The Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen

>> Friday, March 20, 2015

TITLE: The Year We Fell Down
AUTHOR: Sarina Bowen

PAGES: 270
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: New Adult
SERIES: Followed by several related books

The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else. What now?

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.

Corey Callahan's life has always been all about ice hockey. When she was accepted at Harkness College, what she was looking forward to the most was not so much the university experience, but playing on the varsity ice hockey team. And then she had a serious accident on the ice which caused a spinal injury. So she had to start school as a wheelchair user instead of a star hockey player.

Her injury means that she can't live in the regular dorms (very old buildings, accessibility is problematic), so she gets given a room in the accessible section, where her neighbour is Adam Hartley. Hartley is living there only temporarily, while he recovers from a badly broken leg, and he's a star hockey player himself. The only difference is he will go back as soon as his leg heals, while Corey will never be able to play hockey again.

This could have become the root of conflict between them (and, to be honest, I initially assumed that it would), but it doesn't. Instead, Corey and Hartley bond. They become good friends, and Corey starts developing romantic feelings for him. Problem is, he has a girlfriend.

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I liked the characterisation of Corey (for some reason, I felt the name didn't fit her. Whenever I saw the name I was all... "who?". Didn't help that Hartley (who was totally not an Adam, either), always called her Callahan). Corey is not mopey and miserable. She obviously has had some trouble adjusting to the fact that there are some things she loved that she now can't do, and she's certainly sometimes annoyed and resentful about the changes, but she gets on with it. I liked that the way she was written emphasises what she can do (and does), rather than what she can't. Also, given that I've only seen characters in romance who are wheelchair users 100% of the time, I liked that her wheelchair use was more complex.

Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about the romance. I liked that they were friends first, before anything happened even though they did fancy each other from the beginning. But that's kind of related to what I didn't like, which was basically the whole thing about Hartley's girlfriend, Stacia. First of all, I was annoyed at how she's used as a foil to Corey. Look, Stacia is beautiful, rich and glamorous, but she's selfish and superficial (a 'monster', as she's described), while Corey is a complete contrast: genuine and good. That sort of thing annoys me.

I also found Hartley's relationship with Stacia horrible. He's not an asshole to her, which is good, but the way he treats her reminded me of an indulgent father with a spoilt child, which was really icky. There is an explanation very close to the end of why he's been in a relationship with her all these months, and that makes a very vague sort of sense, but I didn't buy that he wouldn't have just ended that relationship a lot sooner, given his feelings for Corey. Also, the explanation came too late, once I'd already been annoyed at him for the entire book and had lost a lot of respect for him.

I didn't hate this, but I didn't love it either, and it didn't put me off the author. Which is a good thing, because her Blonde Date, which I read a few weeks later, was lovely. I shall review that shortly!



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