Author: Jennifer R. Hubbard
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Hardcover, 192 pages
Date Published: Januay 7, 2010
Description (Taken from Goodreads)
Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend.When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.
Colt and Julia come from opposite ends of the hierarchy. Julia is from Black Mountain and has money, while Colt is from the flats and has a family who just gets by. For an entire year Colt and Julia have a secret relationship; a secret friendship, a secret life, a whole secret year together. When Julia suddenly dies in a car accident, Colt has to live with his secret life and the memory of his secret girl.
The Secret Year isn’t a traditional love story and it certainly isn’t Romeo and Juliet. Colt and Julia aren’t two kids who were in love on opposite sides of feuding families; no one even realized they knew each other. Colt and Julia were two kids living their lives and falling in love along the way. Julia’s sudden death leaves Colt as an almost broken boy trying to deal with his secret year and his secret life with his secret girl whose death riddles him with guilt.
Colt is such a strong, passionate character. I could really feel his honesty and how genuine a person he was. When I was reading The Secret Year, I felt like I was there with Colt, in his head, feeling every emotion he felt, and it was heartrending and powerful. There were many passages in the book that had me overwhelmed with emotion because Colt is so overwhelmed. He loved Julia and now that she’s gone, he doesn’t really know how to cope. Having a secret relationship with her won’t allow him to truly deal with her death.
Colt attempts to deal with Julia’s death by reading her journal. Julia’s journal entries are a nice peek into her life, but we only seem to know the Julia who’s with Colt. I never felt a huge connection to her, but I couldn’t bring myself to hate her like some people do. Through journal entries and Colt’s memories, we see the layers of Julia that Colt both loved and hated. We see the Julia who wasn’t sure what she wanted and didn’t know if she could end things with her Black Mountain boyfriend to have something real with Colt, we see the Julia who is wild and vivacious and completely carefree, and then we see the Julia who wants to love Colt completely, but isn’t sure if she can. Meeting Julia is like peeling the layers off of an onion. The more layers Colt peeled off, the more emotional the story became.
Reading this was a very intense experience for me. I knew the story wasn’t going to have this warm, happy ending, so turning each page was almost a bittersweet experience. Colt’s loss was my loss and his pain was my pain. And while the storyline is predictable at times, the message is strong and the writing is impeccable. Julia’s death forces Colt to realize that being an outsider and a poor kid doesn’t really matter; that first loves aren’t necessarily forever and that life does go on after death. Hubbard has done a stunning job weaving this intricate and breathtaking story of love, loss, and life.
Opening line: Julia was killed on Labor Day on her way home from a party.
Favorite lines: I should’ve known there are always strings. They’d slipped around my wrists and knotted up before I’d even noticed. They still pulled at me, still chafed.
And this one:
At the end, we’d both been pushing at the walls of our secret world, pushing at each other.