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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson
The Way We Fall - Megan Crewe 3.5 starsThe Way We Fall was not the book I thought it would be. I had this distinct thought at two points while reading it – the realisation that my expectations were entirely off the mark – for different reasons. One was positive, one not so much. It seems strange to be writing this in my review, but it’s the “normalcy” of The Way We Fall that sets it apart and makes it unique. In a sea of flimsily constructed and/or highly speculative dystopian fiction and virulent zombie disease plotlines not that there’s anything wrong with that, this book is a raft of reality. Rather than shambling undead or unexplained global destruction, The Way We Fall is frightening due to the fact that it takes place in our world, and it’s not hard to imagine the events that take place in this fictional account actually occurring. I think I was expecting yet another teen romance veiled with a thin dystopian premise. But it’s not. The Way We Fall is the story of a small island community struck by a lethal virus. Sixteen year old Kaelyn keeps a journal in the form of letters to her estranged best friend Leo, documenting the struggle to survive as the island is quarantined, people descend into desperation and panic, and the death toll rises. Stranded in the epicentre, Kaelyn’s story recounts the human side to the outbreak, following her through fear, grief, anger and hopelessness. At some points, it’s a fairly introspective story, tracking the mental and emotional ramifications of the seemingly inexplicable virus, and the swathe of destruction it cuts through a tightly knit community. Once I adjusted to the unexpected tone of this story, I found myself intrigued. I really like the premise of The Way We Fall. It’s well constructed and thought out, while also frightening and relevant. The sense of isolation and abandonment Crewe creates by quarantining the island is very effective. It adds a disturbing layer to the story, to know that life goes on largely as normal not so far away. Crewe’s diverse characters also feel refreshingly real and “normal” – in the sense that they speak and act and have family dynamics like actual people. Kaelyn herself is believable as a slightly awkward, introverted teen, without ever lapsing into “Special Snowflake Syndrome”. Her efforts to connect with others, navigate social situations and initiate friendships is well articulated. She is a character with distinct personality and interests, written like an actual teen, rather than a bland self-insert. Throughout the story, Kaelyn's growth is evident, and the development of her relationships are well-handled. In a similar manner, the rest of Kaelyn’s family and her friends are also written with authenticity. Crewe gives her characters depth and contrast, yet it never feels heavy-handed or resorts to clumsy tokens. The downside was, once I had settled into the type of book The Way We Fall in fact is, I expected more from it. While Kaelyn’s situation becomes increasingly dire, I’m not sure the book itself really delivered on the tension front. I think I read through the climax without really realising it was happening. I kept turning pages thinking that the shocking finale was just around the corner, and then it.. ended. Even considering it’s relatively realistic concept, I think the story could have carried more plot, more twists, more stakes. Otherwise, there were some points where I felt my attention slithering away from the narrative. Yes, shocking and horrible things happen, but I don’t think the story was as gripping as it could/should have been. Also, if you’re the type of reader who wants an ending that answers all of the outstanding questions, that’s not really the case here. While I don’t think this is a bad thing (in fact, I generally think the opposite), I can understand why some may find the slightly ambiguous closure to this story dissatisfying and somewhat abrupt. I personally liked the untied ends of the various threads, but a few points niggled and I wish they’d been addressed in a larger way. The Way We Fall is a solid story, firmly grounded in our reality, weaving strong characterisation throughout an interesting premise. It wasn’t what I was expecting, in more ways than one, but there’s a weight and resonance to this story that I often find lacking in others. I’m not as enamoured as I thought I would be, but I still feel is a worthwhile read.