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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson
The Fallback Plan - Leigh Stein ”Why do you always miss everything, I thought. Why can’t you ever be happy in the moment, instead of looking backward or forward?” On the face of it, this seemed like a “Rey Book”, because I like to think that twenty-something-angst is my unofficial area of expertise. I thought that I would my spend my time reading The Fallback Plan nodding along in enthusiastic agreement, flagging passages and essentially revelling in the sheer relevance to my life. But just shy of the halfway point, I found myself growing weary of Esther and her weltschmerz. It struck me that I’m not all that interested in reading about someone’s existential crisis just for the sake of it. Whereas I could bang on about my own for hours (no one would listen of course, and for good reason) I simply didn’t care about Esther’s. I wanted a more compelling reason to be a participant in her pity-party, as harsh as that sounds. And rather than relating to her malaise, more often than not during the first half of the novel, the self-indulgence of Esther’s actions and musings just grated on me. Not be all Judgy McJudgePants, because I think I understand the whole ‘making poor choices element’ of being a young adult, but I found myself less and less able to sympathise with her, and her apparently wilful blindness to the obvious. Somewhere after this point, however, my feelings began to change. As Esther becomes more entangled with the Brown family, and her relationships with each member become more complex, it becomes a more compelling story. It’s heavily introspective, and Esther’s development throughout the book is subtle, but Stein’s writing is sharply observant and pitch-perfect. While at times I found Esther’s constant stream of neurosis bordering on tedious, it’s also often hilarious and undeniably well-written.”I saw I was deceiving myself. I was the one who wanted to regress to some Eden, a second childhood using May as my ticket. I wanted to travel back in time [...] and relive the precious ordinariness of all those days I never knew I would miss.””You’d think once I was old enough to realize how much damage I’d likely done to his self-esteem when I was eight years old by laughing at him with other girls, I’d apologize, but instead I just friended him on Facebook.” The book really does articulate the particular brand of apathy that accompanies the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the realisation that life is not always what it was cracked up to be. Additionally it captures the painful deconstruction of relationships in the wake of grief, and the fact that nobody is really who they appear to be on the surface. I’m loathe to use the word “quirky”, but as a character driven story, the voice is exceptionally off-beat while remaining realistic. However, I think I expected to have a more profound reaction to reading this book. I enjoyed it and found that a lot of the latter content resonated with me, but ultimately it lacked the personal “a-ha moment” I was anticipating.