Series: Off the Map #1
Published by Forever on August 5th 2014
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.
When I read the blurb for UPSIDE DOWN and saw it was set in Australia I knew for sure this was a must-read. Having been raised on a solid diet of Australian Soap-Operas (If you’re Irish or from the UK you’re probably nodding your head right now), a book set in the sun-soaked paradise was always going to be a big draw.
UPSIDE DOWN is one of the most refreshing New Adult novels I’ve read in recent months and Lia’s story of two broken souls overcoming their pain and finding hope was one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Talia is in freefall, grieving the loss of her sister and failing school, she jumps at the chance of an exchange programme to Australia to try and forget her worries for once. Arriving in Melbourne, she runs into Bran – hot, brooding and oh so grumpy – sparks fly and both Bran and Talia sinking under the weight of their respective emotional trauma can’t help but recognise that they may be each other’s life buoy if only they can take the leap and trust again.
Reading the blurb I admit part of me dismissed UPSIDE DOWN as another same ol’ same ol’ NA but Lia’s fabulous witty, fresh and heartfelt take on the genre makes this book one special read.
I loved Talia – She’s been through so much, carrying the guilt of believing she’s responsible for the death of her sister and parents who have taken the ostrich approach to life, she feels lost and alone. A fresh start in Melbourne is the one bright light in her life right now and she takes the plunge. When she meets Bran she can’t help but feel a connection with the snarky surfer. Bran is not interested in love, having barely survived heartbreak in the last year, the one thing he doesn’t want is to get pulled under again but Talia slowly breaks through his defences.
UPSIDE DOWN deals with some heavy issues including that of OCD which I admit I groaned at when I first came across it in the book as I’ve seen it mishandled so often in NA but I loved Lia’s take on it and thought she handled it with great understanding and sensitivity. I loved how Bran recognised Talia’s issue almost immediate but instead of calling her out as a weirdo as so many others had made her feel, subtly helped her and made her feel at ease.
While there is definitely an emotional element to the book it is balanced with a wonderful, warm humour and I loved the lighter moments between Bran and Talia sprinkled throughout the story. There’s also some pretty sizzling chemistry between the two and boy does Lia Riley know how to write her smut!
I really liked how the story flowed, the pacing never faltered and the writing was so wonderfully descriptive and I really got a sense of both the Australian and Southern Californian settings.
UPSIDE DOWN was a fabulous read, filled with wonderful, realistic characters, a romance that will make you swoon and rich and vivid writing that will sweep you away on Talia and Bran’s emotional story!