The Secret Year [NOOK Book]


Colt and Julia were secretly together for a year, and no one ever knew, not even Julia's boyfriend. Why would they-they were from two different crowds. Julia lived in her country club world and Colt . . . didn't. Then Julia dies in a car accident. Colt is devastated but can't mourn openly, and he's tormented that he may have played a part in her death. And when Julia's journal ends up in his hands, he is forced to relive their year together-just when he is trying to forget. The problem is, how do you get over ...
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The Secret Year

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Colt and Julia were secretly together for a year, and no one ever knew, not even Julia's boyfriend. Why would they-they were from two different crowds. Julia lived in her country club world and Colt . . . didn't. Then Julia dies in a car accident. Colt is devastated but can't mourn openly, and he's tormented that he may have played a part in her death. And when Julia's journal ends up in his hands, he is forced to relive their year together-just when he is trying to forget. The problem is, how do you get over someone who was never really yours to begin with?
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Julia is from the rich crowd on Black Mountain while Colt lives “in a house with [his] father’s junked cars all over the yard.” For a year they meet secretly for sex and intense conversation by the river between them, until Julia is killed in a car crash. Colt navigates his grief privately until Julia’s brother, Michael, gives him Julia’s journal. Debut author Hubbard effectively intermingles Colt’s memories, Julia’s secret letters to Colt, and the present, as Colt falls into a relationship with a friend, deals with the aftermath of his brother’s coming out, and falls in love again. The journal, as well as hints of the fight Colt and Julia had their last night together, create hooks that draw in the reader, but it’s the smooth pacing and well-drawn characters that elevate the book. The community’s class animosity is realistic and stark but, as in life, is never fully resolved. When Michael gives Julia’s poems about Colt to the student literary journal, Colt and Julia’s secret is finally revealed. It’s a moving portrait of grief and the sharp societal lines that divide. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
With this debut novel, Hubbard has crafted a fine addition to the pantheon of YA literature.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Colt and Julia are keeping their relationship a secret: his wrong-side-of-the-tracks (or in this case, wrong part of the mountain) friends would have thought he was a sellout, and her rich friends would have accused her of slumming. No one would have understood, especially not Julia's wealthy boyfriend. But when she dies in a car accident, the distance that always existed between the secret couple becomes unbearable. Colt stays quiet about his connection to Julia, and consequently about his profound grief. When Julia's brother gives him the diary she kept during the clandestine relationship, he begins to better understand her true feelings, her intentions, and her struggles. Though it becomes clear that her attraction to him was genuine, not all of the insight that he gains is positive. As he struggles to move forward, he is caught between two worlds: the intensity of his secret past and the promise of a more honest future, neither of which feels entirely real. In this provocative debut novel, the relationship described—told in flashbacks and journal entries—is both tortured and electric, the teens as perfect together as they are absolutely wrong for one another. A few clichéd lines mar an otherwise satisfying tale of a powerful emotional connection amid the realities and pressures of a deep-seated socioeconomic divide.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
Kirkus Reviews
The news that there had been a car accident on the Black Mountain Road was not as surprising to Colt as who was killed: Julia. The people living in the flats, like Colt, do not mix with the privileged families who live on Black Mountain. Julia had it all-a rich boyfriend, an expensive car and a membership at the country club-but the one thing she wanted was Colt. They spent a year meeting in secret, talking about their lives, wading in the dark river and making out in Julia's car. But when she dies, Colt has only her journal to help him mourn the loss of a relationship he is not sure he even had. Stocked with stereotypes, such as the hard-drinking, insensitive father, the overprivileged, misunderstood rich girl and the bad boy to whom she runs, this novel barely makes it out of the gates before it becomes mired in cliche. A too-familiar plot and inexperienced writing combine to create a story that is at best forgettable and at worst regrettable. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
A lot can change in one year, a lesson which Colt learns the hard way. There are two types of people in Colt's world: those that live on Black Mountain and those that live at their feet on the flats, a sharp divide which is rarely if ever crossed. And yet Colt and Julia manage to span the gulf, keeping their relationship a secret from their friends for an entire year, something Colt manages to continue after Julia's death. But nothing remains a secret forever and it is barely a year later that the entire school learns of Julia's and Colt's relationship. While most people refuse to believe that Julia would stoop so low as to have anything to do with someone who lives on the flats, the revelation is enough to spur Colt to action and helps him realize he needs to let go of his obsession with Julia. While Colt struggles to remove Julia's grip on his life, he learns a great deal about himself and the ties that bind him to the people in his life. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101576168
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 12/23/2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 617,624
  • Age range: 12 years
  • File size: 267 KB

Meet the Author

Jennifer R. Hubbard lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a hiker, a chocolate lover, and a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines. Her published books include the contemporary young-adult novels The Secret Year, Try Not To Breathe, and Until It Hurts To Stop.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

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  • Posted April 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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 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 April 10, 2012

    The book was really funny, but I wish it was longer.

    The book was really funny, but I wish it was longer.

    1 out of 2 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 June 30, 2013

    Good book

    I really liked the book. I wish that it was a little longer and more detailed and like maybe had some chapters told from julias point of view. But it definately was a good book and i would recommend it. Also i didnt really like how the book ended

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013


    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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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Silence & Secrets

    The only negative thing I can say about this story is that some parts weren't very detailed; I felt that, at times, the main character and others weren't very verbal (other than to swear or curse). I understand the book is called The "Secret" Year, and that it is told in first person, but it wouldn't have hurt for Hubbard to allow the characters to say or reveal a bit more than they did, without giving anything away. On that note, I also feel that this is the kind of book that should be told in multiple first person, rather than just one. Now THAT would have really set this book off! Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed the story. Other than it was a quick read, I could actually envision the characters and what was happening. I feel like it's been a while since I've read a book and was able to do that without having to seriously try.

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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:


    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 June 5, 2011

    The Secret Year

    from Murphy's Library - rated 3 and a half there

    Colt and Julia meets one day, around the bridge close to Colt's house. She's the rich girl from school, he's just the ordinary teenager she usually ignores at school. But for some reason, she sees something different on him that night. They talk-and they have fun together, and soon they can't stop seeing each other. But Julia has a boyfriend-a rich kid, like her, someone her family knows and likes-, and Colt agrees with no string attached, he's perfectly fine with that. He knows there's no room for him on her family, and he can't really see Julia on his family either, so they're doing well with their deal. Nobody knows, not even their best friends, and they keep doing this for an entire year.

    And then Julia dies in a car accident, she's with her best friend, on her way home after a party. Colt hears the news, and he's in shock. She won't meet him at the bridge every Friday night anymore. They won't talk about nothing and everything. She won't pretend to ignore him at school anymore. There's just this empty hole on his chest. And he can't talk to anyone about it.

    Until one day when, at school, Michael, Julia's brother, comes to talk to him. At first, he's not sure exactly what are Michael intentions, but soon the boy starts to talk: he's found a journal between Julia's belongings, a journal with letters she wrote to Colt. He starts to relive his relationship with Julia through her letters-and finds out what she thought about them and what they were through. Would Colt ever get over her?

    I read The Secret Year in a couple of hours, and I finished it with a smile in my lips. At first I thought I wouldn't like it, because this kind of story always brings a moral-that cliché that we're going to be fine, we're going to get over and move on, Colt would probably meet another girl and fall in love with her and be happy. I kinda avoid reading this kind of story, because I loved someone who died in a stupid way like that, he was just starting his life and everything was taken away from him. It's been almost 6 years now, but still hurts-and, to be honest, I think it will hurt forever. Some days it hurts more, some days less, and that's it: life goes on.

    I don't think Colt would ever get over Julia. What they had was just theirs, their relationship was something they kept to both of them, and they were fine with that-most part of the time, at least. But they didn't have the chance to move forward, and she'll always be special to him, some way. Of course, I think he'd fall for another girl and try to be happy, but no one can ever replace Julia on his heart, because of the "what if".

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  • Posted June 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not that bad.

    I bought the book to read while on a flight, and I found it ok. Nothing too spectacular. Not really a page turner, there was nothing that happened that you couldn't figure out or find out within a page or two. I liked the style it was written in, and that it was a quick read.

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    Solid Debut

    The basic premise of a boy and a girl from opposite worlds/classes/situations is nothing new, but the way this one plays out certainly is. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I surprised myself, even, with how much I felt for the main character, Colton. He's intense and desperate and sad, and he's also this regular teen boy living his life. He's not rich or popular or the best looking guy in school, and sex is a part of his life.

    Julie dies (not a spoiler!) and he's stuck with a hole in his life that no one knows exists. Except him. He's left with questions that will never be answered: Would Julia ever have dated him openly? Would their hook-up relationship have faded into nothing eventually? Colt doesn't know and now he never will, and neither will the reader. THE SECRET YEAR follows him as he comes to terms with the aftermath of Julia's death and what's been left behind, and figures out who he wants to be.

    This is a solid debut for Jennifer Hubbard, and I look forward to more books of hers in the future.

    See more of my reviews at StoryboundGirl {dot} com.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2011

    Highly Recommended!!!

    An amazing book with an amazing story line! THis story definatley moved me in an unforgetable way. I would recommend this for teenagers. I am very particular with what i read and i need a book that keeps me on edge wondering whats gonna happen next, and this is definately one of those books! a great twist on a romance! The book had a good pace and never once got boring. It was amazing and i couldnt put it down until it was over. Although wasnt too happy with the ending. Please read you will enjoy it!

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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    Great Read.

    I loved reading this book. It moves pretty quickly, and keeps you reading. It is a original story, and is not a repeat of other well known romances of young love. The writer really captures the emotions of all the characters without making it boring. I really enjoyed this book, and recommened it.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Secret Year

    I understand how someone could completely hate The Secret Year. Julia could seem like a total b**** because she is demanding of Colt to keep their relationship a secret, there's a lot of sneaking around, and the teens are participating in 'more adult' activities. It didn't seem that way to me. I love books from guy perspectives and 'after' books such as The Secret Year. Still, it just wasn't what I had expected it would be.
    The Secret Year is one of those books you have to pay complete and total attention to; which means reading in a quiet place when you don't have much on your mind. Of course, I'm saying this because that happened to me. I had started writing the review, basically saying how much I wanted to love this book and how sad I was that I didn't, when I decided to give it another chance. So, I locked myself in my room and read the whole book straight through. Overall, I did enjoy this book; but it was hard to understand at times.
    The characters. Oh, how I loved the characters. Colt and Julia were together for a year, a whole year no one else knew about, a year that started as a physical desire and turned into something much more. With Julia gone, Colt has to deal with the emotion and grief her death provoked alone and hidden from the outside world. I just loved Colt. His personality got to me (I admit I developed some sort of a crush on him) and I found myself living inside his head time and time again. Though Julia was dead from the start, she exists within her letters and Colt's memories; where we get to know and understand her. Besides Colt, she is the star of the novel. I really liked her because although she was rich and popular, she wasn't shallow and stupid; instead she wrote brilliant poetry, was really smart, real, and strong.
    The plot of The Secret Year was beautiful and Hubbard's writing was great, but (I'm very sad to say) it didn't outshine the flaws of the story. I found myself disappointed with the ending, as well as a little confused. Despite this, I'm eagerly looking forward to her next novel.

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  • Posted February 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Secret Year

    SECRET YEAR, by Jennifer R. Hubbard goes in-depth with one boy's obsession with a girl he was secretly with for a year, not a single person knew about them together, so when she dies in a car accident he can't take her off his mind.

    I was impressed with the concept of this book, it was slow in some areas for me, and I'm usually one for happy endings that have a resolution, but this one ended kind of abruptly with some questions left unanswered.

    The main character Colt's obsession with Julia, the dead girl, seemed a little off to me, but at the same time it was kind of cute. And when Colt's best friend moves in on him, things get weird for him because he isn't over Julia yet, and it's his best friend! I found that I could relate to that and I'm sure a lot of other people could as well.

    When Kirby comes into play, it's unexpected that Colt starts to fall for her, especially since she is dating Julia's younger brother. Their relationship begins to develop, and eventually Kirby frees herself of a boyfriend and starts with Colt. I liked how their relationship developed but I would have liked to see a continuation of what happens with them. I think with just a few more pages or maybe an epilogue to finish up whats happens.

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  • Posted August 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Secret Year

    The Secret year is one book that I enjoyed being on in the secret. Colt for a whole year dated Julia while she was with another guy. Suddenly with her death, Colt not sure how he should react.

    I felt so sad for Colt. He was hurting and yet he could not even show it. He was in pain and was upset over people who were mourning Julia because he felt like they didn't even know her well enough. Colt and Julia did love one another but circumstances didn't allow to share their love with the world. They both were different. Colt was poor while Julia was high class.

    Colt goes on through the year remembering times with Julia. They way they spent their time together hanging out when no one else knew. Jennifer did a great job keeping this book in suspense and by that I mean the reader. While I was reading this, I was dying to know if the secret relationship between Colt and Julia would get out. I won't spoil it, but it was something to read through.

    Jennifer Hubbard's The Secret Year is definitly a great read. I enjoyed being a part of the secret. I love the romance between the two characters. The only thing I did not like was the shortness od the book. I wanted more of the book. More of the relationship between Colt and Julia.

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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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