Title: Upside Down
Author: Lia Riley
Series: Off the Map, #1
Format: eARC, kindly provided by
publishers via Netgalley.
My rating: 3 / 5
If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found
Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying goodbye to painful memories—and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll pretend to be a carefree exchange student. Everything is going to plan until she meets a surly 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 slunk back 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. A single semester abroad won’t cover something this serious. 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 there’s a plane to California with her name on it.
-- As seen on Goodreads
I always find three star reviews the hardest to write. There are always lots of things I enjoy in these books, yet they sit somewhere in between ‘liked’ and ‘loved’ in my eyes, and I end up feeling stuck in the middle. When I heard that one of the characters in Upside Down had OCD, I really wanted to read it and see how it would be handled. While I liked everything that was shown, the OCD element wasn’t as prominent as I was expecting, but it was enjoyable to see a different aspect shown in the New Adult genre.
Talia has struggled since her sister’s death. She’s failing college and none of her friends or family is providing the support she is crying out for and she realises she needs to get away from the memories, and decides to go to Australia for five months. She’s determined to be more like her sister, and will resort to faking happiness and an outgoing spirit if necessary. She meets Bran, who can see through the perfectly happy mask that she shows the rest of the world, and things slowly begin to unravel.
While there are some cliché moments, the characters grew on me quite quickly and I really enjoyed their story. I love books set in Australia, so Upside Down had a little spot in my heart already! I loved the slower building romance between Talia and Bran, and I loved seeing how their lives were unfolding. Most of the book is narrated from Talia’s perspective, and we get to know her a lot quicker than Bran. She’s more open in a lot of ways, and Bran is very closed off in comparison. We do get brief chapters from his perspective here and there, but they add more to the mystery surrounding him, rather than giving us much insight into his thoughts. And I thought it really worked well, and it takes a long time for us to begin to see his true personality. I usually prefer one character over another in these situations, but I ended up liking both characters equally.
I was really enjoying the book, and the first 70-75% flew by. It was really entertaining and I was thinking this could be an easy 4 or more star read… until the last 20-25%, when we entered Drama-Llama Ville. The book did a 180, and I was so frustrated and disappointed! It felt like road-blocks, conflict and drama was being thrown at us left and right for no reason other than to create a problem for the characters to overcome! It was way, way too much. It was too hectic, and I wanted to jump into the book and bash the characters heads together and yell at them for not communicating! Just TALK! You’ve been doing it for the entire book, don’t stop at the ending!! Ultimately I did like the actual ending, even if it was a little cliché, but it helped me to overlook the lead-up drama a little.
I always hope to find NA books that branch away from a very strong romantic thread, and with the OCD elements I thought Upside Down had a really good chance of being the one. While it did touch on the issues, the relationship between the two main characters is the main focal point. But – having said all of this – I was in the mood for a nice contemporary read, and Upside Down fit the bill perfectly. I enjoyed the story, and I liked the characters and the setting, so there are LOADS of plus points! I plan on continuing on with their story, and I just wish the lead-up to the ending was the same as the beginning, and then I know I would have loved it more than I did.