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 hookup, and officially became the black sheep of the family. But the worst mistake was her first one: destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.
Now, after two semesters of silence between Harper and Declan, Declan is home from boarding school for summer break. Everything about him is different – he’s taller, stronger… handsomer. But 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, the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on with her. But after she betrayed his trust, he’s also the one person she’s lost all right to seek comfort from.
As shared friends and shared histories draw them together, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still possible to fix and which parts they’ll have to live with forever.
The Year We Fell Apart is Emily Martin’s debut novel and I dove straight into this one as soon as my copy arrived in the mail because it reminded me of Second Chance Summer (which I loved), with the second chance romance and the parent struggling with cancer. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one as much as Second Chance Summer because of a few problems I had with the characters and plot.
For a debut novel, I was quite impressed with the writing in this book. I noticed from the first page how beautiful the prose was but, most importantly, it was easy to read. The words flowed very well and I flew through this book in just one sitting.
What I really struggled with was Harper’s character. She was very frustrating and I didn’t really understand her behaviour and her reasoning behind most of the things she did. I feel like this book had the potential to be a great coming of age story, but Harper really didn’t develop very much and continued to make the same mistakes over and over. She really reminded me of Molly from 99 Days, another character that just continued to make the same mistakes and never grew or learnt anything from her mistakes. Perhaps my biggest problem with Harper was that she was very mopey and her attitude just made her a little bit hard to like. She kept putting herself into situations where she would make the same mistakes she had in the past, but in the aftermath, she would act like it wasn’t her fault at all. I just could not bring myself to feel sorry for her. Having said that, it wasn’t all bad when it came to Harper. She had a few great moments and she was far less annoying than Molly from 99 Days.
“People change. And sometimes that means drifting apart. But other times it just means working harder to find some common ground.”
I thought the events that led to Molly and Declan breaking up a year ago were a little bit overdramatic and weak. I don’t even fully understand why they broke up. And for those events to have caused such a huge change in Harper, it was slightly unrealistic to me. And despite the two of them being together in the same place again, they never really communicated with each other. There were just so many misunderstandings and I just wished they would talk to each other. There were even instances where one character was given the opportunity to explain their actions, and the other just said “nope, you don’t have to explain”. I reached the end of the book feeling very unsatisfied with how everything played out and I don’t think their issues were resolved at all.
The romance between Harper and Declan is definitely at the forefront of the book, but there is a secondary story arc that involves Harper’s mother and her struggles with cancer. In my opinion, this was dealt with so poorly that I have no idea why it was even included in the book. I suppose watching her mother become ill was supposed to snap Harper out of her recklessness, but there was so little development in Harper’s character! In fact, for most of the book, Harper just avoids the issue by lying to her parents and going out and being reckless. There also aren’t very many mentions of Harper’s mother in the whole book so I just thought that story arc was a bit weak. It also felt kind of convenient at times and it seemed like her illness was only mentioned when the plot needed to move forward. There were also a couple of other things that felt convenient, such as the photography summer class Harper attended. It was only brought up a handful of times when the plot needed to develop.
I did like some of the side characters in the book. I appreciated how supportive some of Harper’s friends were and wished that they could have featured a bit more in the book. However, there were also other friends that I was absolutely disgusted by and thought were terrible people. I was a little bit disappointed by how Harper handled these friendships. I just wanted to see her cut ties with them completely but that didn’t really happen. I liked Declan as a love interest but he did some really stupid things that just didn’t make sense to me, so overall I was a little bit underwhelmed by the two leads.
This was a little bit of an underwhelming read for me. I didn’t love Harper as a main character and thought that there were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. The plot felt a bit shaky at times and I just needed it to be better resolved. It had great drama but I thought it was a bit overdramatic, especially since the catalyst was so… not worthy of drama.