Reviewer: Amy Lignor
Title: The Secret Year
Author: Jennifer R. Hubbard
Release Date: January 2010
Genre/Sub-genre: YA Dramatic Fiction
Publisher’s Age/Grade Recommendation: 12 and Up
OUAR’s Age/Grade Recommendation: 15 and Up
Year/Setting: Present day, United States (A Locale called Back Mountain)
Overall Rating: 5.0
Sexual Content Rating: Sensual/Sexual
Language (Profanity/Slang) Content Rating: None/Mild
Violent Content Rating: Mild/Moderate (Car Accident)
Jennifer's Website/Blog: www.jenniferhubbard.com
Julia Vernon was a young woman who had it all…or so everyone around her thought. Julia lived on top of Black Mountain – among all the other teenagers of the affluent families that dotted the majestic landscape. Down below, resting on the "flats" that looked up at the intense wealth of Black Mountain, were the poor-folk, and one of those hardworking young men is Colten Morrissey. Like Julia Vernon, Colten has a secret as well.
As we begin our story, Colten is told that Julia Vernon is dead; she was the passenger in a car driven by her best friend, Pam. Julia was drunk and without a seatbelt when the crash occurred and took her life. Julia was a vibrant girl. Yes…she was snooty – she was used to the fact that she had enough money behind her to be and do anything she chose to in life. She was also the girlfriend of Austin Chadwick – the rich boy who ran the school, who everyone loved. He led the group of Black Mountain Boys – rich jerks who believed they were the end all and be all of human life. Before her death, Julia had been in love (or as close to love as a girl like her could get), and she’d been in love with…Colten Morrissey. In fact, she and Colten had been having secret meetings for over a year. Spending time together every Friday night down by the bridge – far away from the affluent world she came from – they would meet, make love, share their dreams, wants, needs, and secrets.
Upon her death, Julia’s brother comes up to Colten at school and hands him a notebook. Inside, are the deepest thoughts and feelings of Julia; letters that she’d written to Colten about how she really felt about him and the struggle she was going through to break up with Austin and proclaim her love for the boy she truly wanted to be with forever. As Colten goes through this journal, he begins to understand the girl who he’d spent a secret year with. Her words and feelings allow Colten to grow up – accept things that come his way that he otherwise would’ve let slip by. He finds himself more understanding with his family – going through ups and downs with everything from money to his older brother’s "coming-out" announcement.
I haven’t read a YA this well written since Judy Blume sent forth the masterpiece – Forever – which helped teens with very difficult subjects at a time when most parents simply wouldn’t talk in-depth about life and love with their kids. Jennifer has done an excellent job exploring the things that teens face nowadays. She also reminds us that being a "kid" is no longer even close to being "easy."
Until next time, Amy
Question or comment regarding the review or the book? Click here and let Amy know.