By Lisa Schroeder
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rae’s always dreamed of dating a guy like Nathan. He’s nothing like her abusive stepfather—in other words, he’s sweet. But the closer they get, the more Nathan wants of her time, of her love, of her…and the less she wants to give.
As Rae’s affection for Nathan turns to fear, she leans on her friend Leo for support. With Leo, she feels lighter, happier. And possessive Nathan becomes jealous. He’s not about to let her go. And with danger following her every move, Rae must fight for the life and love she deserves if she’s going to survive.
Okay, you know I did it. I oohed and aahed over that cover and it caught my eye long before the synopsis did. I’m so ashamed (no I’m not). Then I went and sat at the adult table and read the blurb, checked out the author and saw that she wasn’t writing this in her trademark all-verse style and knew I had to read it even if it wasn’t the New Adult book that it looked like (confusing covers). The freaky abusive boyfriend/poor girl storyline is one that can be tricky to do without it turning into something resembling a tabloid movie, but Schroeder pulled off a pretty good, complex story with one heck of a surprise at the end.
In a beaten down house in a beaten down neighborhood lives a girl named Rae, who’s trying desperately to keep from being beaten down. Her step-father Dean is a mean sonofabitch, always seeming to be on the verge of unleashing some serious violence on Rae and her mother if they don’t give him whatever he wants. For Rae, that means cooking, cleaning, whatever. Her mom isn’t any help, taking Dean’s side all of the time and who knows where her real dad is. He took off when Rae was a baby. Rae’s only examples of the long-term relationship potential of male gender pretty much suck, in other words.
Rae’s not quite prepared then when she meets Nathan, the ridiculously hot new guy at school. He’s instantly into her and not really knowing what else to do with being told for the first time that she’s beautiful and treasured, she lets him sweep her away. She completely misses the almost immediate signs that this guy is going to be trouble, capital T. He’s jealous from day one, possessive, aggressive, clingy and has stalker written all over him. I can imagine a lot of people saying, “Just dump the guy, get out!” It’s not that easy when you’re in that situation and you’re stuck feeling semi-responsible for the other person’s feelings, you think you can still fix things if you find a way to end it better or yes, even that it’s a temporary thing, that there’s something wrong and that he’s truly a good person and if he got help, you’d be okay again. I understood that Rae, the one who rationalized things for a while. But of course, these guys, they escalate.
It’s not much of a spoiler since the story actually begins with the present day, with Rae in the hospital, fighting for her life and the rest of the story is told in periodic flashbacks (there’s a small hospital scene with her thoughts, then, “six months earlier,” hospital scene, “five months earlier,” etc.). It made the story much more suspenseful because I could see Nathan degenerating, Rae’s home life falling apart as Dean lost his job and spun out of control and Rae starting to make her life better, knowing that something awful was coming and not knowing from where. She’d have nice happy moments with Leo, the barista next door to the flower shop where she worked and Nathan would show up. She’d be enjoying working at the flower shop and then Dean would wreck things.
Most of what I didn’t like about Falling for You was that slightly heavy hand Schroeder used with the good vs. bad aspects of the plot and characters. There wasn’t a lot of gray going on here: characters fell into the inspirational, supportive and affectionate side or they were hurtful betrayers who let Rae down in the worst ways. There were some just nice scenes with her friends, but most anything that involved her was either fraught with turmoil and angst or happy and hopeful. It all made for wonderful book drama and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it while I was reading it, but when I was done, I was left feeling like I wanted something a little more balanced and real so I could really believe in the entire story. I blame the poetry for raising my hopes so high.
I’m not a fan of books written in verse, I have to admit, and Schroeder’s The Day Before was one I had a hard time getting through. I loved the way she blended a more regular style of storytelling with bits of Rae’s beautiful, spare and emotionally raw poetry here though. Since it wasn’t trying to be story narrative, I was able to soak the poetry in emotionally and I have to say, some of it socked me in the stomach.
I’m very glad I read Falling for You, despite my fear of Lisa Schroeder and that verse thing. She handled the issue of domestic violence and stalking pretty well and better than that for me, her writing was a joy. I hope she continues to do more books like this, with the blend of poetry and “regular” storytelling, I’ll be there to buy it.
My Rating: A-