UPSIDE DOWN by Lia Riley
Talia is a college student getting ready to graduate when she decides to take a semester abroad in Australia. What her family doesn’t know is that she’s not actually going to graduate due to being put on academic probation because of her grades. Not only is she leaving her school issues behind, but she’s leaving her broken family; her mom has fled to Hawaii and has filed for divorce and her father is left alone to go about his USGS job. The family was irreparably broken after the death of Talia’s sister, Pippa, just a year ago. Her time away from her family will serve to get her back on track, away from the triggers and memories that keep her from moving forward with her life.
Bran has taken some time away from school after dealing with some heavy personal issues. Talia first makes his acquaintance when Bran, dressed as a koala, gets into a fight with a businessman. Bran is passionate about his work in conservation and goads the businessman into a brawl. Just a little while later she actually meets Bran through a shared acquaintance. From their first meeting Bran sees Talia as much more than just the naïve American she is, and while not ready to pursue her in hopes of a relationship, he does want to get involved with her in some way.
If Pippa’s death wasn’t enough to send Talia into a tailspin, her diagnosis with OCD changes her life as well. She had gone for years without a diagnosis, her daily rituals seen as more of a quirk by her family than a disorder. But once she begin taking medication she finds that life is easier; she is more in control of those things that used to rob her of precious time and even relationships. Bran seems to understand that Talia’s OCD is a part of her life, and always will be.
While the OCD diagnosis does lend itself as an interesting storyline arc, in some ways it feels superfluous. There just didn’t seem to be much development; it was simply mentioned a couple of times. Hopefully we’ll see more of that aspect of Talia’s life in the next book.
The relationship between Talia and Bran is passionate. They each have secrets in their past that make them approach their relationship with caution. The romance is very sweet, as is common in New Adult titles, but there exists a volatility that makes their relationship transcend the typical NA romance. Whether it is because of the international location, or the secrets they harbor, there just seems to be more to their relationship than a simple college crush. They seem to communicate on a more mature level.
Ms. Riley does an excellent job of creating a narrative that demonstrates the beauty of Australia. The country becomes much more than simply a location, but seems to take on its own place within the book; it nearly becomes a living, breathing character in itself. This narrative is also seen in her descriptions of Santa Cruz as well and truly demonstrates Ms. Riley’s ability as a writer.
Upside Down is a fast-paced story of love despite the odds. The characters are well developed and relatable and the storyline is believable. You can’t help but empathize with both Talia and Bran as they conquer their own fears as well as breaking down the walls each of them has erected due to their pasts. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment, Sideswiped, due out in October, when we’ll see if the burgeoning relationship between Talia and Bran can survive even more challenges thrown their way.
Christina is a Seattle native currently living in the DC area with her sailor husband and two kids. She spends her days lost in books, waiting for the day when she can finally get back to the Evergreen State, or better yet, traveling the world with her husband. She can be found reading and reviewing for Love Between the Sheets.