Book Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.
Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.
Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.
While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.
As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.
In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.
Sometimes I absolutely judge a book by its cover. Don’t you? Don’t lie—you do it, too. So here was my thought process: Oh, hey, this book kinda sorta has a cover that makes me think of Pete Hautman’s The Big Crunch. God, I loved that book. I’ll read this book, too. Yep: librarian, book reviewer, master’s degree in children’s lit, TOTALLY JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS ALL THE TIME. So, anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, writing a review.
That publisher’s description up there pretty much nails all of the plot points. Harper has hooked up with some random guys in fits of seeking some drunken distraction from her heartbreak over what went on with Declan, her lifelong friend and, briefly, her boyfriend. She doesn’t love the person she’s become, but she mostly embraces this new version of herself. Declan wouldn’t want her back, anyway, right? May as well pass the time with these losers. And speaking of losers, her newish best friend, Sadie, is no gem. She happily urges her down the path she’s on–one of lying to parents, drinking a lot, and hooking up with any boy who seems interested. It’s not that those things are terrible or so out of the ordinary for teenagers, but they’re not choices that Harper is actually really happy that she’s making—which doesn’t stop her from making them over and over. But things are different now, this summer before senior year. Declan is back and Harper wonders if maybe, just maybe, things could go back to, well, probably not entirely how they were, but something close to it. Maybe back to friendship, since anything else seems impossible to imagine. They start hanging out again. Their little summer group consists of Cory, who is their mutual best friend, and Mackenzie and Gwen, two girls from the summer photography class Harper and Declan are both taking. Declan and Harper do terrible jobs of seeming uninterested in each other, but they also do terrible jobs of being honest with each other (and themselves) and making great choices that lend themselves to repairing their fractured relationship. Because they’re teenagers. No—because they’re people. They make mistakes (often the same ones) and get in their own way a lot. Readers will root for them to work it out, but will doubt if it’s even possible after everything they’ve put each other through.
While this is a romance, it’s also very much a story about friendship, loss, grief, choices, reputations, and forgiveness. Declan and Harper’s story takes center stage, but their story isn’t simply about romance. Martin nicely pulls together the many pieces of this story to show how everything affects Declan and Harper. They have a history together. It’s also really nice to see how the new friendship between Harper and Gwen and Mackenzie develops, especially at a time when Harper is the victim of so many rumors and so much slut-shaming, and really could use someone in her corner. Martin’s book is an easy recommendation for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Jenny Han, and Miranda Kenneally.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 01/26/2016
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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