Thursday, August 14, 2014

Upside Down by Lia Riley

The Basics:
Upside Down by Lia Riley
Book One in the Off The Map series
New Adult
Published August 5, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

Blurb made it sound like a solid New Adult title, and I was on an Australia-set mini-binge.


If You Never Get Lost, You'll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

My thoughts:

New Adult is one of the few genres that fully embraces angst and elevates into something beautiful.

So Upside Down really goes for that New Adult trope of wounded individuals - we have Talia, who has OCD and whose family imploded after her sister's passing. We have Bran, who has his own dark past, and wears it like a chip on his shoulder. Two very broken people who really want to move forward but keep getting tripped up by flashes from the past.

This book was really emotional, and I felt for Talia who so often felt out of her comfort zone. She's sort of bumbling along, trying so hard to keep it together and feign normality, it's almost heartbreaking.

Enter Bran, who respects Talia's quirks, who sees beyond the mask she wears. I appreciated that he acknowledged his own shortcomings, that he didn't just decide to 'go for it' in spite of them.

The two of these characters together was a beautiful thing. I loved the romance, I loved the conflict, the tension as they both tried to negotiate whether this - essentially being a couple - was something they could manage with all their broken edges and quirks and walls. I think the book really spoke to me as a true contemporary romance because no relationship is as easy as contemporary romances tend to depict them. New Adult as a genre is doing a decent job of showing us couples who don't automatically click together, but I think this book in particular is an example of needing to work at it. Of recognizing the possibilities of a future together, and then having to acknowledge all those sore spots and figure out how to love and live with and around them.

For me, this book was not a 'will they, won't they' story but instead a 'can they?' story. It was a *gorgeous* start to the Off the Map series, and I will eagerly look forward to the sequel.

Bottom line:

I loved Upside Down. I think it's a beautiful example of what New Adult can do - a way of making angst be more than angst for the sake of it. I strongly recommend for fans of the genre, and of contemporary romance as I think it's a gorgeous story.

5 stars
For fans of new adult, contemporary romance, angst, can they make it? stories.

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