Upside Down by Lia Riley knocked me over the head, leaving me on the ground looking up at the sky in amazement, mouth gaping like a fish. It was so unexpectedly amazing that I’m unsure how to articulate my feelings.
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.
First, I loved the concept and setting of this novel. American girl needs to start over and ends up studying abroad down under in Australia (Side Note: I HATE to travel but I’ve always wanted to go to Australia!), what could be more awesome?
We are introduced to Natalia, who’s drowning in grief and “rituals.” I loved her. She was so relatable. I loved her thought process and how she dealt with her OCD. Riley did an amazing job giving the reader a small window into her struggles. I loved her strained relationship with her Mom and Dad. Her absent father and judgmental, floozy mother only added to the obstacles in her life, which already included the death of her sister. These same struggles made her relatable because we all reach a point where we want to start over or reinvent ourselves, repeating inner mantras flip-flopping between encouragement and self-deprecation. THEN, we meet Bran.
Bran is HOT. Okay, glad I got that out of the way. This brooding surfer-type, not only has a sweet accent, but is a damaged bad boy of sorts. (My favorite type of bad boy!) The give-and-take between Bran and Natalia was mesmerizing, romantic, earth-moving; I didn’t want it to stop. The ticking time bomb of Natalia’s quickly approaching flight back home fuels this crazy intense adventure, both internally and externally, where they each need to face demons and make decisions.
The ending, which I was hopefully expecting, came about in an unexpected way, leaving me worried and anxious for Natalia and Bran’s story. This book was amazing. It hit the spot for me, during a time where every other book seems mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised with this author and this story. The next book in the Off the Map series is Sideswiped, which came out Oct. 7, 2014. I will definitely be reading more from this author, not only because she studied in Montana (I’m from MONTANA!) but because her books are amazing.
STARS: 5 out of 5