Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years #2) by Sarina Bowen Review

Hey readers! Ethan here again on this Wednesday night with another review for you guys. This novel was really special to me so I am excited to share my thoughts. What am I raving about this time? The Year We Hid Away, the second novel in Sarina Bowen's The Ivy Years series. Before we get to my thoughts, here's a bit about the novel and our author:

She’s hiding something big. He’s hiding someone small.

Scarlet Crowley’s life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.

It’s a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet’s fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID — with a newly minted name on it — she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she’s falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won’t work anymore. And if they can’t learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they’ve struggled to keep.

Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty contemporary romance from Vermont's Green Mountains. (Her ancestors began logging and farming Vermont during the 18th century. These were rugged, outdoor types without benefit of a laptop or a good latte. It boggles the mind.)

Sarina enjoys skiing, skating and good food. She lives in Windsor County, Vermont, with her family, eight chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.


My Thoughts:

Every so often we come across a book that really resonates with us. A novel that we devour from cover to cover. Cherishing each page, even though it completely breaks your heart. A novel that shoves a mirror in front of your face and makes you reflect on every choice you've made in life and wonder if you've made worthwhile decisions. A novel to make you laugh. A novel to make you cry. A novel to change your life. That novel was The Year We Hid Away

It is not lightly that I type this next sentence. Tying with Chelsea Fine's Best Kind of Broken, this is now my all time favorite New Adult Contemporary novel. Yes readers, you've read that right. All-time favorite. If that alone doesn't make you want to devour this read, I don't know what else I can saythat will.

I'll be honest, I have been extremely hesitant to put my thoughts to paper for this novel. I don't even have the words in my head to say how much it meant to me. I can honestly say that I've never in 23 years been touched by a book the way this one touched me. 

This was, by no means, an easy read for me. A lot of the aspects of the storyline hit a little too close to home for me and that really made all the difference. I won't go into specifics here, but this book was really a much needed wake up call for me and I can say that I'm a much better person for having read it.

The Year We Hid Away is unique in the sense that it shares not just one, but two very full stories. Each of our main characters, both Bridger and Scarlet have extremely emotional, and very full stories that are told in interweaving fashion. While their situations couldn't have been more different, their love for one another proved to be the link to each of their problems. 

Scarlet Crowley has probably drawn the roughest hand imaginable. Thrust into the throes of scandal and tragedy, 'Shannon' has no choice but to change her life by assuming a new identity. Leaving behind the life she's know in an effort to start anew. A new college, new friends, a new life. I can't personally say that I know anyone who has undergone the hardships that Scarlet has. Dealing with tragedy is a very hard thing, but it's even worse when your family is on the line. Scarlet makes some very difficult decisions throughout the novel and really has to come to terms with both the truth and who she is in order to come to terms with her situation. It was extremely hard for me to read, but Bowen write the entire uncomfortable situation with such grace and tact that I was able to enjoy every word. I appreciate Scarlet's character so much more after reading the hardships she faced.

Bridger on the other hand probably ended up being my favorite male character in NA history. I'm usually one of the biggest nay-sayers for the male characters in an NA series. They're often one-sided, egotistical to a fault, and really just thrive off the bad boy lifestyle, never assuming responsibility or stepping up and 'being a man'. Bridger McCaulley was that and so much more. Bridger doesn't have it easy, growing up poor and caring for his family, he knows that getting a college education is the most important thing he can do to help his family. On top of juggling hockey, work, school, and the typical problems a college student faces, Bridger also assumes the parental responsibilities of his younger sister, Lucy. This hit me hard. As the oldest of three children, I know how important family can be. Every word of Bridger's story was a knife in my gut. I am not an emotional reader folks, and this story broke me. I speak more time wiping my eyes than turning the pages. I caught the feels. I caught them hard.

The secondary characters were also incredible in helping this story move along. Lucy, Bridger's little sister, really stole the show on several occasions and I am so glad that Bowen gave her time to shine. Scarlet's room mates were great, as well as her uncle, who plays a great role in the stories finale. One of the greatest things about this series is that you never know who is going to pop back in for a cameo, or maybe even their own novel down the road. It's a fantastic way to read a series. This novel also features a few key scenes with Corey and Hartley from book one, The Year We Fell Down where readers get a chance to check in on one of my favorite book couples. It was great!

The character development between Bridger and Scarlet was written to near-perfection. Their intertwining storylines create one of the most intricate webs I have seen in a New Adult novel. Let this be shown as a true testament to the talent of Sarina Bowen to craft such a powerful and uplifting story full of depth and emotion, without sacrificing character development in order to succeed. Their love was beyond real to me. They not only accepted each and every fault of the others, they also worked together in the most important of way to help the other succeed.

Every time you think the story is done bringing the feels and the jaw dropping, Bowen drops another bombshell. You would be able to pick your jaw up off the floor until the very last page. And by then you will be crying so hard you'll need a new paperback copy where the ink isn't ruined (note: I read a digital version haha). 

Can I just say that I wish I had gone to Harkness College? What a fun place to be? The classical architecture, the house divisions, the amount of school spirit and campus pride? Yeah. I can definitely get behind that. I said this earlier, but I believe that Sarina Bowen has written the perfect college setting within Harkness. It's so awesome! I really got the feel that I, too, was attending classes next to these characters! Talk about reader immersion!

When it comes to the themes of this novel, Bowen really shined. Assuming responsibility, taking charge of your destiny, selflessness, maturing, and family are huge themes displayed in this novel. I can't even begin to write about each of them without making this post five pages long, but I can honestly say that Bowen couldn't have done a better job writing this novel if she tried. This is not a single thing I would change about it. 

As you guys can all clearly see, this was definitely the novel for me. It renewed my faith in the New Adult genre and I cannot wait to see what happens next. The world needs more authors like Sarina Bowen. Authors who aren't afraid to write the trust about being a New Adult. Authors who understand that college isn't all about fun. It's a stressful time fueled heartache and confusion. Balancing work, school, and any inkling of a social life isn't easy, and Bowen clearly knows that. It's so refreshing to see an author correctly portray the NA lifestyle!

When it comes to rating this novel, a five stars just does not give it justice. I'll just be completely honest. If I had the option to give it a higher score, I certainly would. It isn't often that we get the opportunity to review the novels that have changed our lives and I am so honored to say that I have gotten to here. Here's to you Sarina Bowen, you've written a literary masterpiece that will forever hold a special place in my bookish heart. 

It is with no hesitation and great honor that I am granting The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen a perfect 5-star review. I am not kidding when I say this one is a new all-time favorite of mine. If you've never taken a recommendation from me before, start now and check this one out. I promise you that you will not regret it!

Check out my five star review of 
The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) 
by clicking the cover below!

Alright readers, that is all I have for you on the topic of The Year We Hid Away. As you can clearly see, I had a lot of thoughts on this read and I honestly could just keep on typing. I'm being completely serious when I say I've never been touched by a book the way I was touched by this one. What an incredible feeling. I urge you friends, get yourself a copy of this novel. This entire series is fantastic and I cannot say enough great things! Be on the lookout for my thoughts on the next novel, Blonde Date, soon! What was the last novel that touched you? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Happy Reading!



  1. I really loved The Year We Fell Down. I'll have to check this one out for sure.

    1. It's got my seal of approval, for sure! I almost couldn't even write this review without catching all the feels. Oh man it was rough!