Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Year We Fell Down and The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen

  • Release Date: March 24th 2014
  • Series: The Ivy Years #1
  • Genre: New Adult
  • Pages: 268
  • Publisher: Rennie Road Books (self-published)

  • Release Date: June 1st, 2014
  • Series: The Ivy Years
  • Genre: New Adult
  • Pages: 274
  • Publisher: Rennie Road Books (self-published)

The two types of books I've struggled the most with are self-published titles and New Adult . I've read a couple of each and the ones I actually reviewed I couldn't give more than two stars. I'd kind of given up hope, but somehow Sarina Bowen made it work for me.

This is a three book series and I'm reviewing the first two together because they are more interconnected than the third. This series takes place at Harkness College, an ivy league college in Connecticut  that represents  a new start for two female hockey players; Corey Callahan in The Year We Fell Down whose career ending injury left her in a wheelchair and Shannon Ellison in The Year We Hid Away, who changes her name to Scarlet Crowley to escape association with her pedophile father.

The heroes in these two are Adam Hartley and Bridger McCaulley,  who are best friends and play on the Harkness hockey team together. They both struggle with being lower income scholarship students in a school where most people come from money.  The romance in these novels is  slow burning friends-to-lovers kind that feels so realistic.

In the The Year We Fell Down Hartley and Corey are both  stuck in the same disabled dorm;   Corey because she's in a wheelchair and Hartley because  he has a cast up to his thigh. Hartley is kind of bro-y at first but he gets some development later in this book.  It was fun to watch them work together to navigate their disabilities at a college that has so many old buildings with no elevators. Bowen also didn't shy away from some of the less than glamorous parts of being in a wheelchair like bedsores and catheters.

While I liked The Year We Fell Down, I think book two The Year We Hid Away is the better book. There is a much more developed tension because of the self-imposed  pressures Bridger and Scarlet put on themselves to keep secrets. Bridger is secretly keeping his little sister in his dorm room because his mother is a drug addict and Scarlet is keeping her real identity a secret to  disassociate herself with her father, a well known college hockey coach who has been charged with sexual abusing young boys from his foundation. Although I kind of had a hard time believing no one knew who she was,  considering they are all into hockey and the story had been all over the news.

I can only take but so much angst and I'm glad these books didn't just marinate in the angst. The characters are living with their situations instead brooding over them and using them as an excuse to isolate themselves. There is none of that 'stay away from me, I'm dangerous' stuff.

I'm a little sad there isn't much hockey playing in this book, I think it would have been refreshing to see some intense female hockey players. But, Corey is injured (although she does play some mean Water Polo) and Scarlet gives up hockey to go along with her new identity.There is more hocket in the third book, The Understatement of The Year but that one doesn't feature a female lead.

I do have some nitpicks about the writing. The scenes move at such a whiplash pace that  they almost don't connect and the writing could use some editing and some of it was clunky. In the first book I had a really difficult time telling the POVs apart.  Also, both books use the same  Deux ex Machina to resolve any loose ends of the HEA.

I see that  Bowen has an e-book out with Harlequin and I think those will be great, especially with the Harlequin editorial eyes.

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