Author: Cammie McGovern
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: HarperTeen via Edelweiss
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.Review by Nara
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?
A Step Toward Falling is a rather ambitious book that tackles a variety of issues including disability, sexual harassment/rape, and the consequences of doing nothing when witnessing a crime. It also has a big focus on relationships: romantic and friendships, and looks at the the role of self-identity and "fitting in" as a young adult. While it mostly did a good job in dealing with these issues, I did feel at times that perhaps it tries to be a little too ambitious.
I feel really bad for saying this, but I found Belinda's point of view rather boring on the whole. There was an immaturity in her voice which was appropriate considering her intellectual disability, but I unfortunately found this quite jarring, especially in contrast to Emily's point of view, which was frankly a lot more smooth and interesting for me.
The book is very character focused, as most contemporaries are, and is mostly centered around friendships and character growth. Emily and Lucas are both guilty about having done nothing to help Belinda and throughout the book, begin to reflect on the way they acted and take steps to "redeem" themselves. I feel like on the whole, I wasn't really as invested in the characters as I would've liked to have been, and the book wasn't engaging enough that I felt like I wanted to continuously read it without putting it down. That being said, I did actually quite like the romance, especially with Lucas being an atypical sort of love interest.
Well, overall, I would say this book is probably worth a read if you're looking for a book with a bit of a languid pace that's quite focused on character development.