Title/Author: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
Publisher/Date published: Simon Pulse, January 26th 2016
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley, thanks!
Goodreads summary: 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.
So I'm usually the person who avoids books dealing with illness, in the main character or one of the people they're close to. But every once in a while I do pick one up and usually end up loving it. And this is what happened with The Year We Fell Apart.
Obviously Harper is a flawed main character, she's made an enormous mess of everything and she seems determined to keep making self-destructive decisions. But what you also get from being inside her head in this novel is that she's struggling SO much to keep everything together, and sometimes it doesn't work and she falls apart and does things that she later regrets. And you know what, I get it. She's dealing with a LOT and it's not even remotely resembling easy and sometimes she just wants to feel good, only the things she does that aren't the best decisions, don't actually make her feel good. And she slowly starts to realise this, but it's hard to change this. Especially when a whole lot of people have already made up their minds about who you are.
I loved that she has an awesome friend in Cory, he's just an amazingly good guy and he sticks with Harper, even though it must be really hard for him to juggle his friendship with her and with Declan after what happened. I also really liked seeing Harper develop a healthy friendship with two girls who she meets in her photography class, as the only other female friendship she's got going on is definitely more of the frenemy type and HATE that. I mean, wow, way to be supportive.
The thing is, I was pretty much loving this, though it's a lot more dark and angsty than the cover lets on, but the last part of the book kinda ruined it a bit for me. I mean, I was rooting for the romance to develop because hello, Declan is a good guy and I liked how Harper was the best version of herself when she was around him. I always feel that you shouldn't need to change essentially to be with someone, but they should make you be the best version of yourself, so I was full on going YES. But then some stuff happened towards the end and that just popped my happy swoony bubble and it was just extremely not ok. I mean, WOW, REALLY? I can get why he jumped to conclusions, but the way he reacts after that is just so insanely way over the line that I just could not after that. Basically all my happy feelings were gone.
So while I think this is a strong debut that deals with the illness of a family member in a very realistic way and shows how it can affect someone, I still had some serious problems with the way things ended and that soured my opinion of The Year We Fell Apart a bit.
My rating: 3,5 stars