The Year We Fell Apart – Emily Martin


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.


I am such a MESS right now. This book was agonizing but hopeful all throughout. I felt like I’ve been crying for a century.

This is a book about a girl named Harper finding herself. It’s about a boy named Declan, who is so sweet and so GOOD. He is too good for her, really. Harper does a lot of things wrong here, and it sometimes feels like she doesn’t experience the repercussions enough. She’s lucky that way.

My heart truly went out for Declan. He deserves so much MORE from everyone. That one part when their friends cryptically stood by Harper… I felt his confusion deep in my core. Someone, loop him in, PLEASE. Yes, he may have done some things wrong. But he also shared some hard truths, forgave a LOT, and went through a lot of terrible things all around.

I loved Cory, Gwen, and Mackenzie. Such a great group of people to have by your side. Seriously, I am their biggest fan. Thank goodness for photography class. Can Declan see that picture from their first assignment, please?

I don’t know how I feel about Sadie. She’s not an entirely bad person — in fact, I’d say she’s a pretty good friend in her own messed up way. I’m concerned for her. I don’t know how happy she is, but I kind of hope that she slows down for a moment and really thinks about what she really wants. This book was really good at giving most people redeeming qualities.

Except some of the guys. Seriously, how dare they? I know there’s a systemic issue that’s supposed to be spoken about here, but I find it really hard to believe that young men like that actually exist. And violence isn’t really good “payback,” either.

I felt like some things were left unfinished, and that’s okay. Harper’s mom is one of the coolest people around, and I want to see her speed through a recovery. I want to see Harper and Declan in college or something, finally together with a neat little bow over all their history. I want to see Cory, nerdy but perfectly happy with his girl. I want to see Gwen live happy ever after, across the state-lines. Even Harper’s brother… my goodness, I just want a happily ever after.

I think it only makes sense for the world to keep spinning, and for a lot of ends to not be perfectly tied up, though. I guess I’ll take things with where they ended up, even though I’m not sure Harper has done enough to make up for everything yet. You could say it wasn’t all her fault, but she still did make mistakes. I didn’t want to see her suffer, exactly. I just wanted to see more growth.

Related Reading

  • The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson
  • Last Year’s Mistake – Gina Ciocca
  • Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen
  • The Summer After You and Me – Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Rating: 5/5


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