Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Secret Year: Jennifer Hubbard

SUMMARY (From borders.com):

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.


The premise behind this book isn’t necessarily original but the way it played out was beautiful. Set in Colt’s perspective, the internal battle he had over his own part in Julia’s death, everything about their relationship and where he came from was very clear. Colt’s a sweet guy, humbled by the fact that his home life isn’t great, his mom is a waitress that works too many hours for too little, and as soon as he gets his license, he joins her in the workforce. He works for what he has and he knows the value of a dollar. The impact that has had on who he is never once faltered in this book.

Though she’s dead, Julia’s personality comes through very strong as well while still leaving plenty of questions because she can never answer everything or give her real reasons for why she secretly saw Colt on Friday nights and spent the rest of her life with her boyfriend Austin and living up to the high standards set for her because she lives on Black Mountain and comes from money.

Colt and Julia, ultimately, found escape in each other even if they didn’t know what from. The feelings they held for each other were strong and though there was constant speculation about how she really felt for Colt, I don’t think it was anything short of love. Maybe it wasn’t traditional love or the same love she held for others, but it was there. She needed something and he provided it, becoming a lifeline for her as much as she had for him. Perhaps things started as just sex but it certainly didn’t stay that way which is a feature of this book that I really enjoyed. Even at 16 and 17, Colt had started to figure out there was more to sex than the climax at the end and he learned all the bad that can come with it as well.

Much of this book involved sex- most every relationship with a girl Colt has leads that way but it was in no way distasteful. Even with his parents home, Colt would lock himself away in his room with the girls he could bring him, posing him as a very normal teenage boy while still showing the deeper side of him that was hurting and wanted someone. Seeing his relationships with Julia, Syd and then Kirby helped back this up more and each one held its own features while still keeping up a few traits across them.

Losing someone you care about is hard- but having to remain quiet about it is even worse and the toll that took on Colt was also very clear. He very likely could have moved past Julia much more quickly if he didn’t have to keep it a secret but even the few who did find out weren’t in any position to offer guidance or help. The one person who did ended up making things harder once emotions ran strong there as well, reminding the reader these are teenagers dealing with this but also humans. Though Kirby’s actions can be written off as that of an immature, overreactive teenager, I think any mature adult would react similarly in such a situation.

The emotions were raw and strong and very real in this book. At less than 200 pages, it is a very fast read, made quicker by the impressive story packed into those pages. I came to love Colt, understanding much of his struggle and I thought the ending was fantastic. This is a phenomenal debut for Hubbard and she is certainly an author to keep an out for. I give this book 5 stars for the strong characters, the very real teenage boy voice of Colt, the plot and how well the emotions came through the pages.


Source: Purchased at Borders

Hardcover, 208 pages

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

January 07, 2010

ISBN13: 9780670011537

ISBN: 0670011533

BINC: 9939355

Age: 12 years

Grade: 7

Author’s Website

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  1. This book sounds really interesting. Great review, Kari! :-)

  2. Nice review! I didn't like the book as much as you did but you do bring up some great points :)

  3. Great review. I just read this recently as well, and interviewed Jennifer Hubbard on my blog. Here is the link if anyone is interested.

  4. I've been wanting to read this one for a while*confused*i;ve been seeing some mixed reviews :P

  5. Nice review. It does sound like a good book. I'm not sure what I think yet, but I would like to read it at some point somehow at least. :)

    I don't know if you entered the Holey Donuts giveaway or not, but if you could check out this post and do so for my blog, it would mean a TON for my family and you can enter for the book afterwards too if you wish (White Cat by Holly Black ARC)!:


  6. I really liked The Secret Year! Just a little FYI the link to the original posting of the review is on a blog I no longer check...the current link is:


  7. Wow, great review! I've been iffy on this book because of the premise, but it's good to hear you enjoyed it so much. I can't imagine ever having to keep such an important thing a secret. I won this book from a contest, so you've gotten me excited to read it! :D