The suggested topic of secrecy fits very well with The Secret Year—which is, after all, about the consequences of a secret relationship. And as it turns out, the main characters in this book are not the only ones with secret plans, secret desires, secret jealousies.
In the reader guide for The Secret Year, I ask readers to think about these questions:
Why do you think a secret relationship was so appealing to Colt and Julia?
Is this a love story? Why or why not?
Nothing is simple, and as the surviving half of a secret relationship ended by death, Colt is forced to confront his deceptions and, most of all, his self-deceptions. It’s a source of endless fascination to me that people are capable of self-deception, that we are able to fool ourselves.
It’s also fertile ground for literature. What stories can do is explore the questions we have about ourselves, about the depths of our own minds and emotions, by using fictional characters who play out the possibilities for us. Characters do the things we could’ve done, or shouldn’t have done, or wished we could do, or wouldn’t dare to do.
Another interesting fact is that writers, by publishing a work, cede some of the control and some of the interpretation of that work. I have partial answers in mind to the questions I posed above, but I hesitate to say they are the right answers or the only answers. To me, the exciting part is the search for those answers—because so much of our own minds and motivations is still partly secret from ourselves.
Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal Julia left behind. But Colt is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.
Jennifer R. Hubbard grew up in New England and now lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a hiker, a chocolate lover, and a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through.
She's been writing since the age of six, when she used to write and illustrate her own picture books. In high school, she considered it fun to come home from school and write novels in discount spiral-bound notebooks.
She had her first short story published when she was seventeen. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines. Her first book, the contemporary young-adult novel THE SECRET YEAR, appears from Viking in 2010.
You can visit her website and her blog or follow her on Twitter @JennRHubbard.