The Year We Fell Down – Review

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Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

“This looks promising,” my mother said, eyeing the dormitory’s ivy-covered facade. I could hear the anticipation in her voice. “Try your key card, Corey.”

It was move-in day at Harkness College, and parents of the new frosh were oohing and ahhing all around campus.

 

The Plot

 

Corey Callahan was a hockey player. Past tense. She loved playing hockey and expected to do so in college as well. But a serious accident means she is moving into her accessible dorm room in a wheelchair instead.

There, she meets Adam Hartley, a hot hockey player with an broken leg and a girlfriend. They bond, but Corey is all too aware that he is in a relationship and that she needs to find herself anew, not as the hockey player and not as the girl pining for Hartley.

 

The Good

 

I loved Corey. She is an amazing character. She is independent and knows exactly what she wants and what’s good for her. She is not afraid to call people out and draw lines to protect herself.

Corey is struggling with the fact that she can’t properly walk anymore and that she will never be able to play hockey again. I thought her struggle was portrayed beautifully. It’s the right mixture of being hurt about what happened and being determined to fight to make a new life for herself.

 

I wanted the independence, I wanted a change in scenery and I really wanted to get the taste of last year out of my mouth.

 

I loved the fact that in The Year We Fell Down we get a heroine with a disability. There’s way too few of them out there. The book does a wonderful job of including the challenges Corey faces. It includes the things people will usually think about when thinking about someone in a wheelchair: stairs, cobblestones and similar obstacles. But what I thought was great was that included other things as well: her having to use catheters to empty her bladder completely, her struggling with not knowing whether she will feel anything during sex or not. It’s stuff like that that doesn’t get mentioned much and I felt like I really learned something about spinal cord injuries and gained some perspective. And I love it when books do that, when they open my eyes to different aspects of the world.

 

Each morning and evening, I was supposed to use a catheter to fully empty my bladder. But I hadn’t brought catheters to Hartley’s house, because I didn’t want anyone to see them.

 

The best thing about Corey was her emotional strength. I loved that she knew exactly what she wanted and what was good for her. She wants to be independent and she fights for it. She goes off to college despite her parents asking her to stay. She finds a new sport. She does things and doesn’t just let things happen to her.

Corey is not afraid to call people out on their bullshit. She is empathetic. She voices her opinion.

And, above all, she is able to draw the line and do what is healthy for her, whether it hurts or not. When she realizes she can’t just be friends with Hartley because she feels more for him, she does something about him. She cuts back on her time with her. She searches for new hobbies and new people to spend time with. Despite her wanting and missing Hartley, she knows it is healthier for her if she doesn’t see him for a while. And she tells him so.

 

The air seemed to thicken between us, and his gaze locked on mine as if we were the only people in the world.

The trouble was, we weren’t.

Whatever activity Hartley had planned, I knew it wouldn’t be good for my heartache. Just the two of us, he’d promised. But that was only an illusion, wasn’t it?

Slowly, I withdrew my hand. I shook my head, and the moment was broken.

 

Hartley was another character I really liked. I was so relieved to find a likeable love interest who is not an asshole or an alpha-douchebag. Sure, he is a bit of an idiot sometimes. Him being with Stacia despite not liking her annoyed me to no end.

 

“Just in time for your girlfriend to leave the country,” Fairfax snickered. ” Where is she, anyway?”

Hartley’s voice answered. “The mall? A salon? Somewhere expensive. Whatever. Who wants a beer before she gets back?”

 

But he is also funny and caring and nice. He immediately stops when Corey tells him to. He accepts her opinion. It is sad how rare it is in this genre. I was singing hallelujah when I read about that.

 

“Whoa,” I said. “Not so fast.” I rolled onto my side, moving away from him.

He dropped his hands immediately.

 

I think the strength of this book lies in its characters. The main characters are amazing but I also really liked the secondary characters. They could have been fleshed out a bit more, especially Dana, who was the best friend but didn’t have much more to her throughout the book.

 

I also really liked the way parents are portrayed. Corey’s parents are perfectly captured. They are loving and caring and over-bearing and reminded me so much of real-life parents.

 

“Very cheery,” my mother said approvingly. My mom had always liked the cheery look. But after the year we’d just had, she clung to cheery like a life raft.

 

In general, the novel was very uplifting and full of love. The love between Corey and Hartley, the love between friends, the love between parents and children. I really liked that. And I liked that we have a cast of characters who, overall, behave responsibly and not like ginormous idiots. Sure, they drank and partied but there was none of the assholiness you so often find in books. There was no bullying. There was no sexual assault. It was just so refreshing to read about normal people behaving normally.

 

The Bad

 

I hated the hope fairy. Someone please shoot the hope fairy.

The hope fairy is the – you guess it – personification of Corey’s hopes in the form of a tiny feathered fairy. The first time I read about her it was odd, but still okay. But she kept appearing and it got worse and worse! Everytime I had to read about the hope fairy it completely threw me out of the story. I wanted to strangle that thing. It was incredibly annoying.

 

My hope fairy reappeared, wearing black lace lingerie, and a pout on her face. Don’t panic now, she insisted. This was just getting good.

 

 

I also really didn’t like the portrayal of Stacia, Hartley’s girlfriend and all-out cliché bitchy rich girl. In a book where the characters usually were more that just flat clichés, she was a huge disappointment.

 

Stacia sat down, but didn’t bother to conceal her irritation. She stabbed at her phone while I took my time with my cookies and milk. Corey had gone quiet, but that was okay, because Stacia was always ready to fill dead air with another of her first-world problems.

 

There was nothing more to her character than her being a rich bitch. And there really, really should have been.

A hint of more to her character only shimmers through towards the end, where she is nice to Corey and lends Hartley her car keys. But there was nothing before that even hinted at there being anything nice about her. Without that prework her niceness was way too sudden. It was a 180 degree turn out of nowhere.

 

Where the book fell flat for me was in the plot. I think the events could have been arranged differently to keep some momentum going and a bit of drama until the end. Instead, everything came together too smoothly. Towards the end nothing much happened anymore, it was just happy and fluffy and that’s not enough to make it enjoyable until the end. There is nothing left unresolved at about 3/4 through the book and the last quarter drags.

 

The Conclusion

An all-out enjoyable read with sweet and caring characters. I will definitely look at the other books in the series.

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