Wednesday, May 15, 2019

TBR Challenge: Sarina Bowen - The Year We Fell Down

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.
Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.
Also, he’s taken.
Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.
They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.
But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.

Comment: Time does fly and it's time for another monthly TBR Challenge post. For May the theme chosen is Backlist Glom, meaning something by an author with more than one book in your TBR. I could have certainly have chosen countless authors, that's a given because like many of you there is a lot I haven't yet read and in some author's case I have series to go through.
I picked Sarina Bowen because I've counted 5 books by her in the pile and I thought contemporary would be a good choice since I like to alternate the genre of the books I read so I don't get stuck with one specific genre for long.

In this first book of the Ivy Years series, the author has gone on an interesting journey with a couple not often seen in romance: the girl is in a wheelchair and he has to wear crutches.
Corey is about to start college but she imagined she would be a hockey player and not a wheelchair user. An accident has made her injured and although she can eventually get the use of her legs again, she won't be able to play the game anymore. However, she had the goal to attend the same university as her older brother and she won't let her handicap stop her.
Adam Hartley is a hockey player but he has a broken leg and is recovering by having the use of the handicapped room in front of Corey's. The two connect over the difficulties of managing the campus when everyone else rushes and climbs stairs so easily. 
The two seem to get along perfectly but Hartley has a girlfriend and Corey wouldn't want to have others take pity on her. Still, they do spend a lot of time together and some things can be inevitable.

We are told things alternately between Corey and Hartley's POVs. I'm actually glad this is so because so often in the new adult genre the girl has the most attention and what a loss that can be for the reader if the narrator isn't likable.
This is not the first book I read by this author so I kind of expected the writing to be a certain way. Overall, I liked reading this but it does make me think sometimes how really mature these characters can be. They are in the age gap between 18-25 (that's new adult for me at least) and probably what makes this author a good one is that the characters act this age but in a thoughtful manner. They aren't just silly people doing nothing, they do act somewhat maturely for the life experiences they are supposed to have lived.

The plot isn't complicated. Basically we follow what happens between Corey and Hartley as they get to know each other and we see the characters surrounding them interact as well.
Seen like this, there wouldn't be a lot to be interested in, i suppose, butt he magic is on the details, on how we get to follow each character in their daily routines, in how we follow their thoughts as well and they aren't too perfect nor too unlikely to be real. 
I liked the often over exposition of contrary details, which I imagine are there to give depth to the characters' personalities: the almost perfection of their looks (both are obviously good looking, if not the most gorgeous ever) vs the self doubt in some aspects of their lives, namely if they are going to do what they aim for.

What probably makes me cringe a little is the intimacy side. It is positive that the author has chosen to add some sexual tension to their interactions but I can't help thinking it was so... obvious. 
I mean, of course the reader would expect that outcome, this is a romance after all, but Corey and Hartley themselves think about each other like that, even before acting on it. I'm not saying it's a bad detail, in fact it's quite normal to be attracted to someone else from the start and the emotion comes more slowly. I just think it's so repetitive to keep having scenes in which they (Corey more often) think about the other person for so long, with such determination and focus, with so much time being occupied with those thoughts. I can understand the point is to let the reader be aware of where things are but it sure can be a little annoying to have that so often. I already got the idea, no need to say/think/inner monologue that again!

This means that the cute part of the story (the setting and actions done by the characters) seems to always be placed in second stage behind the sexual aspects. Even in a romance that can be annoying because often the sex thoughts wouldn't really move the plot forward. The more innocent stuff, on the other hand, could show empathy and connection between two people. I'd say more little clues on sexual tension seen in the page would have been better than plain on thinking on it.

The physical limitations the characters face weren't as seriously developed as I imagined. The premise they had obstacles was a good one but the truth is that they do solve those issues later on, or get on that path. They don't have a permanent handicap, and that changes things too, it makes them easier too, of course.
I liked the relationships they had with their parents.
I liked the feel of college living with some details here and there, especially in interacting with some secondary characters.

Overall, I think this was an enjoyable read, the idea is a great one but the NA label and the public target certainly influenced the reason why some scenes were used and why some details felt like they were too easily solved or mentioned. I suppose it wouldn't be believable new adults would forge stronger or steadier relationships emotionally so quickly and at such a young age but in romance they always seem to be able to.
I do plan on reading the other books, to see where this is going.
Grade: 7/10

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