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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.
About the Author
Emily Martin grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. She attended graduate school in North Carolina, where she fell in love with sweet potato pancakes, deep fried pickles, and the boy who later became her husband. Emily now lives and writes in Boston, Massachusetts. The Year We Fell Apart is her first novel. You can find Emily online at EmilyMartinWrites.com, or follow her on Twitter @ThatEmilyMartin.
Read an Excerpt
Year We Fell Apart
SOMETIMES I THINK THE WHITE oak tree was listening that night last August. That it knows about the promises we made to each other up in our tree house. That it knows I kept only half of mine.
I circle the oak’s trunk—trying to make sense of the bright orange X spray-painted across it—and wait for Cory to catch up. The graffiti should come as a relief: Soon the tree will be gone, and another reminder of that night with Declan gone with it.
“Dude.” Cory doubles over, resting his palms on his knees. “What is the matter with you?”
My fingertips trace the bark. “They’re going to cut it down.”
“What? Harper, you almost gave me a heart attack. Who jumps out of a moving vehicle?”
Please. We weren’t even driving that fast. “The trees up by the road were marked and I couldn’t tell how far into the forest it went. I needed to know if ours was tagged too.”
“Hey, here’s an idea. What if next time you wait for me to pull over before sprinting into the woods like an insane person?”
Light filters through the trees and paints the undergrowth a golden yellow. I’ve spent countless afternoons in this part of the forest, but today it feels different somehow. Like it’s no longer a place of my own.
I close my eyes and listen for the spray of an aerosol can or some sign of the people responsible for marking the area, but all I hear is Cory mouth-breathing and the leaves shuddering on their limbs.
“You don’t think it’s our fault, do you?” I gaze back up at the tree house, the sanctuary that Cory, Declan, and I built six summers ago when we were eleven. We pooled our allowances for months to buy the supplies and spent most of the school year meticulously planning the design, being extra careful to use supports to take the stress off the tree. The floor still turned out crooked, and there’s a hole the size of a quarter in the shingled roof. But it’s ours.
Cory points to the matching X ’s on nearby trees, all the color of Doritos dust. “I don’t think it’s because of the tree house. They’re probably clearing the area for development or something.”
“Oh.” My palm runs across one of the boards we nailed to the trunk for a makeshift ladder. The wood is splintered along the edge and I pick at it with my fingernail. I try to remember all the stuff we left behind—a deck of playing cards, maybe the binoculars Declan took from his parents’ garage. And a blanket. A scratchy wool blanket, also borrowed from Declan’s house. Everything neat and organized, waiting for us to come back. I want to climb up now and see if it’s all still there, but I won’t. Can’t. Haven’t since last summer. “I assumed it was sick.”
Cory scrunches his nose to lift his glasses. He looks at the tree house, finally. Then back at me, wearing a smile that’s a little too sympathetic. “We should get going. My mom wants me home for dinner.”
Mine does too. But after last night’s unsettling family sit-down, I may never eat dinner again.
“Listen, Harper . . .” Cory swats away a mosquito and shuffles his feet. The bed of soggy leaves squishes beneath him. “I’m really sorry . . . you know, about your mom.”
My fingers freeze. I haven’t told him yet, but I can’t say I’m surprised he’s already heard. Our moms are best friends, plus Bridget is a doctor.
A lump swells in my throat. I swallow, swallow again, then stuff my hands in my back pockets. “Thanks.”
He knuckles his glasses farther up his nose. “You okay?”
My eyes travel up once more, landing on the window on the side of the tree house. A memory surfaces, of me and Declan and Cory armed with water guns, ready to defend our turf.
I shake it off and start walking in the direction of the road. It rained all yesterday, and with each step my sandals fling a few more specks of mud up the backs of my legs.
“Can you just drop me at Sadie’s?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer until his ancient silver Honda comes into view through the trees. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
We don’t talk on the way back through town. The air conditioner in Cory’s car has seen better days, so I lean out the open window and let the sticky breeze tangle my hair. Sunlight glints off the shop windows along Ninth Street and the windshields of cars we pass, and I have to make a visor with my hand to keep my eyes from watering.
When we stop in front of Sadie’s town house, I lick my thumb and rub some dirt off my thigh. Cory fidgets with the radio, finally settling on an alt-rock station. But his fingers keep on tapping, and now he’s sending me all these sidelong glances.
“Would you stop looking at me like that?”
“Like I’m a bird with a broken wing.”
He squeezes his eyes shut. “Better?”
I flick his shoulder and grab my purse off the floor just as Sadie throws her front door open. She struts over and bends down, draping her forearms across my window. She catches sight of my mud-stained legs and scowls. “It’s a good thing we have a few minutes before the guys get here.”
I should have cleaned up before coming over. Should be wearing mascara and the lacy black top Sadie bought me for my last birthday. Plus something closer to excitement on my face, because it’s the summer before senior year, and that’s how we planned it.
The car jolts a few inches forward. Sadie jumps back and Cory stifles a grin. “Sorry. Foot slipped.”
Sadie glares at him and I open my door before he can do any more damage. “I’ll see you later, okay?”
Cory lifts two fingers off the steering wheel in a lazy good-bye.
“We’re still on for the quarry tomorrow?” I ask over my shoulder.
I step out onto the sidewalk and watch him drive away. Sadie pulls me inside and up to her room. She grabs a pack of makeup-removing wipes off her vanity and hands one over. “So. He asked about you again.”
The cloth darkens as I scrub the backs of my calves. “He who?”
“Kyle Marcell. He’s coming out tonight, with Will.”
“Kyle,” I repeat.
I try to focus on this new name, but my head is scattered all across Carson County. My dining room table, where my family is gathered without me. Underwater at the quarry, where I can scream without anyone hearing. And especially the tree house in the middle of the forest, where I still feel the ghost of the girl I used to be.
Sadie’s phone vibrates on her vanity. She checks the message and her lips creep into a smile.
She doesn’t notice I’m not smiling back.
* * *
A beat-up Ford Mustang stops at the curb. Will’s Mustang.
Kyle gets out and pulls the passenger’s seat forward. His angular face is partially obscured by expensive-looking sunglasses, and his narrow mouth is stretched into a smirk. I cast Sadie a quick glance and crawl into the cramped backseat. Kyle slides in after me.
He moved to Carson a year ago, and although we had two classes together last semester, we’ve exchanged only a handful of words. One time he borrowed a pen from me and never gave it back. And he plays lacrosse. This is the extent of what I know about Kyle Marcell.
He’s wearing a T-shirt with an outline of Michigan on it that says AMERICA’S HIGH FIVE.
I gesture to the logo. “Is that where you’re from originally?”
Kyle pulls at the bottom of the shirt and looks down, as if he forgot what he had on. “Oh. No.”
The conversation dies on the spot. Meanwhile, Sadie closes her door and the smell of pot mingled with Kyle’s acrid cologne gets trapped inside. And something cloying—a pineapple air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror. A headache brews behind my eyes and I start breathing through my mouth.
Kyle takes off the sunglasses and slouches down beside me, his eyes bloodshot and heavy-lidded. His knee falls out to the side and bumps against mine.
Will puts the car in gear. “What do you ladies feel like doing tonight?”
Somehow I don’t feel any less trapped here than at home. But every escape has its catch, and beggars can’t be choosers. So as Kyle’s arm slides across my bare shoulders, I don’t angle away or shrug him off. I sit perfectly still and stare out the window.
“Anything,” Sadie drawls in the voice guys always find irresistible. She turns her head toward Will. “We’re up for anything.”
Will’s parents are conveniently out of town until next Tuesday. We go to his house. He swipes a bottle of vodka from the liquor cabinet and Sadie contributes two cans of Boomerang Energy Enhancement.
Boomerang, for the record, tastes mildly of dish detergent and perfume. But Sadie is woefully addicted and at the moment, I’m not overly picky.
I chase a large shot with a small sip of Boomerang. Sadie sidles up to me and uses my phone as a mirror while she reapplies her lip gloss. She dips down and presses her lips lightly onto mine, and I smooth the lip gloss she left behind across my mouth. And just like that, the boys are hooked.
This flirtation comes standard with Sadie, as forced as it might feel to me. Sadie is a lot of things I’m not: glamorous, brazen, and blond, for starters. Add her C-cup to the mix, and it’s really not all that surprising she has the effect she does on guys.
Approximately ninety seconds later, Will grabs Sadie’s hand and they disappear behind his bedroom door. I take another shot.
Will’s kitchen is modern with stainless steel everything. A lighthouse calendar hangs on the wall above the light switch. Mom has the same one. I pour myself a third drink and walk over to the calendar, turn the page from May to June. Then I begin a self-guided tour of the house. I find a small, dimly lit den situated off the far side of the kitchen.
Leaning against the door frame to the den, I down the shot and grip the glass in my fist, then turn back to the kitchen, where Kyle is perched on a bar stool at the island. He’s watching me but seems reluctant to come any closer. Probably because aside from that first failed inquiry into Kyle’s past, I haven’t uttered a single word since the guys picked us up an hour ago.
“Come here,” I say, not even trying to sound alluring like Sadie.
He takes his time, like he could think of a dozen other places he’d rather be. Right.
Kyle stops in front of me and squares his shoulders. He’s close to my height, maybe half an inch shorter. I can’t recall whether he always has this drowsy look on his face, or if he’s just stoned. I nod my head to the couch. “Sit.”
“Bossy, aren’t you?”
He hesitates a moment longer, then slips past me and sits on the black leather sofa. His eyebrows rise like he’s waiting for his next order.
Setting the empty glass down on the coffee table, I edge closer. I guess Kyle is decent-looking, in a preppy-jock-gone-hipster kind of way. His jeans are a bit too tight for my taste, but why sweat the small stuff?
Kyle’s sudden interest in hanging out with me probably has more to do with the rumors about what happened after-hours in the school pool this past spring than the fact that I loaned him a pen that one time. And I’ve been careful since the pool incident, determined not to give my classmates any more ammunition. The problem is, tonight I don’t care.
Tonight I need a distraction. So without another word, I slide onto the couch and straddle Kyle. His too-cool-for-school act wears off pretty quickly after that.
He meets me halfway, his mouth moving slowly against mine at first, but building momentum as one hand grips my hair.
Kyle’s not a bad kisser, per se. Just not my preferred style. Exhibit A: What is happening with his tongue? Maybe he’s trying that thing where you spell out the alphabet? Except he seems to have only awkward letters like k and z in his arsenal. Or he doesn’t know it’s supposed to be in cursive?
He pushes against my right hip and turns so that he’s half on top of me. I’m short of breath, and Kyle seems to interpret this as a good sign. His legs tangle with mine and his hand starts to roam up my side.
The air-conditioning kicks on. I listen to it blast through the vent in the corner. Then a dog barks outside. I’ve always wanted a dog, but Dad’s allergic. And Mom would never be able to stand the mess and besides, pets just get old and die.
Probably from cancer.
No clock in the room. I sit up a little and move Kyle’s hand away from my back pocket so I can grab my phone and check the time. He takes this as an invitation to go after my neck. Which, actually, I like a little better.
But it’s later than I thought, well past the dinner I was supposed to be home for, and I decide it’s time for me to round up Sadie.
“Gotta go.” I spring off the couch.
Kyle freezes with one hand where my hip used to be. “Seriously?”
I knock on Will’s door and call to Sadie that it’s time to leave, then go wait for her in the kitchen.
Kyle walks in and leans against the counter, looking decidedly less enthusiastic than a moment ago. “What’s the hurry?”
“I have a curfew.”
He looks out the kitchen window. It’s only just getting dark. He slides closer and hooks his finger through my belt loop. “Come on, it’s early. I can drive you home in a little while.”
I slip out of reach and call Sadie’s name again. Kyle crosses his arms and slumps back against the refrigerator door.
Sadie wraps it up in record time, running her fingers through her hair as she walks into the kitchen. Will steps behind her and gropes her waist. She giggles and whines, which seems to be exactly what Will wants to hear.
“Can we go?” I ask.
Will shoots me a dirty look and pushes a fringe of sandy-blond hair off his forehead. The hair stays put, and I imagine his fingers come away greasy. Sadie rolls her eyes at him but follows me out the garage door.
Kyle takes the wheel on the way home, so I ride shotgun while Sadie keeps Will occupied in the backseat. My foot taps out every second that ticks by as we wind our way through town. I’ve got ten minutes. Then five. Then none and we’re still four blocks away.
The car swings into my driveway and I glance over my shoulder. Mistake. I turn quickly back around because there is nothing in the backseat I want to see.
I push the door open.
“Hey.” Kyle catches my arm and pulls me into one last thin-lipped kiss I do not close my eyes for. He releases me with a smug smile. “I had a lot of fun tonight,” he says, which seems like the kind of thing guys say when they want to leave the option open for repeat performances.
I tuck my hair behind my ears and inch out of my seat. “Yeah. Good times.” I jump out and lean down. “Sadie? You coming in?”
She breaks away from Will’s face and smiles. “I’m good. Night, love.”
“Okay.” I hold on to the door a moment longer. I wish she would just come in. “Drive safe.”
On my way up to the porch, a jingle of keys a few yards to my right grabs my attention. I squint to make out who they belong to.
My feet stop.
He’s strolling down Cory’s driveway next door, twirling the key ring around his index finger. He looks taller. I mean, he’s always been tall, but definitely over six feet now. Stronger, too. He used to be so lanky. Now broad shoulders give way to muscular arms, and his hair is longer than he’s ever worn it—reaching all the way down to his chin. Everything is different. But it’s him.
My heart is helicopter-loud, pumping blood through me. But I’m rooted in place, watching the highlight reel of my childhood flash before my eyes.
He holds my gaze as we pass each other. Or rather, as he passes me, since I’m still standing here staring at him like a total freak.
“Night, Harper.” His voice is soft. Completely at odds with his rigid posture.
Will backs out of the driveway. I watch the car over my shoulder, and even in the darkness, I can see the front seat clearly from where I stand.
I wonder how much Declan saw.
When I turn back toward him, Declan’s gaze is fixed on the ground. He stays that way until he reaches his own car in the street.
“Good night,” I call, forcing my heavy limbs into motion.
I peek over my shoulder once more before going inside. Declan is already driving away.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Original review @ 125Pages.com Let me start by getting this out. Yay!!!! A 2016 debut that I have been waiting for. And it was good! *Okay, deep breath.* The Year We Fell Apart has been on my radar for a while and I am always a little afraid when I’ve been waiting for a book that it will be, well, not good. So I am very glad that is not the case for The Year We Fell Apart. Harper and Declan are a couple you root for even through all the crap. Childhood best friends, they find love until Declan is shipped off to boarding school. Harper then free falls and becomes the queen of bad decisions. When Declan returns for the summer all the old feelings bubble up and decisions need to be made. The feels were deep with this one. Emily Martin created characters that resonated with me. From the mains to the sides all were well fleshed out and fit well with each other. The world created was real and well encompassed the characters. The pacing was great, things unfolded naturally and were never rushed. The plot was solid and I was pleased that there was an absence of the typical YA unconcerned/absent parent. The writing, however, is where The Year We Fell Apart shone. Martin was able to craft feelings into her words and to make you genuinely care about her cast, even when they were acting ridiculous. I am glad I was able to read this one, as it refreshed my love for the YA romance/drama. Some of the ones I have read in the last year have been disappointing as they were so fake. This was a realistic read with heart. I have a feeling The Year We Fell Apart will top the best debuts of 2016 list, and it will be well deserved. Emily Martin is an author to watch and I am excited to see what she will bring next. I received this book for free from Edelweiss, The Fantastic Flying Book Club in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I really enjoyed getting to see all the different relationships unfold in this book. There was some drama sometimes, but that didn't keep me from liking the book. There were a lot of various relationships, including family, friendship, and romantic relationships. There were a lot of different friendships in this book. There was Cory, a boy who had been best friends with Harper since they were young children. There was never anything other than friendship between them for either of them. He was also best friends with Declan, so it sometimes was hard for him to see him and Harper struggle with their relationships, especially when they had broken up in the past. Harper also becomes friends with Gwen and Mackenzie who are in a photography class with her. She takes a little bit to warm up to them, but the friendship with them is good for her. The main reason she seems to be wary of them is because she thinks Declan likes Mackenzie, but that doesn't really end up being a problem. Sadie is another of her friends and isn't very good for her at all. Sadie seemed selfish and only into partying and hooking up with guys. She always seemed to ditch Harper for guys and leave her with some guy that Harper wasn't really interested in. This book also explored Harper's mom's sickness since she has cancer. It was tough to read about some of that. Clearly, this wasn't good for her family. Luckily, though, I do think her mom was going to live. And it was interesting to explore this beside Declan's mom having been killed by a drunk driver, which was very sad. Having struggles with their mom was something that Harper and Declan could understand about each other. I think Harper and Declan work well as a couple, even if it took them a while to get past their problems. They had been friends since they were kids, so they really understood and knew each other. I also thought they were pretty cute sometimes when they were joking around and teasing each other. If you like YA contemporary, read this book.
Beautiful, Realistic, Contemporary YA Romance-Highly Recommended! I had been looking forward to Emily Martin's THE YEAR WE FELL APART for a LONG time. Needless to say, I had high expectations for this book...and it exceeded all of them many times over! I absolutely loved the voice of Harper Sloan-she was such relatable, complex, flawed character with real emotions and real struggles. I think this book will speak to readers on so many levels, as it deals with family, friendship, romance, sexuality, coping with tragedy, and most of all, a beautiful portrait of learning to love oneself. On top of all of this, Emily Martin's writing was absolutely gorgeous and kept me turning page after page.
Source: Simon teen via Edelweiss Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy). I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read the Year We Fell Apart because I like the sound of the mix between second chance romance and the friends to relationship. Harper sounds like she has made some bad choices, and she has to learn from them as well as face the fall out. She is also dealing with her mom's cancer diagnosis and missing Declan, who she has been friends with for so long, and did have a relationship with. Declan has been away and now he is back, and through their other friend Cory, that Harper has stayed close to, they come into contact more than Harper thought they would. Thing are awkward, and it was a balance of flirting, trying to figure out where they stand with each other, and Harper trying to figure out whether or not Declan knows what has happened with the swim team and getting caught fooling around with another guy in the pool, and what he thinks about. Harper also wants to confide in Declan about what is going on with her mom since Declan lost his mom when he was younger, and this is another thing that got them so close back then. But again, the distance and her mistakes cause her to stay back. Declan was hard to get a read on in the present they spend enough time together because of Cory and because of the parties and then they're also together with the two girls from their photography class a lot. I can't tell if that one likes Mackenzie or if he is just trying to figure things out with Harper. There's moments where I feel like they are so close to getting back to their friendship were getting back to our relationship but then Harper and her insecurities or the mistakes that she's made will somehow get him between both of them. I did like her memories of the two of them and their first kiss. The good memories from their friendship and from when he told her how he was falling for her and they both were kind of questioning the beginnings of their boyfriend girlfriend relationship and they express you know that there everything to each other. Towards the end I did skim a bit, with the drama with her and Sadie, but I did like what she realized about her family, and the build up with her and Declan. Bottom Line: Emotional look at Harper's year of regrets and her trying to turn it around.
I have not read an addicting contemporary in so long. The Year We Fell Apart reminded me of why contemporary books are my choice of addiction. I could not put the book down and ended up reading it in one sitting. This is coming from my current state of reading maybe one or two books a month lately. I wanted more more more from this book and when it ended I couldn't stop thinking about it. The plot line is on I highly enjoy. Our main protagonist, Harper has a childhood best friend, Declan. However the book starts almost a year later after they have become estranged.. but we don't know what happened. Declan has come back for the summer vacation and Harper's emotions become all over the place. Not only that, but Harper is currently trying to deal with the news of her mother's cancer. I found that so heart wrenching. She really didn't know how to deal with it and wanted to talk about it to Declan since he lost his mother years ago.. but she couldn't because of this huge elephant in the room that the readers don't know about. The book kept on alluding to Harper making some decisions she regrets and that hints to the reason why her and Declan are no longer friends (or something more?). I loved how the author kept us in the dark. It really upped the tension factor as well as the need to continue reading to find out what really happened. I think Emily painted a very realistic story. Harper and Declan end up having to hang out due to their mutual childhood friend (no love triangle though!) as well as new friends come in, slight misunderstands happen (though funny and never really lasting for long). I enjoyed the summer, leisure feel, along with the mix of anguish and emotional turmoil Harper is going through. The secondary characters were all fantastic too. I love that just as much as the romance, Emily focused on the old and new found friendships and what you really lose once you step out of the friendship zone to the relationship zone. The build up to the last couple of scenes in the book were done so well that my heart was literally beating fast reading those last several pages. I couldn't read fast enough but at the same time I had to backtrack and reread because my emotions were everywhere. I literally would read two pages, then go back and reread those two pages because I was in a state of total "mind blown". Martin seriously knows how to hook you in and not let you go until the book ends (and not even then apparently). I can't wait to see more of Emily Martin's contemporaries. She's honestly on my to watch list from now on. If her sophomore contemporary is close to how good The Year We Fell Apart was.. then she's going to graduate to favourite contemporary authors and the auto-buy and read list. The Year We Fell Apart has become the first (and so far only) book on my "2016 favourites list".
3.5 stars. The Year We Fell Apart might be more aptly titled The Year We Imploded and The Summer We Tried To Fix Everything. It is a sad story of a girl's mistakes, insecurity and grief, as she wrestles with her past while trying to right her future. It takes a little while to fully understand Harper's backstory, what happened with her relationship with Declan, why it ended and what has happened over the year since they last spoke. As the story reveals itself you get a heartbreaking picture of a girl who is stuck in a series of bad choices. And just like any impending disaster, it gets worse before it gets better. Harper wants to make things right, start making the right choices and hopefully win back her right to have Declan as a friend. But it's a long, slow crawl. There is no sudden change, no big moment, no happy, my-life-is-going-to-change-now montage. Instead, it's far more realistic, as Harper makes gradual improvements, only to fall back into old habits. I was waiting for more of a change at the end, but Harper still has a long way to go. There are a number of story threads that remain relatively unresolved at the end, such as Harper's relationship with her friend and how she is coping with her mom's cancer diagnosis. Again, there are no big epiphanies or showdowns, just little steps and choices that will need to be made every minute for the rest of her life. Even things that are implied, such as her feelings about her weight and eating, are left unresolved. Realistic, but maybe not as satisfying. I was also a little unclear as to what exactly happened to first break Declan and Harper up and then what followed in the months after, as it's implied and told in sections. I loved reading about the moments when Harper gets to go back to being happy. A lot of the romance relies on Harper and Declan's past. Fortunately there are a few flashback type scenes and the moments that they share in the current time, both bittersweet and traumatic, are revealing. They push each other to the very edge, but also ultimately understand one another. I would have loved to have more happy moments between them, but that's just plain selfishness on my part and not necessarily what the story needed. While the plot is focused around Harper trying to resurrect some sort of relationship with Declan, the underlying message is about her own strength and the way she chooses to live her life and deal with her mistakes. Harper certainly isn't very good at facing her mistakes head on. In fact, even when she is trying to deal with the fallout, she chooses to take the easy way out. There is a lot going on in this book, from Harper's current self-destruct mode of partying and boys, her mother's cancer diagnosis and how this effects the family, to Harper's different friendships with Sadie, Cory and Declan, and her budding friendships with Gwen and Mackenzie. There is also the underlying messages about the view and treatment of girls relating to their sexual habits, controlling relationships, and even self-image and self-respect. The Year We Fell Apart is a sad and moving story, harsh in its delivery, but with a very realistic portrayal of how little mistakes can snowball and how hard it can be to work to fix what has been damaged. The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A lot of teens will recognize aspects of themselves in Harper Sloan. The soon-to-be high school senior is coming off a rough year, in which her best friend-turned-boyfriend Declan was sent away to boarding school, and Harper coped the only way she (and her new best friend Sadie) knew how to, which led to one mistake after another . . . and ultimately losing Declan. But now it's summer, and Declan is back from boarding school, and all Harper wants to do is right the wrongs. But Harper's life has only gotten more complex. She's living with the consequences of her actions from last year -- the way the girls on her old swim team treat her now, and the looks she gets from the boys in her town who know her new reputation -- and on top of that, her mom is beginning chemotherapy for a cancer diagnosis. All she wants is for things to go back to the way they were with Declan, but is that even possible? Debut author Emily Martin just "gets" it. This YA novel rings true on so many levels, from the minute details of the teens' home lives to the complex relationships between Harper and her friends and family. More than anything, this book is about the battles we fight within ourselves, knowing our own weaknesses and strengths and how we stumble trying to compensate. At many points, it's heartbreaking to see Harper falter as she battles her own insecurities. Knowing what she wants and being able to name it does not necessarily provide easy answers or a simple road to getting it, as we all know from our own life experiences. A fantastic realistic romance for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson. I can't wait to read Emily Martin's next book!
Holy wow, did I love this book. It sucked me in and didn't let go. I finished it two days ago and I am still thinking about it. And I will never ever be able to listen to "Out of the Woods" by Taylor Swift again without thinking about Harper and Declan. (Not because the song is referenced in any way - it's just perfect for them!) Harper is such a realistically drawn character - a girl who is lovable and sometimes hate-able, conflicted and yearning for connection, and sometimes selfish and self-destructive. The what-was and what-could-have-been and what-could-be between her and Declan is palpable, and I couldn't stop reading. As powerful as the romance is, though, this book succeeds because it is about more than just a girl trying to get her ex-boyfriend back. Harper has to navigate so many pitfalls of growing up in a society that does little service to strong girls, and in Martin's capable hands, the story wraps itself around the reader's mind and heart. I'd love to see Emily Martin on a panel someday beside Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (author of FIRSTS) and Shannon Parker (author of THE GIRL WHO FELL) for a frank discussion of writing about young women finding their way through the minefield of modern girlhood.
*Warning: Some Serious Fangirling and Gushing and Nonsensical Words Below. Please don’t blame me, it can’t be helped.* First Sentence: Sometimes I think the White Oak tree was listening that night last August. You use the name Sarah Dessen, and I will read the book. Most of the time, I’ll probably tell you that I was disappointed because not much can match up to Sarah Dessen, but, Emily Martin, you can take the cake. Or the prize. Or the award. Or anything you want, really, because after that book that made me root SO badly for a relationship I knew almost nothing about, you DESERVE everything you want! “It was more than just state lined dividing us. I missed you and I missed her and I needed to feel something else. Something less.” Declan and Harper, you guys, will be the first 2016 couple that I will never forget. They were perfect – they knew exactly what the other thought like, what the other person was like, their fears and insecurities and even exactly where to hit, so that the bruise would hurt the most. More than that, though, they had ALL this CHEMISTRY and this pining, and this love story that should have been written in the stars. And I loved it. Every moment – the good, the goofy, the moments that hurt even my heart, the pissed off ones, the worst, the drunk and the best. Emily Martin created this ideal non-ideal (and yet to me, ideal) couple that I could NOT get enough off! Imma fangirl over the rest of the characters in order, now that I got that out of the way: CORY: BEST BEST FRIEND EVER, coolest boyfriend, dork extraordinary. Mackenzie and Gwen! Graham! Harper’s Mother! HARPLAN! (Declan + Harper) Okay. I don’t even know what I’m saying. These characters are all just swirling around in my head and I want them to stay there FOREVER. Okay, I don’t know what I said – comprehensive thoughts are not forming in my head, due to serious sleep deprivation, economic exams, candy crush and this book. I’m not going to keep you here any longer – go down, enter the giveaway, tell me I’m a teeny bit crazy in the comments – but just one thing before you do: BUY THE BOOK. BUY IT NOW. YOU NEED IT. TRUST ME. Also, COOL FACT: Emily Martin and Laurie Elizabeth Flynn who debuted with her AH-MAE-ZING novel, Firsts (REVIEWED HERE) are CRITIQUE PATRNERS! So, aspiring writers, all of your dreams will come true, and these two lovely ladies are proof. Of course, help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who need it, so you can always take it from there too! POINTS FOR: Coolest, most realistic relationship, the above characters, swimming, practical jokes, that storyline. And just EVERYTHING!