Title: The Secret Year
Author: Jennifer R. Hubbard
Pub. Date: 1/7/10
Main Themes: Secrets, Love, Friendship, Social Hierarchy/Status, Grief
Plot (from back of arc):
Colt was with Julia for a year, but nobody else knew about it. Julia lived on Black Mountain Road in a mansion – with servants – and had a country-club boyfriend to complete the picture. But Colt definitely didn’t come from Black Mountain, and no one would have understood why they were together. It never mattered to them, but when Julia dies in an accident right before her senior year, Colt is suddenly the only one who knows their secret. He tries to pretend that his life is the same as ever, but he’s haunted by memories of Julia. It gets even worse after the journal she kept about their romance falls into his hands. Colt searches every entry for answers: Did Julia really love him? Was he somehow to blame for her death? But the ultimate question – one nobody can answer – is how he’s supposed to get over someone who was never really his to begin with.
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):
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!