Customer Reviews for

The Secret Year

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

strong teen relationship drama

Sixteen years old Colt relaxes in his room when he gets a call from Syd who tells him that Julia Vernon died in a car accident. Neither Syd nor their friends knew that Colt and Julia were secretly seeing one another for the past year. They hid their relationship becau...
Sixteen years old Colt relaxes in his room when he gets a call from Syd who tells him that Julia Vernon died in a car accident. Neither Syd nor their friends knew that Colt and Julia were secretly seeing one another for the past year. They hid their relationship because she was from the Black Mountain country club wealthy set and he was from the dirt poor flats.

Both of them enjoyed sex and being with each other every Friday night, but had to ignore one another in school. Her brother gives Colt Julia's diary because almost every entry involves him, and how much she wanted to be with him; yet also relished being part of the in-crowd even though that meant her public boyfriend was Austen who she did not like. Colt reads the diary and wonders who Julia really was and how will he move on without her as he struggles to get on with his life while grieving in silence.

First love can prove disconcerting under ideal conditions, but when social, economic, race, religious difference also are part of the relationship, it can prove extremely difficult. Colt and Julia had a tough time of it due to the social class differences between them. Readers get to know Julia through the mindset of people like Colt but mostly via her dairy; she was a troubled teen unable to break down her feelings for Colt from her need for social acceptance by her peers. Colt is disturbed by how much he cared for Julia as he has to still conceal his feelings especially his grief as the other man and still find a way to move on. The Secret Year is a strong teen relationship drama.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on November 14, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

The premise for this book is what hooked me, and I read it quick

The premise for this book is what hooked me, and I read it quickly, but it just didn't quite live up to my expectations and I really wanted to love it. First off, I think the book was a little to short, its just under 200 pages and there's so much going on with Colt emo...
The premise for this book is what hooked me, and I read it quickly, but it just didn't quite live up to my expectations and I really wanted to love it. First off, I think the book was a little to short, its just under 200 pages and there's so much going on with Colt emotionally, that I wish it could have been longer. Since everything is told from Colt's POV, I felt more emotionally connected to him. The author writes Colt in such an honest and masculine way that even when Colt is being a jerk, he still comes across as a likable guy dealing with a personal lose.

Julia was hard for me to relate to, I thought she came across as selfish and shallow. I could never quite understand why she kept doing some of the things she did. She would say one thing and then do something else, part of this might have to do with the fact that you only ever hear her voice through the journal. I think I might have been able to relate or at least like Julia more, if I could have seen her and Colt's relationship before the accident, instead of getting all of it through Colt's memories and Julia's journal entries.

I really enjoyed the way that Jennifer wrote Colt's relationship with his family, it was very realistic. Most teenage boys keep a lot to themselves, so it didn't surprise me that his parents were oblivious to what was going on with him. I also really liked all the scenes with Colt and his brother, you could tell that they were close, but never really completely open with each other. Some of Colt's friends seemed rather cliche' but Syd, Kirby and Michael were definitely well round character dealing with their own personal issues. I liked how each one of them brought out a different emotional trigger in Colt, that would make him think of Julia. Overall I thought the novel was pretty good, the premise was pretty original and I think that Colt is a very realistic male character. If it wasn't for Julia being so unlikable I think I might have given it a higher rating.

posted by StalkinTheBooks on April 4, 2012

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  • Posted November 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    strong teen relationship drama

    Sixteen years old Colt relaxes in his room when he gets a call from Syd who tells him that Julia Vernon died in a car accident. Neither Syd nor their friends knew that Colt and Julia were secretly seeing one another for the past year. They hid their relationship because she was from the Black Mountain country club wealthy set and he was from the dirt poor flats.

    Both of them enjoyed sex and being with each other every Friday night, but had to ignore one another in school. Her brother gives Colt Julia's diary because almost every entry involves him, and how much she wanted to be with him; yet also relished being part of the in-crowd even though that meant her public boyfriend was Austen who she did not like. Colt reads the diary and wonders who Julia really was and how will he move on without her as he struggles to get on with his life while grieving in silence.

    First love can prove disconcerting under ideal conditions, but when social, economic, race, religious difference also are part of the relationship, it can prove extremely difficult. Colt and Julia had a tough time of it due to the social class differences between them. Readers get to know Julia through the mindset of people like Colt but mostly via her dairy; she was a troubled teen unable to break down her feelings for Colt from her need for social acceptance by her peers. Colt is disturbed by how much he cared for Julia as he has to still conceal his feelings especially his grief as the other man and still find a way to move on. The Secret Year is a strong teen relationship drama.

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Great debut novel!

    Colt and Julia couldn't have been more opposite thanks to their social differences. Julia's the rich girl who has everything she wants; the friends, a car, the country-club boyfriend. Everything except true happiness. Colt is just the poor boy living on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, they had been in a "relationship" for the past year, up until Julia was killed in a car accident. Romeo and Juliet - meet The Outsiders.


    "Julia was killed on Labor Day on her way home from a party. I didn't get to see her that night. I used to meet her on Friday nights...We'd meet on the banks of the river, clutch at each other in the backseat of her car, steam up her windows.We did all that for a year, and nobody else knew."


    After Julia's death, Colt is left to grieve alone and secretly because his relationship with Julia was not known. In fact, Julia had a boyfriend - Austin. Colt and Julia's was the type of relationship that didn't have strings. Colt detached himself emotionally from Julia, that is until she died. Up until that point, Colt was completely disconnected in the relationship. To him, it was just sex.at least that's what he thought.

    Following Julia's death, Colt went through a roller coaster of emotions. Michael, Julia's brother, gives Colt a notebook. It's Julia's journal where she penned letters addressed to a C.M., letting go of her emotions and feelings. This notebook has such an effect on Colt. He learns things about Julia that he never knew. He doesn't devour the notebook; instead he takes it in very slowly, absorbing each memory and emotion from a different point of view, through Julia's eyes.

    I had been anticipating the release of The Secret Year since last year. Hubbard did a wonderful job telling the story from the male POV. I like that even though Julia is dead from the very beginning, I still got a sneak peek at her side of things. The story isn't completely one-sided which gives it depth. The unique premise caught my attention and I had to read this book. Affairs happen all the time but the only time we think about them is when they become not-so-secret, which makes The Secret Year believable.

    I love the cover of this book! The girl and the guy kissing at the bottom of the book, being secretive. The girl has her eyes open just a bit, like she's looking at him, watching his reaction. You can barely see the guy's face. His eyes are hidden by his wispy hair. It's almost like he's just an illusion. Another thing I liked about this book is the multiple meanings behind the title. Every time I read a book, one of my main goals is to figure out the meaning behind the title. Authors go to great lengths to capture the essence of their book in one short sentence. Or sometimes even just a single word. And when an author nails the title right on the head, especially when there is more than one meaning behind it, I truly appreciate that.

    The Secret Year was a great, fast-paced read at just under 200 pages. I was so excited to get this book in my hot, little hands. The Secret Year is a great debut novel. When I was done reading the book, I was glad I read it but at the same time I didn't want it to end. I can't wait to see what Hubbard comes up with next.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    An interesting plot that makes you think

    The concept of the book is really interesting, making it a read that I didn't want to put down. I received an advanced copy of this book a few months ago and I couldn't wait for the book to be published so I could recommend it to friends.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2013

    Not really for kids...

    I wouldnt recommend this for younger kids but i would if you were 15-16 because this a really good book pretty strong language though

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

    Love!!!

    5*..... I've read this a few times. I can't get enough. Once I got a Nook I sold half of my hard copies. I couldn't sell this one. It still sits in my bookcase and occasionally gets read and reread. I actually bought it because it was on the sale shelf at Wal-Mart and the cover caught my attention. I read the back and thought it wasn't for me and put it back. I thought about it while I shopped and decided to go back and get it, so glad I did. I love Colt's character, he's awesome. If you're looking for a great quick read, this is your book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    I thought it was a great book like a this generation version of "The OutSiders" but with a twist... love

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  • Posted November 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Touching

    Colt is from the wrong side of the track or in this case low side of the hill. Julia is from the high class upper hill. When these two meet for the first time they instantly had a connection. It was a connection no one knew it existed for a whole year. Unfortunately Julia died unexpectedly and Colt is forced to deal with his grief in silence. Colt ends up with Julia¿s journal full of entries of their experiences together. He had no idea what those entries would do to him. He relieved each moment they shared only turning into an obsession with the dead girl, Julia. Where¿s the sense in reliving these moments if it doesn¿t bring her back . This story tells a compelling story of a young man trying to deal with his emotions. It was well written and different from the other YA books I have read. My only wish was this book could¿ve used more pages to the ending.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Breathtaking Story of Love, Loss, and Life

    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 line(s): I'm caught between two passages, so here's both:
    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.

    At the end, we'd both been pushing at the walls of our secret world, pushing at each other.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    AMAZING!!!! Go and get it now!

    The premise was simple but soooo captivating! Please do yourself a favor... go and buy it! I bought it yesterday night and by this after noon, I finished it. The writing was so smooth and clean that it read quickly. To the point that I had come to the last page and didn't even realize it until I read the last word. I didn't want it to end. I have one warning: The subject matter is a little more grown up... 17yrs and up. Not the kind of book you want your tween reading.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cat for TeensReadToo.com

    While family and friends are still reeling over the Labor Day car accident that took senior high school student Julia Vernon's life, Colt is trying to figure out how to mourn her loss and the absence of their year-long, secret relationship.

    How does he grieve for the girl who was never really his, yet who he knew in a way no one else did? Colt is shocked when, one day at school, Julia's brother hands him a journal detailing the course of their relationship, as he simultaneously relives the past *and* works to move forward.

    Intertwined with the present are a series of flashbacks prompted by Julia's diary. We learn the details of their affair, how deeply divided their class/societal divides ran, and how those hostilities culminate among their small town's youth in the aftermath of Julia's demise.

    This is a novel for outsiders - and when ultimately stripped of our outward trappings, aren't we all outsiders? Jennifer Hubbard captures the trauma and agony of the achingly grim slowness that is high school with honesty and blistering clarity.

    THE SECRET YEAR sharply portrays those years of being torn between who/what others perceive us to be, who we really are, and how hard it can be to reconcile two such seemingly disparate halves of the whole, not to mention the overwhelming sense of impossibility that looms when trying to break free of that social image. And finally, she perfectly renders the pain of first love, the hope that it will be forever, and the heartache of learning it's only the first step into a much larger world.

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