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The Secret Year Hardcover – January 7, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile; 1 edition (January 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670011533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670011537
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,682,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For a year, 16-year-old working-class boy Colton Morrissey met rich girl Julia Vernon, his schoolmate and girlfriend of a member of the local gentry, on a regular and frequent basis. No one knew of their romance until the night Julia was killed in a car accident (in which Colt was uninvolved). Hubbard sensitively shows the year before the accident and the year following—as Colt comes to terms both with Julia’s death and the need to share the secret of their romance. Julia is revivified through a diary she kept and which her brother gives to Colt. His friends, including would-be lovers and guys who can’t see past class lines, and parents are fully human; his mostly offstage older brother joins the action long enough to help Colt understand why the worst secrets are those we keep from ourselves. With this debut novel, Hubbard has crafted a fine addition to the pantheon of YA literature. Grades 9-12. --Francisca Goldsmith


"With this debut novel, Hubbard has crafted a fine addition to the pantheon of YA literature." -Booklist

"A+satisfying tale." -School Library Journal

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Jennifer R. Hubbard lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a hiker, a chocolate lover, and a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines. Her published books include these contemporary young-adult novels published by Viking/Penguin:

THE SECRET YEAR: After his secret girlfriend's death, Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE: After his suicide attempt, Ryan struggles with guilty secrets and befriends a girl who's visiting psychics to try to reach her dead father.

UNTIL IT HURTS TO STOP: Just when Maggie starts believing she can outgrow her history as the local outcast, the girl who once bullied her returns to town.

You can visit Jennifer's website at or follow her on Twitter @JennRHubbard.

Customer Reviews

The story is told from Colt's point of view with snippets from Julia's journal entries.
Melanie McCullough
I give this book 5 stars for the strong characters, the very real teenage boy voice of Colt, the plot and how well the emotions came through the pages.
I like that even though Julia is dead from the very beginning, I still got a sneak peek at her side of things.
Brianna (The Book Vixen)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By The Compulsive Reader VINE VOICE on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For a year, Colt met Julia Vernon every week by the bridge near his house. Their relationship was kept secret; Julia was the most popular girl in school, and one of the richest, and Colt is no one to the rest of the rich, popular crowd on Black Mountain. But right before Colt's junior year begins, Julia is killed in a car accident, and Colt is left alone with the knowledge of what he and Julia shared. Then her brother gives Colt a journal of letters Julia wrote to him, and by working his way through Julia's documentation of the previous year, Colt struggles to confront his feelings for the girl who was never really his and attempt to keep living his life.

Colt is a very personable and convincing character. His memories and narration are very vivid, yet never appear out of character. The pain and emotion he feels are palpable, but not overwhelming, and The Secret Year strikes just the right balance between the grief, thought, and memories Colt experiences and the mundane aspects of everyday life. Colt's ever-evolving and confusing feelings are very well played out, and they are almost suspenseful in that it is hard to predict what Colt will do next, or what exactly he is feeling, until he experiences the moment for himself.

Colt isn't the only well-written character--the entire cast of supporting characters, from Colt's circle of friends and his good friend Syd to his family (his brother Tom is especially interesting and entertaining) to Julia, who is always alive through memories and her journal, are all multi faceted and intriguing. They all help the reader understand the world that is Black Mountain and the flats and the vast differences between the two.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By princess bookie on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Taken From [...]

My Thoughts: Wow. This is my kind of book, right up my alley. I have been wanting to read this one since it was titled Black Mountain Road (I believe that was it). The first time I read the summary I knew I had to read it! We meet Colt who is lower class than Julia. Julia is from Black Mountain Road aka rich people territory. Colt and Julia start to have a secret relationship, meeting every week for talking,making out, etc. Than all of a sudden Julia dies and Colt is left in the aftershock of her death and he can't tell anyone he even knew her since they had the secret relationship. How does one even cope when they can't share their grief with anyone? We meet all their side friends and each one has his/her own story and way they relate to this book. I also loved the journal entries/letters to Colt that Julia had wrote in her diary. This book is intense. At times, I really felt for Colt and other times I hated Julia because she couldn't dump her boyfriend and be seen with Colt out in public.I've heard good and bad reviews on this one, so your either going to love it like me or hate it like others.

Overall: I loved it. I will be reading anything else Jennifer writes. I adored Colt from the beginning. I just felt like I was inside his head from the very first page. Adored this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SuzieQ on October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
****Spoiler Alert***

When I first read a summary for this book, I thought it was going to be like Romeo and Juliet with a modern twist. It had the makings of a really good story. Two thirds into the book, it seems like the issues were resolved and Colt could finally move on. Then a fight breaks out and in the next chapter everything was back to the way it was. Colt is now rereading Julia's notebook and his new girlfriend accuses him of being hung up on a dead girl. Then out of nowhere he decides to visit his brother in college, and reveals something that should have been revealed halfway through the book. Nothing is resolved. The fight really didn't have much place in the book. I get it... Rich kids vs poor kids... But it seemed planted in the middle of the book in an attempt to make the story just a little longer. It didn't mesh with the rest of the story. I felt the story was resolved two thirds of the way into the book. Publisher must have told her to make it longer, so author added fight scene and then retold the chapter before the fight scene. I think the fight scene would have made more sense if it had happened earlier or if there had been more build up. Occasionally Colt makes reference to the event with Syd on Black Mountain. But even that seems like it was added to reference the fight later.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By small review on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Colt and Julia's year-long relationship was made up entirely of secret late night trysts, until it was cut short by tragedy. While Colt was at his home in the poor side of town, Julia was attending a party with her upscale friends when she drunkenly got into a car that was later involved in an accident that took her life. Stunned by Julia's death, Colt relives their relationship through letters Julia wrote to him but that he never received until after her death. Colt struggles over his feelings for Julia, her death, and how he should grieve for her and move on when no one in his life even realizes he is mourning.

The Secret Year is a short book, but it packs a powerful punch. Grief takes center stage, and while there are a number of other events mentioned, all of them are experienced through Colt's mourning. What I found interesting to note is that Colt and Julia were not deeply in love. This, even more than the secrecy of their relationship, is what I think makes this book stand out. A number of times, Colt and those around him objectively observe that he should move on because their relationship wasn't that strong, yet he can't. While guilt plays a part, I found their relationship and Colt's feelings especially interesting to explore because they highlight how even surface-level relationships can affect us deeply when they are severed by death.

Where the book fell short for me is in the characters. We get to know Julia a little through her (surprisingly few) letters and Colt's memories, but I found it very difficult to connect with her. She came across as very shallow and selfish with little to recommend her.
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