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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: Upside Down (Off the Map #1) by Lia Riley

Published: 5th August 2014
From: Net Galley
Rating: 4 out of 5


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.


Let me start of by saying, this book wasn't what I expected. It was a ton better on every level.

For starters Talia is, from the very beginning, still trying to get over her sisters death. Usually at a time of grief family members support one another. But in Talia's case both her parents have effectively shut down as well. Leaving nothing for Talia, no coping mechanism, not joint grief counselling. Her mother has hopped off to Hawaii, and her father can barely look at Talia. Everything here screams "You're being so unfair on your 'living' daughter, help her". But no. 

Talia has OCD, convinces herself daily that she's dying, spends countless hours on MD websites to study symptoms of her soon-to-be demise, although I think deep down she knows she's being neurotic. One of her best friends was actually her sisters best friend so that's always awkward, even though they usually all hung out together. And then there's the 'mistake' of sleeping with her sisters ex-boyfriend on the one year anniversary of her death. For Talia a trip to Oz is a chance to breath again. And I don't blame her.

We meet Bran a few chapters into the story. An activist to the core, he fights everything his father stands for. Bran was basically brought up by his sister in between boarding schools. His parents are incredibly wealthy but are too busy enjoying their own life to really give a damn about Bran. From the time Bran and Talia got together they clicked. Not in an insta-lust kind of way. There's snark, sarcasm, innuendos and gobble gosh in gosh bucket, Bran spots Talia's OCD in a blink of an eye. Nobody had ever noticed her little traits before. They get along well but soon Bran puts on the breaks. He's hiding something, in fact, he's hiding lots of things and Talia tries to uncover why.. 

I enjoyed reading both characters stories, my heart broke a little for both of them and it certainly picked up at other times ;) The tale is well developed and follows a nice arc to its conclusion. Meeting and falling for someone is always difficult for both sides but if you work it through then a rainbow will always appear. And Talia waited for hers and finally got to see the colours of life.

The story is set in Austalia which makes for a refreshing change. But it isn't lingo/slang heavy. The pace is steady and we have 2 POV's. But that's not the end of Talia and Bran's tale. There is a sequel, and I can't wait to pick it up :) 

- CBx


You can reach Lia Riley here:

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