Upside Down by Lia Riley

Upside Down (Off The Map #1) by Lia Riley
Published August 5, 2014 by Grand Central / Forever.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: Publisher via Netgalley. Thank you Grand Central / Forever for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: NA contemporary romance.

My rating:

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. (Goodreads)


This review contains spoilers, even though this is book one in the series.

This was one of those NA reads that you blast through in one sitting. Which is, in itself, usually a good thing! But here, I found myself skipping ahead because I couldn’t really connect with the characters. Or their stories. I fell for the pretty cover once again and it bit me in the butt.

The main reason for my dislike: too much angst. Look, I like some drama in my romance, sure, but here, both people are traumatised by the things that happened in their pasts so they have difficulty connecting to each other. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

I liked Talia better. I actually enjoyed the fact that a main character in a romance has a mental problem, OCD in this case, and gets anxious if her rituals aren’t performed (like eating two chips at the same time, never one, and unplugging the appliances and locking the door). She’s convinced that this problem of hers got her sister killed – she died in a car crash that clearly wasn’t Talia’s fault but her mother blames her for it anyway. I really hated the mother, let me tell you that. I get that she’s grieving but that’s no excuse to act the way she did.

By the beginning of the novel, Talia’s spiralling, she flunked her year in college and is escaping to Australia for a semester to cover that fact/get her shit together. So far, so good, yeah?

Enter Bran. At first, he just seems like a bit of a jerk with too many ex-hookups and a bad attitude but let me list all the things that have happened to him that made him the way he is:

  • His parents are ultra-rich but he doesn’t want their dirty money.
  • He got his high school girlfriend from Denmark pregnant and offered to marry her.
  • She cheated on him while pregnant.
  • She told him she got an abortion.
  • He flew off in a huff and survived a plane crash and decided his life is meaningless (or something).
  • He slept with his best friend’s ex and said it didn’t mean anything and was then surprised when said friend held a grudge over it.
  • He now lives with two roommates, one of whom is an extremely bitchy young woman who basically calls Talia a slut. Nice.
  • His ex-fiancé came back to Australia, telling him she cheated on him on purpose to get him to call off the wedding – she actually kept the baby but the poor thing died because it had a birth defect. (It was around here that I just wanted the novel to finish – and seriously considered DNF-ing it because really.)
  • He invites Talia to come live with him (after a two-month relationship) on Tasmania.
  • He thinks Talia is hooking up with the aforementioned friend with a grudge and is intensely nasty to her, leaving her on the street, in the rain, telling her he now doesn’t want her to move to Tasmania with him (omg this is so ridiculous).
  • Instead of phoning or e-mailing her when she goes back to the US, he follows her a week or so later (I don’t remember correctly) to convince her to make a go of it and come to Tasmania after all (OK so I’ve lowered the rating twice during the time I was writing this review. Gah.)


People, I don’t know what to say. I know love is blind and all but in all seriousness: I wanted to give Bran a good strong kick in the posterior and then shake Talia for a bit to make her come to her senses.

I will not be reading the two sequels to this novel, especially since contrary to most NA series, they do not focus on other couples but on Talia and Bran again. I simply can’t stand any more of their story and that’s that. Oh, yeah, and there’s one really awkward sex scene in the book that just made me cringe (and not normal-awkward in the sense of two strangers hooking up and not knowing their way around each other; it was just spectacularly weird).

Upside Down was, sadly, just not written for me.


Have you, perchance, read Upside Down? What did you think of it?

Do you like bad boys with a touch of asshole or do you prefer your gents with a modicum of sense and kindness?

As always, I’d love to hear from you! ;)

  • YOU JUST SAVED MY LIFE. I usualy hate NA books, but I won this one and I thought, “Eh, maybe I’ll give it a go?” But it sounds sooooo bad. Like that is WAY too much random stuff for one book anyway, and the plot is so stupid. That guy has problems, major problems. She should so not be dumping her life to go live with a guy who is acting so psychotic. I AM DISTURBED. Very, very disturbed. Ergh. So yes. Thank you. You’ve saved me so much angst. ;-)

    • Heh, if you already have it, maybe give it a try anyway? Ugh, I never know how to phrase my reviews so people won’t be put off books that just weren’t a good fit for me. Though on second thought… skip this one. Even if you liked it a bit more than I did, there are still hundreds of better books out there! :)

      I haven’t found a 5-star (or a 4-star) NA book yet, either. I don’t know – the combination of romance (which I usually love) and total idiotism (which I usually don’t) is a fail most of the time. And I really dislike the recurring themes of slut-shaming, virgins, asshole-y bad boys and such. Ugh. But I still keep reading them for some reason, hoping to find a good one.

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