In the dimly lit room, my scar is all the more acute: a jagged, burgundy line from wrist to elbow; a reminder that I am here, and I was there. This I will have to cover at all costs.
(From The Year After You by Nina de Pass. P19.)
Nine months ago, Cara was involved in a car crash which killed her best friend.
As a last resort to deal with Cara’s PTSD, her mother sends her across the Atlantic to a boarding school in Switzerland. Hope Hall is nestled in the beautiful scenery of the Alps. It also has a reputation for taking in ‘lost causes’. Nobody at Hope knows Cara’s past, and she intended to keep it that way.
Although she has built barriers around herself and clung to her old life, she makes new friends, such as her roommate Ren and the enigmatic Hector. The closer she gets to these new friends, the more she reveals about herself. Is Cara ready to accept that what happened is in the past and allow herself a chance at the future?
A deep and beautifully-written look at the challenges faced in the months after traumatic injury.
Cara’s injuries have healed but she is struggling with the rest of it. How her life appears to have begun again after the crash. That she has a scar on her arm to remind her of how much she went through and how relatively little she suffered compared to others. How telling other people what happened means facing judgment. Including her own.
Other reviewers have suggested Cara is a liar. Straight out, I’m going to challenge this. She’s not a liar. She’s certainly struggling to face things. Traumatic incidents shake your memory. For months and months. Little pieces come back at a time. The human brain is an extraordinary vessel which blocks what it cannot cope with. This allows it to concentrate on physical recovery. The downside is that, as memories drip back in, they must be confronted and processed.
Hope Hall is supposed to be a new start, but how can she ever start over when she is carrying so much emotional baggage?
Slowly Cara decides that she doesn’t want to push her new friends away. But to do that she must fully come to terms with what happened.
Alongside Cara’s experiences, the book examines mental health prejudice generally. Cara faces this early on, when one of the boys at school kicks up a fuss at the inclusion of someone who might be dangerous. Later on, we meet a character who thinks sweeping mental health incidents under the rug makes a better impression on society.
I love that this book was properly researched. It shows every emotion and experience connected to traumatic injury, including other people’s reactions. It is also beautifully written, and it is impossible not to fall in love with the setting. Think the modern-day Chalet School. For the very privileged. Think a boarding school where ice-skating is on the agenda.
There is a reason everyone is talking about this book. It is insightful and beautifully-written and unafraid to challenge prejudice and misconceptions. A huge achievement from a debut author.
Thanks to Ink Road for sending my copy of The Year After You as part of a promotional blog tour. Opinions remain my own.