We see her mostly through Colt's "love" stricken eyes as the perfect goddess who comes down from her lofty heights to spend a few hours with Colt. Yet this persona does not quite ring true. In the few diary entries the reader is made privy to (and which are too sparsely scattered throughout the book considering how important the journal is to be), Julia "sounds" completely different than she does in her dialogue in her scenes with Colt; but we do get a sense of her as a "normal" though unreal sounding teenage girl.

We get a few other glimpses of Julia through other characters, but this Julia is a cold, heartless villain who was using Colt to satisfy her own psychological hang ups. However, this Julia is probably closer to the truth.

The other characters that populate the novel are as flavorful as a strip of cardboard, and as thin as a flake of onion skin. (Examples: alcoholic, homophobic father who is rarely present, mother who for no apparent reason has chosen Colt as her arch nemesis and spends every scene she's in belittling or beleaguering her son.) This is unfortunate because all of these shallowly formed denizens of The Secret Year seem more interesting than the main character.

Even for a first novel, this book disappoints. It did not take long to read, though, so at least not too much of my time was wasted.
Profile Image for Christina (Reading Extensively).
513 reviews73 followers
March 22, 2010
Colt Morrissey had a year long relationship with Julia Vernon that ended with her tragic death in a car accident. Now he mourns her loss in secret because nobody knew that he was seeing Julia. She was one of the popular rich kids who lived on Black Mountain and she had a boyfriend. Colt lives in the poor area known as the flats. Even though he and Julia came from such different backgrounds, they had a passionate relationship that Julia detailed in her journal through letters and poems she wrote to him. Now that journal has made its way into Colt’s hands as he tries to figure out how to live without Julia and how to deal with the guilt he feels over her death.

The relationship between Colt and Julia is described both through Colt’s thoughts and Julia’s letters to him. While Colt loved Julia in his way it is not clear if she really loved him. At times it seems that their secret relationship was just about the excitement of keeping it a secret and their physical attraction to each other. Julia goes back and forth about breaking up with her boyfriend Austin for Colt. Colt understandably has not been able to express his feelings about Julia’s death. His friends can’t stand the snobby kids from Black Mountain and wouldn’t be able to believe that Colt had a relationship with Julia. Julia’s classmates certainly wouldn’t accept Colt among them. At school, there is a strict line between the haves and the have-nots. There are three people who bridge that gap-Julia (although she kept her relationship with Colt a secret), Kirby, a girl who is neither from Black Mountain or the flats, and Michael Vernon, Julia’s younger brother who gives his sister’s journal to Colt. It is through his reluctant friendship with Michael and Kirby that Colt comes to terms with his loss.

When I first finished the novel I was left feeling a little disappointed. I thought that the book ended too abruptly. After thinking about it and going back and reading through different parts, I changed my mind. There are some things I was disappointed with. I felt that some of the minor characters were quite flat, including Austin. I was also sometimes irritated by the way Colt and Julia behaved at times even though it is very true to their characters. Fortunately, Colt and Julia are both well written characters. Some of the best parts of this novel are the letters that Julia wrote to Colt. The author really does a good job of capturing Julia’s voice and making Colt an authentic flawed character. Colt has grown over the course of the year during which the book takes place and the story leaves us with Colt having some closure. While I would not consider Julia and Colt’s behavior toward each other to be indicative of love, it is true to who they are. Overall I would say that The Secret Year is a moving story of friendship and coming to terms with grief. I look forward to reading more of Jennifer Hubbard’s work.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,020 reviews103 followers
June 19, 2009
To say I was excited when I received this book in the mail would be a serious understatement. I was jumping around the house crazy when I saw the package on my doorstep. I've been following this book since it was titled Black Mountain Road, a book that was supposed to debut in '09 to now where it has an different title, The Secret Year, and a brand new release date, January 2010.

Anyway, getting back to The Secret Year, I had high exceptions for this. Luckily, it was great, but it was a bit short from fantastic.

When the story begins, you are thrown into Colt's life just when Julia Vernon has been killed in a tragic car accident. To anyone else this would be sad, but to Colt this is heartbreaking and life changing. You see, Colt has been secretly seeing Julia for the last year and the Friday before she died they had one fatal fight. A fight that was never fully resolved. I was instantly immersed in the novel, because I wanted to find out all about his and Julia's past relationship. It even got better when Julia's secret journal about their relationship landed in his hands, since you got to see how she felt the past year.

Colt was an interesting and well developed character that you instantly felt sad for. Throughout, I enjoyed reading about his life, though towards the middle I began to get a little sick of his bitterness over Julia dying. Bitterness that would lead to him not only hurting one girl, but two. I understood that he was devastated over her dying, but I felt that it was a bit to strung out. Luckily, I began to understand why he was the way he was at the end, because the big revaluation about Julia and his last night was finally revealed. Even though, Julia was dead from the beginning you still got to understand who she was and how she felt through the start, which another one of my favorites about The Secret Year.

Jennifer Hubbard's writing and character /plot development in The Secret Year was another strong point. I look forward to reading more by her in the future.

Overall, The Secret Year, is a great opening to the tenners upcoming year. I have to say, I'm looking forward to what they have coming out next.

I suggest this to fans of Jay Asher's novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, or people looking for a Romeo and Juliet like romance with a taste of social diversity ( rich against poor) like the famous novel, The Outsiders.

Grade: A-
Profile Image for Sara Grochowski.
1,142 reviews567 followers
November 26, 2009
I was truly amazed by The Secret Year! I picked up Jennifer R. Hubbard’s debut novel on a whim, but wasn’t sure it was a novel I’d particularly enjoy. Not only was the novel from a male point-of-view, which isn’t usually my favorite, it was about a secret affair. I definitely didn’t except Colt’s, and Julia’s, story to be so intensely moving.

I ended up really enjoying the fact that TSY is from Colt’s point-of-view. Not only was it a refreshing perspective, it allowed for the story to unfold in a unique and engaging way. Colt comes to possess Julia’s diary that recounts intimate details about their clandestine relationship and from which he shares pertinent passages with the reader. In many ways, meeting Julia through her journal entries made me feel even closer to her – and it allowed me to see her relationship with Colt in a whole new way. I was unsure whether I would like that Julia and Colt’s relationship was secret, I thought that it would seem cheap and shallow, but in the end I had completely different feelings about it. This novel reminded me that you can’t judge everything by first glance; there is so much more below the surface…

Since the story is told by Colt, the reader is missing key details about what happened the night Julia died. Colt blames himself for Julia’s death, but for most of the novel it is unclear why he would think this. I appreciated Hubbard’s intricate plotting as the pieces slowly came together.

In many ways, Julia was the star of the novel. Despite the reader never actually meeting her, Julia seemed to steal the spotlight and drive the story. Upon reflection, however, I started to feel a stronger connection to Colt. At first, I mostly just related to Julia because of the emotion she revealed in her journal entries, but Colt, though he didn’t necessarily show his emotions, even to the reader, was just as compelling.

Ratings (Out of 10):
Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Writing: 10
Romance: 10
Originality: 10
Total: 50/50 (A)

The Secret Year was so much more than I had expected! I’ll definitely be watching for more from Hubbard after such an amazing debut novel!
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books479 followers
November 13, 2012
Reviewed by Cat for TeensReadToo.com

While family and friends are still reeling over the Labor Day car accident that took senior high school student Julia Vernon's life, Colt is trying to figure out how to mourn her loss and the absence of their year-long, secret relationship.

How does he grieve for the girl who was never really his, yet who he knew in a way no one else did? Colt is shocked when, one day at school, Julia's brother hands him a journal detailing the course of their relationship, as he simultaneously relives the past *and* works to move forward.

Intertwined with the present are a series of flashbacks prompted by Julia's diary. We learn the details of their affair, how deeply divided their class/societal divides ran, and how those hostilities culminate among their small town's youth in the aftermath of Julia's demise.

This is a novel for outsiders - and when ultimately stripped of our outward trappings, aren't we all outsiders? Jennifer Hubbard captures the trauma and agony of the achingly grim slowness that is high school with honesty and blistering clarity.

THE SECRET YEAR sharply portrays those years of being torn between who/what others perceive us to be, who we really are, and how hard it can be to reconcile two such seemingly disparate halves of the whole, not to mention the overwhelming sense of impossibility that looms when trying to break free of that social image. And finally, she perfectly renders the pain of first love, the hope that it will be forever, and the heartache of learning it's only the first step into a much larger world.
Profile Image for Suzan.
19 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2010
I've been avoiding writing this review. Not because it was bad, far from it, but because it was really really good and I wanted to convey how I felt about it accurately.

Being a person who did lose a significant other in high school, I totally related to this book. In fact, I was the same age as Colt too. It's a really hard thing, and I think it's harder as a teenager because your hormones are out there and the emotions you feel that young are so raw and untapped. A lot of times you're feeling things for the first time. For me, this was the first time someone that close to me had died.

I tried to imagine if my boyfriend had left ME a journal, how I'd feel and honestly, I don't think I would have had the courage to read it like Colt did. I think it would have sat on my desk and collected dust while I stared at it wondering what was inside but not having the courage to open it.

So I admire Colt as a person, even though he's just a character in a novel, a work of fiction, for having the courage to turn the pages. Where Julia had a special place in his heart, my boyfriend will always have a special place in mine. No one will ever measure up to that first love, especially when it was ripped from someone with such raw emotions like a teenager.

For the above reasons,and the spectacular talent in the writing by Jennifer Hubbard, I give this book a fantastic five stars. Jennifer, I look forward to your next book.
Profile Image for Andrea.
868 reviews54 followers
December 29, 2009
When I first saw that this was a story told from a male point-of-view, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it--I tend to not like emotional stories told from guys. But The Secret Year was a pleasant surprise.

There were two main characters in the story--Colten, who is the narrator, and Julia, who we learn more about and read from the pages of the diary. Their secret romance is very Romeo-and-Juliet-like. And while I felt that Colt was down-to-earth and real, I found myself disliking Julia and thought that she was just using Colt and didn't really feel that stongly about him. Even when the pages in her diaries said otherwise, I felt that at some points she looked down on him. And as much as I didn't like Julia's boyfriend, I didn't like the fact that she was cheating on him.

There were other smaller sub-plots in the story: Colt's older brother reveals a deep, dark secret, and the two worlds between the Black Mountain kids and the flats kids collided in a huge brawl. But the main one was the secret affair between Colt and Julia. I will say that the end was a slight let-down. I expected there to be a bigger reveal on the last page of Julia's diary. But overall, it was a promising debut novel from Jennifer Hubbard.
Profile Image for heather - NightlyReading.
683 reviews91 followers
June 22, 2017
What a sad and heartbreaking love story! This book was beautifully written and left me still saddened for the main character of Colten. This is what can happen to a person emotionally when we keep secrets and are not able to truly “love” the person we are meant to be with.

Colten’s story was heart wrenching and I went through every emotion right along with him. It amazes me that the secret was able to be kept and no one had any idea. I am still on the fence for what I felt for Julia. Through her letters, it seemed that she really and truly loved Colton, but when she was with her boyfriend it didn’t seem to matter.

This book is a perfect example on the pressure that today’s teens have to try to fit in with a particular click. There are cliques at every school and in every town across the country. Nothing has changed since our parents went to school or we did. Only now it is getting even scarier with school shootings and bomb threats every other day. I am not sure if it will ever change???

“Once you’re out here in the world, nobody cares where you used to live. Who you are, that’s what counts.”

Profile Image for  ~*~Princess Nya~*~.
986 reviews7 followers
December 30, 2011
I LOVE THIS BOOK! It captured the very essence of that time when you are a teenager. Coming into your own. But it blended very well with a very much "grown up" topic and unthinkable tragedy. The fact that it's told through first person, and it's a young man Colt, who is telling his story, the fact that it's so heartfelt and open, just blew me away. Rarely have I read a book set with this tone, in a first person male POV. And I am pleasantly surprised.

This is definitely a bittersweet one. Nothing happens that you think will happen. I love that. And I love that Colten is just a boy, a young man coming into his own trying to understand and find his place not only in this world, but with these particular demons he is forced to deal with. Some of his own doing, and others by circumstance. This book was just on point on so many levels. And the fact that it's such a short read but full of substance is great. You are left with the feeling that the story is finished, well Colten's story, by the time you reach the end of the book. I highly recommend this read.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,612 followers
December 16, 2015
Alrighty... This book reminded me a bit of Looking for Alaska by John Green, but I think it fell quite a bit short of the standard that Alaska set.

I couldn't really connect with or care about any of these characters, and something about them, or the writing or both, just felt... contrived. It didn't feel honest at all to me. There was just so much telling going on here, it was like it was happening to someone else and Colt was just acting as the middle-man to us. Maybe that was the point, since both he and Julia had idealized versions of each other, but if so, it didn't really work for me.

Julia's diary entries/letters were repetitive and didn't really add anything to the story. It just all felt so contrived and cliche to me. There was a lot of drinking and sex, but very little substance.

Yeah... I don't know what else to add... I just didn't care for this one.
January 22, 2013
The Book I read it was "The Secret Year" by jennifer R. Hubbard.
I can't compare this book with any other books. The only thing i didn't liked was the end, it was so confuse for me, because I was inspecting more, and then PUFF! "The end", in the same river that they used to meet, but just this time was inside in it. The book has very strong flashback, and the girl communicated with him through her letters. Well, i did liked the book, a little romance, lost of secrets and insteresting thoughts. Another thing was that they been seeing each other for years.

-Colt Morrissey
-Julia Vernon

When Julia's brother gave Colt the Book with letters ( it was actually a Dairy )
Colt found more and more letters that doesn't tell him anything about what he wanted to know, he just get confused. He wanted to know more.

Text to world:

Special scene; When Julia and Colt met for first time.♥

I like the book, i wish i can watch a movie about this book.
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