Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: NA Romance, College
Release Date: 13 Oct 2015
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My rating: 3 Stars
Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.
She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.
But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel "DJ" Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. There's something haunting his dark eyes and she needs to know more.
DJ's genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.
Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can't get close to Lianne, and he can't tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.
The Ivy Years is one of my favourite NA romance series and what I like the most about it is that Ms Bowen doesn't shy away from heavier/controversial topics in her stories. Mostly she manages to incorporate them skillfully in the romance but this time things did not quite work out for me.
The story explores a difficult and very sensitive topic - the impact of false accusations of rape on the hero (DJ) and the way the college dealt with it or rather failed to deal with it in a fair and non-judgemental way.
Actually, I found this aspect of the story to be well presented, with sympathy for both parties involved (though we see the girl only briefly towards the end). I liked how Ms Bowen explored the effects of such accusations to DJ and his family. His fears for the future, his self-doubt and hesitancy to get involved with other women, to allow himself to have feelings and dreams and aspiration made me feel deeply sympathetic to him and the situation he found himself in.
In a way a understood DJ as a character, I understood where he stood and what he wanted to do. His development through the story felt natural to me and I was really happy about things working out for him.
On the other hand, I found it more difficult to connect with Lianne. She is a film-star, but she is actually shy and insecure, nerdy and inexperienced. This discrepancy in her character felt forced and artificial most of the time. In general, I like nerdy, smart heroines who are often underestimated and under-appreciated because they are good-looking too but I couldn't quite connect with Lianne.
It's their romance that I didn't enjoy very much in the story. It felt weak and not particularly memorising. There was an attraction and some chemistry but they were not really suited for one another. The timing was particularly bad for him.
That said, I applaud the bravery of Ms Bowen in exploring topics that are usually avoided in NA romance - disability, serious social, family and financial difficulties, STDs, slut-shaming, rape accusations). Her very open and honest treatment of these issues makes her stories real and engaging. Her writing is powerful and polished and it draws you quickly into the fates of the characters she creates.
Overall, this is a nice story and despite my issues with it, I think fans of Ms Bowen and the series will enjoy it.
My reviews of the previous books in the series:
The Year We Fell Down - 4.5 Stars
The Year We Hid Away - 4 Stars
The Understatement of the Year - 4 Stars
The Shameless Hour - 4 Stars