Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin | a frustrating contemporary on rebuilding relationships

22449806Few 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 contains a combination of elements I usually love in contemporaries, a heartfelt romance and an amount of frustration/angst to challenge the couple together and individually. Unfortunately, while The Year We Fell Apart was engaging enough, the classic combo didn’t work out so well this time around. This book tried to accomplish a number of things, from rekindling a friendship, dealing with problems rattling a family, redeeming oneself, but it all ended up quite directionless ultimately.

The writing was extremely simplistic besides a few moments and I often felt as there were ‘holes’ in the story. The ‘introduction’ of the characters, the relationships, and Harper’s history with Declan was very, very vague and continued to be the same throughout the entire story. It was as if the reader was already supposed to know every thing that took place, and there was very little detail on the things that mattered. There was so much angst with unclear context; Harper and Declan’s past relationship is slowly revealed over time but nothing is ever stated definitely and the order of events is still confusing. This is why the drama and angst feels so forced, there is hardly any context to balance the amount of commentary on Harper’s pain and frustration. I’m sure the cancer subplot was added as another reason for Harper’s constant angsting, but it was entirely useless since it failed to add any message to the story.

Harper herself is indeed a flawed heroine, but is incredibly hard to warm up to and understand fully. I can sympathize with her to an extent, but she keeps repeating the same mistakes and expects comfort from those around her without recognizing her issues. She’s extremely selfish and hardly grows throughout the story, regardless of her comments toward the end of the novel. I suppose her actions would have made more sense if the book delved deeper into her psyche and psychological state, but it decided to focus more on her deal with Declan. In fact, most of Harper’s narration is filled with constant, repetitive comments on Declan’s attitude, his appearance, and whoever he’s hanging out with. It’s annoying and unrealistic, and also amazing how there is so much commentary on Declan yet so little on his history with Harper, through that could just be attributed to bad storytelling.

The most underdeveloped portion of The Year We Fell Apart would be whatever the fuck happened with Harper and Declan, if that isn’t clear already. Like I said before, their relationship is so damn unexplained, and their random up-and-downs get even worse as the story goes on. Harper starts talking all this shit on why she split from Declan and how she was afraid of losing people, and it was all so contrived and nonsensical. If anything, these two just skirted around their feelings and thoughts for each other and decided to finally confront it in the last 10 pages. Those 10 pages where the best part of the book but there is still no depth in their relationship.

I feel as though this book would have been so much better if there was a focus, a central point. Harper’s identity and struggle to make amends, her damaged relationship with Declan, and her mother’s cancer are all interesting plot points but they serve no purpose because they aren’t utilized correctly. If the story focused more on how Harper dealt with her mother’s illness and how family values and dynamics changed due to it, it definitely would have been more well-rounded. If the story also delved deeper into Harper’s psychological state and her issues with fixing herself, that aspect would have gone well with the rest of the themes too. The book definitely took on more than it could handle.

The Year We Fell Apart is a standard angsty romance that is entertaining enough, but there are many better contemporaries out there that explore the same themes deeper yet keep a good balance among all of them.

-Haven

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