by Emily Martin
To be published on January 26, 2016
by Simon Pulse
Source: eARC from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: I love realistic fiction and love flawed characters, but had mixed feelings about The Year We Fell Apart. It seemed to be trying to be a second-chance-at-love story, a redeem-the-misunderstood-girl story, and a illness story all in one. For me, that was too much.
The way the story was told -- at least for the first half of the book -- was confusing and a little alienating to me as a reader. There are a bunch of characters between whom some drama has happened in the past. For the first half of the book, I felt a like the odd person out at a party -- you know, when everyone knows one another and talks in shorthand. I didn't really understand what had gone on between this group of people. I was expecting to be able to piece together a timeline of Harper and Declan's breakup: a led to b and then c. When I finally did understand, it seemed like a list of unrelated events: a death and a break-up and a scandal and something about the swim team. For more explanation under spoiler protection, check out my Goodreads review.
I found Harper very hard to understand and relate to. Because we're all flawed, it's immensely satisfying to watch a character face up to that fact. It was beyond frustrating to watch Harper make the same mistakes over and over and then complain about being judged and misunderstood. It also didn't help that Harper's problems, while upsetting to her, absolutely paled in comparison to the things that people around her were going through -- people who needed her. I also wish the book had done more to address Harper's drinking problem -- every time she drank, she made choices that she regretted later on.
For me, this book would have worked better if it had focused more on what the book seemed to want to be about: a girl trying to come to terms with mistakes she's made and redefine herself as a person. I don't feel like the story quite got there in the end. As much as I like characters to get a happy ending, I couldn't help feeling that the book copped out on making Harper do the work that she needed to get one.
tl;dr: Though I liked the idea behind this book, the slow-reveal plot structure and distracting subplots made it a less satisfying read than I was hoping for.