soup of the day: the secret year by jennifer r. hubbard

Ah, love, sweet love!

The perfect reason to serve up the first bowl of celebration soup for 2010!

It’s especially fitting for a first bowl to honor a first book, and even better, it was written by a Live Journal friend I had the pleasure of meeting last fall: the one and only Jennifer R. Hubbard! Today, her debut young adult novel, The Secret Year, officially hits the shelves!!


*wild cheering, swooning, licking of lips in anticipation*

By now you know how I feel about first books: only happens once in a writer’s lifetime — no matter how many books follow, there will always and only be just one first book — a sparkling, awe-inspiring, shiny bright moment in time that deserves to be honored, celebrated, shouted from the rooftops, and embraced by all who love to read, write, edit, publish, promote, and share books.
I can hardly wait to read The Secret Year because of its intriguing premise: two teenagers, Colt Morrissey and Julia Vernon, have been meeting secretly for an entire year. Why secret? Because Julia already has a boyfriend, and is from the rich Black Mountain crowd, while Colt lives in the poor Flats. When Julia dies in a car accident, Colt cannot grieve openly, feels guilty that he might have indirectly contributed to her death, and only discovers the true extent of Julia’s feelings when her brother gives Colt her private journal, full of poems and unsent letters.

photo by kaitikins.

The publisher has described the novel as having shades of Romeo and Juliet mixed with The Outsiders. So, added to the themes of obsessive love, guilt, and grief is the issue of class distinctions and societal pressures (one of the subplots involves Colt’s gay brother coming out). While working through his grief, Colt even finds himself falling in love again. Publisher’s Weekly notes that the smooth pacing and well-developed characters are what really elevate the book, and Booklist calls The Secret Year, "a fine addition to the pantheon of YA literature."

         photo by

I like that the book is told from Colt’s point of view; it’s always interesting to me to see how well writers capture voices of the opposite sex. Several teen reviewers who were initially skeptical about male-point-of-view stories were pleasantly surprised at much they enjoyed getting into Colt’s deepest thoughts and feelings. They liked how emotionally true the characters were, and how deftly Jennifer wove together numerous plot threads in the space of a relatively short novel. Because I also enjoy epistolary elements when they are seemlessly integrated into the narrative, I’m really looking forward to reading devouring this book.

Those of you who know Jenn personally, who read her blog, or who interact with her online, probably know that she likes to hike and enjoys solitary walks where she can refresh, rejuvenate, and tune in to her creative center. Today’s soup reflects her love of the outdoors — as sweet as wildflowers on a hillside, as pungent as the earth underfoot, as exhilirating as the rush of a waterfall. Feel free to sip politely from the rim, or dive straight in and do a few backstrokes. Just make sure to join me in jubilantly congratulating Jenn on her stunning achievement!

Today’s Special: Wildflower Melange (a secret recipe for falling in love all year long).

Well, of course one can’t live on soup alone. There must always be dessert. After looking at that dark, mysterious red and black cover, and taking into account Jenn’s love for chocolate (hello!), I channeled Black Forest Cake. Dark chocolate is the decadent secret, cherries, the epitome of deep passion, and the whipped cream — well, it’s good, old fashioned lust. Go on, lick your screen:
               photo by Kaitlin F.

Okay, you know the drill. Sashay on down to your nearest indie, or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of The Secret Year. If you purchase it in a brick and mortar store, don’t forget to wink at the salesclerk, now that you’re officially in on the secret. Don’t be surprised if he/she asks to send you a love letter. A spontaneous kiss might also be in order. Okay, I’m done.

                                       ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

More Jenn:

Visit her official website and excellent writing blog on Live Journal, writerjenn. Jenn also posts monthly about books and writing at AuthorsNow.

Read an interesting post about how Jenn connected with her agent, Nathan Bransford, here.

There’s also a nice guest post by Jenn on the topic of "exploring and reading" here.


Joelle Anthony
The Insanity of Writerhood
Heidi R. Kling

Blog Reviews:

Tales of the Ravenous Reader
The Book Scout
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf
YA Book Queen
BAM Book Reviews

**There’s still time to enter Jenn’s Online Launch Party Giveaway. Just leave a comment at this post before 7 p.m. (EST) today (Jan. 7th), for a chance to win a special Secret Year prize pack. Jenn is also donating $.50 for every comment she receives to her local libraries!

***You can meet Jenn at her Official Launch Party, to be held at Children’s Book World, Haverford, Pennsylvania, on January 30, 2010, 2-4 p.m. If you can’t make it, call in and order a signed book!

THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard
published by Viking Juvenile, 2010.
Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, 208 pp.

More Soup of the Day posts here.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “soup of the day: the secret year by jennifer r. hubbard

  1. Lordy me, this entry is hawt!
    *fans self*
    Black forest cake and a love-infused novel…it’s hard to imagine a more delicious way to begin the day!
    Congratulations, Jenn! I wish you joy and success.


  2. I am so bowled over to have my very own alphabet soup (with Black Forest cake for dessert!).
    Way to make a writer speechless with gratitude, Jama.


  3. I don’t need to run to the store – *assumes outrageous French accent, a la Monty Python* “I’ve already got one!”
    And I’ll be getting another copy at Jenn’s book launch party on January 30th. What a perfect post for today!


  4. Great book
    Wow, this looks like an amazing read! And I totally love your description of an author’s first book – I am a romantic when it comes to first kisses, and I can’t believe I didn’t see the analogy to the first book. Now I will never forget that notion as I celebrate other first books. Thanks!


Comments are closed.