The Year We Fell Apart, Emily Martin’s young adult novel, features Harper, a girl who can’t seem to stop making mistakes. They range from drinking and losing control, to being unaccountably loyal to Sadie, her “best” friend, a shallow and self-absorbed party girl who treats Harper badly, to breaking up with Declan, her long time best friend and briefly her boyfriend. When the story begins, Harper’s mom has just been diagnosed with cancer, and Declan is back for the summer from boarding school. Seeing him again is painful for Harper, who is still in love with him but doesn’t know how to repair the rift between them.
Harper is a problematic protagonist – she comes off as emotionally fragile and weak, and seems to have more problems than just the one with Declan. The story revolves around the potential rekindling of their romance, but doesn’t really succeed as a romance, since we don’t get to see much of why Harper and Declan should be together. Harper’s other problems really subsume the romance but are never dealt with in the way that an issues novel would. This book succeeds primarily as a character portrait of a girl who is overwhelmed by the seesaw of her emotions, and Martin is really able to evoke the being-on-tenterhooks feeling of teenage love.