Published by Simon Pulse on 1/26/2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: Edelweiss, Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Some sexual scenes, Teen drinking and drugs)
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.
The Year We Fell Apart was an incredibly poignant look at the ways we try to escape the painful moments in our lives and the many mistakes that we often make along the way. This book doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the teen years, but it does paint a realistic one.
What Fed My Addiction:
- Dealing with serious illness and death. I appreciated the way that this book dealt with terminal (or at least possibly terminal) illness and death. It showed the pain and confusion that goes along with losing a parent (in Declan’s case) or having a parent with a serious illness (in Harper’s case). Harper had so much fear and pain when it came to her mother’s cancer and she felt like her family was “pretending” everything was okay – this just made her more anxious and more frustrated. But the book showed how people deal with illness in different ways – Harper’s mom wasn’t pretending, she was just trying to keep a positive outlook so that she had the strength to keep going. Studies have shown that that’s actually a really healthy response and that patients who can keep themselves from giving up have a much higher survival rate. Still, Harper’s feelings were valid too – she didn’t want to go through her life like everything was fine when things were definitely not fine.
- Painful truths and character growth. Harper did not deal well with adversity. Let’s just put that out there. It wasn’t just her mother’s cancer either – anytime something started to go wrong or feel bad in Harper’s life she turned to alcohol, partying and boys to try to make herself feel better. And even when the results were devastating, she kept falling back into her old patterns. In fact, once she started to lose self esteem because of the bad things that came of her drinking, she spiraled downward even further, so it was a vicious cycle. Harper would feel low, so she would make bad choices, which would then make her feel worse about herself, so she would make more bad choices to try and block out that new pain. BUT, we did see Harper start to turn over a new leaf by the end of the book. She was trying harder to be in control of her actions and to take responsibility for them. She also stopped just letting things “happen” to her and made some attempts at taking back her dignity.
- Declan. Declan was an incredibly sweet, but also realistic teenage guy. He didn’t sit by idly and watch Harper self-destruct. But when things went really bad, he also didn’t unrealistically support Harper – he was real and he showed his fears and his frustrations, which I thought made a lot of sense. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a loving and solid presence in Harper’s life – he was just what she needed. I felt like the conflicts and misunderstandings between Declan and Harper all felt incredibly true-to-life, and I was so hoping they could get past them and make it as a couple. (But this is the type of book where you don’t exactly know how it’s all going to play out – maybe Declan and Harper would be better off as friends?)
What Left Me Wanting More:
- More resolution. I wish we had gotten just a little more resolution at the end of the book – it felt a little too sudden. I would have liked to have seen Harper actually come to terms with the way that she handles her pain and address it. (Even at the end of the book, I had this niggling voice at the back of my head that said, But what happens the next time something goes really wrong with Harper’s life? Will she turn back to alcohol and her other bad habits if her self-esteem is low again?) I also would have liked to have seen her ditch her “friend” Sadie – or at least vow to make some changes with her. I guess I felt like, while there was definitely resolution to the book and Harper grew a lot, I wanted to see more of the results of that growth – or at least her seriously thinking about it.
- Sometimes painful to watch Harper’s self-destruction. While I applauded this book’s truthful handling of Harper’s issues, there were times when I wanted to just shake the girl for making the same choices over and over again! Be warned that it’s not pretty!
So, while this book was sometimes painful and maddening (I shed some tears, but I’m the kind of person who LOVES that in a book), it was also a realistically painful look at the mistakes we make and how hard it can sometimes be to come back from them. I give this book 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Her work is represented by Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary.