Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut, Say What You Will, with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Told in alternating points of view, A Step Toward Falling is a poignant, hopeful, and altogether stunning work that will appeal to fans of Jennifer Nevin, Robyn Schneider, and Jandy Nelson.
Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.
Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?
This book was a little weird. Not in a good way, but in a weird way. I think it was trying to deal with some really deep themes without actually giving them the weight that they deserved. I mean, right there on the blurb is attempted rape, and throughout the book, there is the major theme of bullying and trying to fit in when you were born different. However, through various parts of the book, I felt like it was a little childish and so it didn’t really bring the “oomph” that should have come with all these themes that should be shocking the reader.
I think that this is partly because of the disability of one of the main characters. Being told from two changing points of view – Emily and Belinda – we are taken forth between a childish, almost ignorant point of view to a harsh, typical teenager’s one. I’m not trying to be insensitive here, and I understand that Belinda’s disability would have made her think in this way, hence, we needed to read it in this way, however, I really wish there was some way we could have Belinda still get across her deep and heavy themes without such a childish tone, because I felt like it detracted from the significance of the points. Maybe they could have been revealed through Emily instead.
Another thing that I didn’t like about this book were the characters. For some reason, I found it really hard to connect to Emily. The character development was great, though everyone: Lucas, Emily and Belinda, but I just found it extremely difficult to “click” with Emily. I mean, Emily could have died and I don’t think I would have care. The part in the book where I found myself most emotionally invested was the part where they were describing a character’s dead mother. The mother was given just about 2 paragraphs, but we learnt about her smile, her character, her personality, her humanitarian ways, etc, and it was at that point that I felt the most emotional toward a character in the book.
Although the book started off with an attempted rape, it wasn’t the major theme of the book. It was more a launching pad for the rest of the book, and there wasn’t actually much time spent on it. Of course, there were the few paragraphs here and there, but nothing major on the topic of rape.
To end on a good point, though, this book definitely wasn’t a flounder (what I call books that have no plot, and simply flounder in their own sequence of events). It knew exactly where it was going, the characters had a clear aim and purpose, and they had to overcome struggles to achieve their goals. Each character had their own separate plot graph which was good, and the overlapping of the graphs was good; not confusing.
In conclusion, although there were some downs, the book was overall quite a nice read. The plot was crafted cleverly, and the ending was nice as well. Although, that’s the thing about this book. I don’t think it was meant to be “nice”. Especially not when it’s dealing with disabilities, rape and bullying.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion!
Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6/10
A Step Toward Falling is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: A Step Toward Falling
- Author: Cammie McGovern
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Pan MacMillan (October 6th, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN: 0062271156
- URL: Goodreads