Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend.When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.
Hubbard puts the reader in quite an interesting situation in The Secret Year. By the start of the novel one of the major characters, the heart of the story, is already dead. All that remains of her is a diary and the loved ones she’s left behind. The novel chronicles the life of one of those loved ones, Colt, her secret boyfriend of one year. Although I liked Colt a lot, I found it difficult at first to relate to him and be sympathetic to what he was going through. I didn’t know Julia, I didn’t have a chance to learn about her and I really had no real knowledge or opinion of their relationship. It is because of this that for the first few chapters of the novel I was unable to sympathize at all with Colt or become emotionally involved with the story.
However, once I learned more about Julia from the snippets of her diary and Colt’s own memories, she began to grow on me. I was able to flesh out her character and become more attached to the idea of Colt and her and get a sense of their relationship. It made the novel all the more intriguing and powerful. It also made me want to go back and reread the beginning of the novel, because I felt as if I’d missed out on a lot of Colt’s trials.
The other unique thing about this story is the way in which it is told. It is not fast paced or filled with rising actions. It is a slower, more drawn out type of story. In a sense, it is like reading Colt’s journal, in addition to Julia’s. The way in which the story is told is perfect for this novel. It really gives a chance for Hubbard to get the emotions of the story across to the reader. It is heavy in Colt’s inner thoughts and his raw, unexplained feelings and emotions.
While this is a plus, it is also a bit of liability. Because of the way in which the story is told, it’s very hard to come in and out of. This isn’t the type of book that you can sneak a page or two of throughout the day and then put right back down again. Much like a person’s diary, you won’t get much out of it if you just read a few random entries sporadically. You really need to sit down and delve in, recognize their voice and invest yourself into their story. Once I was able to do that, I was truly able to enjoy The Secret Year.
That said here’s my suggestion: find a free weekend, pick up The Secret Year and read. Don’t stop, just plow right through. Once you get into the story you will want to know what happens next and you won’t want to put it down.