Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Review: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

Title: A Step Toward Falling
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 6, 2015

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?

First, I would like to thank HarperTeen for sending me an ARC of this book to review.  

Have you read Pride and Prejudice?  If you haven't, then you should.  I mention this because it plays an important role in this novel.  Not that you have to have read it to understand A Step Toward Falling, but I think Austen's original title - First Impressions - is particularly relevant here.  It's also a wonderful read.

This is not just about learning to do the right thing.  It's about learning to get to know people.  Not judging them by what they look like at a first glance.  And it succeeds wonderfully.

I loved this book.  I loved all of the parallels to Pride and Prejudice (one of my all-time favorites), I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved how much diversity there was without it seeming like things were just thrown in for the sake of diversity.  It's a book about people with disabilities.  And it's a book about highschoolers.

A Step Toward Falling poses a very important question.  If you saw someone getting attacked, what would you do?  Would you freeze up?  Would you go fight the attacker?  Would you run and get help?  I honestly can't answer this question.  I want to say that I would run and get help.  But that is what I want to say.  Because the reality is this: I would likely be so afraid that I would freeze.  And that is what happens with Emily and Lucas here when they see Belinda being attacked.  They just freeze up.

The characters are wonderful.  Belinda started out as a bit odd.  But after a bit, I figured her out.  Yes, she's odd.  But it's part of her charm.  It's part of who she is.  Emily and Lucas are so guilt-ridden that they don't even complain about their punishment for failing to help Belinda.  And they slowly get to know each other.  And see each other very differently from how they initially had.  What's so special about this book is that it features many characters with varying disabilities and showcases the difficulties they can face day to day.  With such a diverse cast of characters, many things could have gone wrong in writing this book.  It could have been insensitive to certain issues.  But that is the point.  It does a wonderful job of being realistic and staying very sensitive when it comes to particular issues raised.  The only thing that I wish this book had done was give me Lucas's perspective.  But that's not terribly important in the grand scheme of things.

My overall opinion
I really loved this book.  If you enjoy contemporary at all, you should seriously read this.  It's heart-wrenching, happy, romantic, and just downright wonderful.  I can't wait to add this to my shelves.

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