From the BLURB:
The sport she loves is out of reach. And 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.
‘The Year We Fell Down’ is the first book in Sarina Bowen’s contemporary romance series … what some may call ‘New Adult’, because as the series title suggests, ‘Ivy Years’ takes place at Harkness College.
I’m an idiot. Adele (Persnickety Snark) recommended this book to me when it came out back in March this year. I bought it as an ebook, and did intend to read it … and then didn’t, until now. ‘The Year We Fell Down’ marks the tenth or so reading-rec from Persnickety that I’ve held off on reading, only to be proved foolish when I finally do get round to cracking it open … and, as I’m doing with Sarina Bowen’s book, adding it to my list of this year’s favourites.
Part of the reason I so loved this book is that it’s a refreshingly different romance – wherein our heroine Corey Callahan is attending College one year after suffering a back injury that sees her unable to walk unassisted. Corey gets around in a wheelchair, or with the aid of crutches and meets the hero Adam Hartley when they are assigned to the same disability-friendly housing and are across-the-way neighbours. Adam, ‘Hartley’ as he is known (and he in turn, calls her ‘Callahan’) is on the mend after breaking his leg in two places, the result of a drunken accident.
Callahan is instantly attracted to Hartley, not least because they both share a love of ice-hockey … Hartley is getting grief from his coach for the injury which has benched him for a season, and Callahan is still grieving for the sport she loves but can never play again. Callahan and Hartley bond over their aches and ailments, and playing video game versions of the sport they can’t currently play in real life.
But Hartley is off-limits as more than a friend for Callahan. For one, he has a girlfriend – sure, she’s currently on exchange overseas, but he’s clearly besotted as evidenced by their frequent phone-calls and his endearment of her as his “hottie”. Furthermore, Callahan can’t envision the good-looking, popular Hartley ever being interested in her … not as she is now;
“It’s …” I tried. “I was …”
He only held me tighter. “This was a mistake,” he whispered.
I shook my head. “No, it’s good,” I bit out. “It is. But before …” I shuddered. “It’s so hard … to accept.”
“I’m so sorry,” Hartley said, his own voice breaking. “I’m so damned sorry.”
“I was perfect,” I said. “And I didn’t even know.”
“No,” he whispered into my ear. “No, no. Perfect isn’t real.” I took a deep, shaky breath, and the feel of his strong arms around me began to feel steadying. “There’s no more perfect, Callahan. Now there’s only really damned good.”
Corey Callahan is the real standout in this book, and for more than just her being a point of difference in the romance genre as a heroine with a disability. She’s refreshing because she’s funny and a tomboy, loyal and down-the-line honest, and these are all the things that attract Hartley to her. Bowen writes their rapport beautifully, and rather than boring ‘love at first sight’ clichés, she writes their evolving friendship and attraction with real finesse.
Of course, Callahan having a disability also makes this a somewhat unique read. I appreciated that Bowen explored all aspects – from Callahan being frustrated by people’s sympathy, to her questioning her own sexuality in the wake of her injury and even simple things like her and Hartley having to gain access to the cafeteria via a service-elevator because accessibility is poor. This is a more interesting book because the heroine has a disability, to be sure, but I especially loved that this is still a romance, and Bowen crafts Callahan’s injury and history into the narrative. Callahan questions her own attractiveness against the able-bodied women Hartley is clearly attracted to, and she wonders how different her love life will be in the wake of her injury.
When the romance does start bubbling up, it is good. Partly thanks to Sarina Bowen beautifully teasing out their friendship first, when Hartley and Callahan do cement things it’s heated and glorious, but also honest and sweet.
‘The Year We Fell Down’ is going down as one of my favourite books of 2014, for sure. Books #2 and #3 in ‘The Ivy Years’ series are currently available, and I’m reading book #2 ‘The Year We Hid Away’ which features Hartley’s best friend and love-rat teammate, Bridger McCaulley … right now, only a small ways into the book, I don’t think it has anywhere near the same gravitas or panache as Hartley and Callahan’s romance. But I am excited for #3, ‘The Understatement of the Year’ which features a romance between two male students.