I recently read The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard. I had been intrigued by the premise for awhile, I must admit I’m a huge fan of clandestine secret love and tortured rich girl/wrong side of the track pairings, especially if they end tragically (for some reason I am a total sucker for tragic relationships.) Because of this odd enjoyment I knew I would probably like The Secret Year. After all, this is a book narrated by Colt, coming to terms with the death of Julia, a girl he was secretly seeing for over a year. So secret that NO ONE knew. And then she dies. And still NO ONE knows. Okay, I’m hooked.
So how was it?
Right before I started reading the book, I read a not so positive review, so I was somewhat apprehensive about how much I would actually like. However I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I was going to, which is saying something….since it already sounded like a book I would like. The Secret Year, like many books I’ve read recently is built around the “journal” plot device. In this way, Julia’s journal (delivered to Colt by her younger brother following her death) supplies her voice from beyond the grave. It’s a similar device to the journal in Hold Still and the tapes in 13 Reasons Why and it serves the same function, it provides the back story for Colt and Julia’s relationship and it allows Julia to live and breathe as a fully formed character even though she is dead for the entire story. The journal allowed Julia to become more than just a spoiled rich whiny girl slumming with Colt, all the while dating a more accepted boy. The journal explores Julia’s relationship with her “real” boyfriend, her struggle with what is expected of her versus what actually makes her happy, her dreams for the future, travel plans, poetry, and her complicated feelings for Colt. I looked forward to Julia’s journal entries throughout the book, because they gave everything Colt was feeling more impact and meaning.
The book meanders and doesn’t really follow a traditional plot filled with a beginning, a middle and an end. If you crave action this book will probably bore you as there is very of it in. The Secret Year it is a book more about a boy trying to figure out what to do in the aftermath of a tragedy and to come to terms with a loss he is unable to talk about. The little action that is included felt forced. My least favorite parts of the book were the “rich/poor” fight (which felt overdone and unnecessary) and Colt’s two romantic entanglements (both which explode in his face.)
The Secret Year provides a snapshot into both Colt and Julia’s lives. You get to know them. Their families. Their friends. Their (doomed) relationship. You even get answers and (some) closure.