Book Review: Upside Down

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Author: Lia Riley
ISBN: 978-0-349-40750-0
RRP: $19.99

Upside Down is the debut of Lia Riley and first in the Off The Map series, a New Adult romance spanning continents and trying to piece together broken people. It is cover to cover emotion, even though many of them are fighting to be felt.

Talia Stolfi is struggling with everything in her life and decides that a semester in Australia as an exchange student could be just what she needs to get her life back on track. Away from everyone she knows she can pretend to be happy and carefree. Of course things don’t quite work out that way.

Talia is running from the wreckage of her family, the bottoming out of her plans to graduate and hoping to outrun her OCD. There are many things you can run from in this life but OCD is not one of them, and either is family drama.

Bran is a sexy surfer with an environmental conscience, a wealthy father whose business practices are far from environmentally friendly and a heart that was shattered into tiny pieces; turning him into a man whore afraid to feel.

Upside Down is told from the perspective of both Talia and Bran in separate chapters, the bulk of the story is told by Talia but we do get a little of Bran’s point of view.

There is a lot that I really liked about this story but it didn’t quite hit the right notes for me to fall in love with it and I can’t really pinpoint why.

upside down

Talia is a complex character suffering OCD, she is on medication but of course it doesn’t cure her or even completely eradicate her symptoms but it does make them much more manageable. Talia seems to have shouldered this burden single-handedly with not a lot of understanding from even those closest to her. Her self esteem has taken an absolute bashing because of her OCD and she feels very much less than, very much second rate and like she is never going to be enough for anyone. We discover that part of that is due to bad choices but a lot of it is more than that.

Bran had his heart shattered and he has walled it off, refusing to feel and picking up to distance himself from the one that broke his heart. He is well practised in the art of the poker face and knows exactly how to shut down, and shut off any emotion in his expression. He doesn’t do feelings and he doesn’t get attached.

I don’t want to tell you the story so I’m going to leave it there. This is a new adult romance so I think you will have a pretty good idea of what comes next. These two characters are deeply emotionally scarred, Bran has chosen to switch off all emotion but Talia is a bit of a different story.

Riley has written Talia beautifully, really giving a voice to all of her fears. Her rituals are well described but it’s the what ifs and the addiction to WebMD that really illustrate the issues she faces with everyday life. Riley has taken a condition that is widely misunderstood and given it a face, completely brought it to life in Talia’s character and I couldn’t help but be drawn to her, and really feel for her.

The story was engaging and I was really cheering for these two but there were times that a little communication would have gone a long way. I know that it is easier said than done for these characters but that didn’t stop me wanting to lock them in a room and make them talk.

I enjoyed the story, there were some pretty steamy scenes, the main characters were relatable and it was well plotted but there was just something about it that didn’t quite grab me. I would still give the next book a read because I am invested in the characters, and keeping in mind this is a debut, but I am not racing out to get a copy right this second.

This would be a good read for those who like their characters to be a little out of the ordinary, and those who would like an up close and personal look at OCD. Definitely one for those who like the angst and the heartbreak, and then to watch the characters slowly put their pieces back together again.

For more about Lia Riley and the Off The Map series you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

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