Publisher: Simon Pulse.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: January 26th 2016.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
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.
A simmering tale of first love and second chances, Emily Martin’s The Year We Fell Apart introduces Harper Sloan, a good-time party girl with a seriously bad reputation. Harper is known as the easiest hook-up around; the kind of girl who will let any guy have his way with her, the kind of girl who will hook up with another girls boyfriend, no regrets. But, it wasn’t always this way. And Harper does have regrets. She has a lot of regrets. Harper’s main regret is Declan, and the fact that he’s no longer in her life. But maybe it’s better that way. After what Harper did, she’s not sure she can face Declan again. After all, Declan wasn’t only her best friend, he was her boyfriend too, her first love. Declan was Harper’s everything.
We all mess up from time to time, but I think it’s fair to say that Harper messes up more than most. When we meet Harper, she’s dealing with her Mom’s recent cancer diagnoses in the same way, as we soon learn, that she deals with everything: by drinking herself into oblivion. Not a good sign. However, Harper’s binge-drinking, and subsequent hooking up with unsuitable guys –she gets herself into some really precarious situations that could end really badly for her – is never really explored in depth. The message seems to be that if Harper can find her way back to Declan then she’ll find her way back to herself, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that – not when Harper is going out and drinking herself into near-unconsciousness every time something goes wrong in her life.
While this book was a grower for me, in that I got off to a shaky start with Harper but was totally rooting for her and Declan in the end (I’m a true-romance sucker, I know) I felt that it lacked some depth, not just in the way that the underlying causes of Harper’s problems were a little swept under the carpet, but in some of the characters too. For example, while we know Declan is a stand-up guy who will always look out for Harper, I never felt I got to know him all that well. I’m a big fan of character driven novels and I love getting to know characters inside out; all their little quirks and idiosyncrasies. This is especially true of contemps. And I never really felt that happened here. Also, while I knew Declan was the right guy for Harper I thought that Harper needed to work through a whole lot of issues before she even thought about embarking on a romantic relationship, you know?
But since, at heart, this is a story of a broken romance, I guess we should talk about why Harper and Declan broke up.
That’s a little bit of a spoiler, so I’m not going to totally divulge here. I mean, it’s pretty easy to figure out when you read the book, but long story short: After his Mom’s death, Declan’s dad sends him away to boarding school (nice guy!) And instead of giving the long-distance thing a go and you know, being there for her grieving boyfriend, Harper bails. I get it – the long distance thing is tough and all sorts of jealousies and fears and insecurities raise their ugly heads during these times. But, at the first sign of trouble with Declan, you guessed it, Harper decides to go to a party where she proceeds to drown her sorrows. That’s when Harper’s downward spiral begins, and as the months pass, things just get worse.
When Declan returns for the summer, Harper knows she’s still in love with him. She’s also sure there’s no way back for them, not after what she did.
In short: A story of love that’s lost and a girl with issues, while The Year We Fell Apart is not without its faults it is nonetheless a compulsively readable contemp, and I can’t deny the love story between Harper and Declan is sweet like sugar-pie. Read it if you liked 99 Days by Katie Cotugno.