The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
Published: January 26, 2016 by Simon Pulse
Source: eARC provided by the publisher
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. [goodreads]
From the Sarah Dessen comparison, to the emotional contemporary description, there is a lot put into this novel that drew me towards it. I tend to like YA contemporaries that focus on a conflict that's altered a teenager's path. In this particular story, Harper has created situations to cause more than just one conflict with her friends, family, and ultimately with herself.
It's the beginning of summer and Harper is still facing the consequences of poor choices she made during her Junior year of high school. In an attempt to salvage the relationships she has left in her life, she's clung to her only friend that relies on parties to be the end all, fix all for any type of situation. Just when she thinks she can skate by in life, under the radar, and away from the real problems that are nagging at her mind, the one boy who can stir up the most emotions inside her, is back in town and potentially back in her life.
From the beginning, I had an idea what was the root of Harper's issues. Little pieces began to reveal themselves in the form of fears she has with losing people. Her lifelong best friend, turned boyfriend, Declan proved this earlier in the school year when he was forced to move away. She allowed fear to creep in, causing her actions to sabotage their relationship. However, this was just the beginning of her downward spiral.
I had difficulty understanding Declan's patience toward Harper. He was never given the truth as to why she ended their relationship, yet he still found himself drawn to Harper once he was back in town. Perhaps this was his way of seeking answers, regardless of how painful it would end up being. Harper continued to make bad choices for herself, allowing fear to take control. Numerous times I found myself, as the reader, becoming frustrated with her actions. It's times like this that I have to remind myself, she's every bit a teenager and allowed to make these wrong choices -- even if they end up breaking her. Sometimes it's the beauty in how you put yourself back together again that brings the whole story full circle.
Overall, I was not wow'ed by this story as I had hoped to be. There were some unnecessary plot points that left me a bit unsatisfied. I had hoped to see more growth from Harper in her actions, instead of just words to support it. The new friendships that Harper seeks out were portrayed very nicely, giving this angsty story a refreshing and uplifting piece to what could have been very messy. That was probably my favorite aspect of the story. In the end, I'd still recommend this novel, however, I'd classify it as a library rental and not an instant buy.