Upside Down by Lia Riley
Off the Map #1
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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.
Book Review ~ ‘Upside Down’ by Lia Riley ~ 4 Stars!
‘Upside Down’ was the perfect blend of new adult contemporary romance, humour and real life which had me unable to put it down. However, it was the added psychological elements, brought about by heroine Natalia’s OCD tendencies, that really made this book stand out in its genre.
When we first meet Natalia, I could feel straight away that there was more to this girl than what we were first presented to. I admired her strength when it came to choosing to leave behind her life in America to visit Australia, especially when she knew that it would be hard on her family. It sounds strange, but for me I liked that she did the right thing by her, and didn’t allow herself to be held back by a guilty conscience of leaving her father. The added heartbreak of her having lost her older sister Pippa two years previously, just made Natalia’s escape to another country seem all that more important, and I really admired her for putting her fears behind her and doing what she wanted to do.
The characters were really well developed throughout this novel, and just looking at the person that Natalia became at the end of the story, in comparison to the troubled girl at the start, we can see that realistic development of a young person that happens when they travel alone for the first time.
Now Bran was the perfect hero, with the perfect mix of snarky bad-boy, but passionate, thoughtful lover. The spark between him and Natalia was just brilliant to read and I loved seeing the progression of their relationship, especially as their trust in each other grew, and they began to share dark secrets from their past with each other, without the fear of judgment.
To see Bran as fearful was a brilliant change from other books in this genre. It’s all too often that we see the girl become scared of her feelings, and start to doubt herself, but I loved seeing Bran distancing himself and being fearful of love again. The added drama of his relationship with his ex-fiancé and the self-doubt this causes Natalia, made for some really emotional and heartbreaking scenes, which had me really hoping that their love would overcome all obstacles, even when their future seemed bleak.
I loved the family elements that were woven throughout the novel, and I laughed and raged in equal measure in the chapters where we see Natalia’s hilariously misguided mother, who at first was great comic relief, turn into a spiteful, cruel and condescending woman, who blames Natalia for Pippa’s death, something that beats Natalia back into the downtrodden and broken girl she was before she met Bran.
This was a fantastic novel, which really made me feel every emotion of the characters. The only thing that keeps me from giving it 5 Stars is the way that OCD was depicted. It’s clear that Natalia doesn’t have a very serious form of OCD, however, I felt that the true impact of her OCD tendencies in small everyday situations wasn’t emphasised as much as it could have been. It’s the little things like her wanting to run back to her dorm room and check that her hair straighteners or oven was turned off, that I would have loved to have seen, and how this more serious side of OCD may have affected her relationship with Bran. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of this novel and there was a real feel-good factor throughout that made this the perfect book to escape into for a few hours.
*Review copy was provided by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*