The Year We Fell Apart – Emily Martin – Simon Pulse – Published 26 January 2016
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.
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.
The summer before her senior year brings many changes to Harper’s life. Her mother has been diagnosed with cancer and her once best friend and ex-boyfriend, Declan, has returned to town for the summer. The past year was ladened with mistakes, and she can’t help mourning for the girl Declan knew and loved only one year ago. As Harper tries to balance time looking out for her mother, hanging with her friend Cory, a summer photography course and partying with her friend Sadie, she inevitably continually sees Declan. She known she doesn’t deserve him, but can’t help hoping that they can reconnect.
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.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Relationships and dating. Friendship. Romance. Family. Cancer. Social issues. Bullying and shaming. Self-esteem.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f***, s***, sl**. Sexual references. Drug and alcohol use. Implied violence, fist fight no details.
Published: 26 January 2016 by Simon Pulse.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 320 pages.