The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years, #2)

The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years, #2)

author: Sarina Bowen
name: Crazy. Something. Maybe.
average rating: 4.31
book published: 2014
rating: 3
read at: 2014/05/29
date added: 2014/05/29
shelves: best-book-boyfriends, college, contemporary, drugs-obviously, families, fiction, insta-love, insta-sex, new-adult, predatory-creep, romance, sports, virgin-trope-alert
I really like this author. I like the way she writes relationships. She has a way of writing that makes her characters seem real. She writes as if she’s spent a lot of time rolling them around in her head to the point where she knows them backwards and forwards. Reading her novels always kind of seems to me like I’m reading about someone’s very good friends. There’s a warmness and familiarity that emanates off of the pages.

Her characters always seem to handle their issues rationally. There isn’t any inexplicable conflict (that could have easily been solved by any rational human) where you’re beating your head against the book wanting to reach into it and strangle the characters because real people don’t act like they do. It happens too often in other books where a character does something less than stellar (and for good reason) and the other characters make it about them and the relationship self-destructs. The central characters in Bowen’s books always behave like breathing humans would. They are empathetic to the needs of others and do their best to resolve problems and forgive. It’s incredibly refreshing to read.

That being said, this book does not compare to its predecessor The Year We Fell Down. Everything about The Year We Fell Down was more organic. The story pushed forward at a steady pace with plenty of time for the reader to get to know the protagonists (and the secondary characters) before the main story arcs occurred. Unfortunately, in every area that The Year We Fell Down was strong, The Year We Hid Away is weak. It lacks the well-developed supporting characters of the first book in the series (Andrew, Bridger, Fairbanks, Corey’s roommate, etc.). The Year We Hid Away has none- save for Lucy. It seems like Bowen attempts to set up Andrew as the next protagonist of the Ivy Years, but doesn’t give the reader enough time with him. Yeah, he seems like an OK guy, but I’m not invested in his story.

The Year We Fell Down was an interesting idea- Crappy things, beyond anyone’s control, happening to good people. I was invested. I wanted their incredible friendship to turn into something more. I wanted them to overcome the bad hand life had dealt them. The Year We Hid Away was just DARK. The conflict in this novel was just so hideous and despicable on Scarlet’s side that it was almost out of place and comical. It didn’t seem to fit with the story. I felt like Bowen could have created enough conflict with just Bridger’s unfortunate (and out of his control) situation. And if she did feel the need to give Scarlet such a HORRIBLY DARK back story, then she could have done it a little more believably/subtly. Every “bad guy” in the novel reminded me of some version of a Disney villain. I was picturing Azzan as Jafar from Aladdin and Scarlet’s mom as the step-mother from Cinderella. It was cheesy and unrealistic. I expected more from Bowen based on her work in The Year We Fell Down.

I also wish we would been able to see Scarlet and Bridger’s relationship develop more. It seemed like we only got to know them through the lens of their issues. I wanted to see them do normal things. I wanted to get to know them as people and as a couple, but everything hinged so heavily on the drama unfolding that it never occurred. I’m left not feeling like I know the character’s as well as Bowen does. I know how they handle difficult obstacles, I know how they support each other during tough times, and I know that they’re resilient, but I feel like I’m missing pieces of who they are. I got more in The Year We Fell Down in that regard. I wanted the same thing here.

HOWEVER, like I said in the beginning, Bowen has the ability to write extremely relate-able MCs and though this book was a little more heavy on the tropes (insta-love/attraction, insta-sex, etc.) I couldn’t help but fall in love with Bridger, Scarlett, and Lucy and their relationships with each other. Lucy is adorable and wise beyond her years. Bridger is a great boyfriend, person, and brother. Scarlet is a great person and wants to do what’s best for everyone. These characters and the way they were written and developed is what saved the story for me. Without Bowen’s signature character building, I may not have finished this story. So I give it a very hesitant 3 stars (2.5, but I’m rounding up because I have a soft spot for this author). I was expecting a lot more and am extremely disappointed that the novel fell so far from the first book in the Ivy Years series, but I did enjoy reading it.

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