Review: The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

Title: The Secret Year
Author: Jennifer R. Hubbard
Publisher: Viking
Pub. Date: 1/7/10
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Secrets, Love, Friendship, Social Hierarchy/Status, Grief
Pages: 203
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):
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!


21 thoughts on “Review: The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

  1. I have read 4 reviews in a row that absolutely love this book which is really making me want to go out and buy this book right this instant… *sigh*;}

  2. I think that it is very interesting that the dead girl drives the novel for you – interesting and predicatble, I guess. I think that alone would make me want to read this novel. Thanks for the review!apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

  3. You gave this an A – with perfection lining every expectation! I'm incredibly anxious to get my hands on it now! You made a good point saying you can't judge everything by first glance. I did that with what ended up being my favourite novel! Very well written review, and thanks for the giveaway!

  4. Thanks for a great review. This book was already on my TBR mountain but now I'm more intrigued.I actually enjoy books written from various POV's. But TSY is somewhat different in that one of characters has died and the reader gets to know her thru her journal entries.I have sometimes picked up books on a whim and have Bern pleasantly surprised.

  5. I read this one earlier this year and it easily became one of my favorite books of the year. The story was so good and I loved the glimpses of Julia's life through her journal. I must agree with you that Julia was the star of the novel, but I found Colt just as important and interesting.

  6. I've wanted to read this book forever, but just never gotten to it. Now I want to read it even more. I actually usually like books from a male perspective just because they are a change from what's out there.

  7. Nice; I definitely didn't plan on reading it at first, since the girl was already dead, I didn't think the novel would be that interesting, but your review makes me actually want to give it a chance, and no I'm not just saying that lol. You were very descriptive without spoiling too much.

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