(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Simon Pulse on January 26th 2016
Genres: Dating & Sex, Family, Friendship, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
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.
Let me just start this review by saying that I have been dying to get my hands on it since I read the summary… I just knew that this was my kind of book. Once I started it, I didn’t put it down until I finished.
The Year We Fell Apart is a book about a lot of different things, but most of all, I think it’s about friendship and forgiveness. I say that because Harper, our main character, has made a ton of bad mistakes over the last year. The one she regrets most… pulling away from her best friend and boyfriend Declan.
For what seems like ever, it’s always been her, Cory & Declan. They were each other’s best friends and extended family and eventually Harper and Declan became so much more to each other. They shared so many highs and lows over the years. The loss of Declan’s mom the ultimate low… not only because she was suddenly gone, but because it changed things in so many ways for them going forward.
Harper is horribly flawed, if you’re like me, you’ll turn page after page with your brain screaming “UGH why are you doing that Harper!” She makes horrible choices, she makes mistakes, but she’s relatable. I also think that her actions fit who she is perfectly. She carries around a lot of guilt and sadness and having to watch her first, attempt to bury it in things she knows she shouldn’t, then, try to dig her way out of it was done really, really well.
When Declan returns for the summer, Harper is reminded of the reasons she pushed him away and she also has to face the fact that he just may have moved on even if she can’t seem to. That said, the exploration of their relationship, the rebuilding of trust and friendship and ultimately the determination to commit to something more was lovely to read. Though it was frustrating at times, because you don’t really, truly know the full story of what happened right away to cause Harper to give up, you’re given bits and pieces as the story unfolds ultimately and it makes her actions, the thing you know that happened, make more sense.
This story isn’t just about a romantic relationship though. The story puts a big focus on friendships, both the good and the bad. I know it’s hard for you to see it here, but Harper truly is a good friend. Even when she knows she should probably give up on a friend because they’re toxic to her, she struggles to do so. I’m just going to say it… I really struggled to like Sadie, and I feel like you probably will too. I’m not saying she’s all bad, because she truly wasn’t, but I could absolutely see the differences between unhealthy and healthy friendships here, especially when we meet Gwen and McKenzie and then compare her to Harper’s other best friend Cory.
I also really loved the relationship portrayed here between Harper and her parents. It was once again refreshing to see responsible parents… parents who weren’t just off in the periphery and not paying attention, especially because there definitely could have been a lot of that here with Harper’s mom’s medical issues.
Martin has created a story that really shows how hard it can be being a teen… specifically a teen girl growing up today. She hits on topics of love, loss, friendship, forgiveness, romance, family and consequence and she does it all with a story that will break your heart and then slowly mend it back together. I can definitely see fans of Sarah Dessen really enjoying this story and Martin’s writing style. I definitely did and for sure can’t wait to see what she has coming next!
Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.