Published on October 8, 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Dating & Sex, Fiction, Friendship, Young Adult
Format: ARC, Paperback
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'Neither of us is exactly living the dream. But we're living something and that's more than either of us expected this year.'
In A Step Toward Falling, Cammie McGovern tells a poignant, compelling story of not judging people on appearances and knowing how to fix the things you've broken.
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 centre 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?
This book was a surprising contemporary that made me smile, laugh, and feel lots of feels. One of my favorite things about Cammie McGovern’s style was the dual narrative, which was also one of the most surprising aspects of her novel. I went into this book expecting it to touch on disabilities, but I was expecting the alternating POVs to focus on Emily and Lucas, the two high school students who witnessed an almost-rape of Belinda, a girl with developmental disabilities. Belinda not only saves herself from her attacker, but she also gets to tell her story to the reader in her own words. It was so surprising and wonderful to read about her experience and not be told about her experience. Belinda is the star of the show, both literally and figuratively, and I love that.
Emily, the story’s second protagonist, tells her side of the story while trying to figure out her feelings and shortcomings as she goes along. I felt as if her narrative fell a bit flat; she was wordy and inconsistent in her approach to helping others. While I never really warmed to Emily, I could appreciate her shortcomings and her enthusiasm alike. What I did love was Lucas, the football player with a big heart. His tenderness and insight was so swoon-worthy and I stuck with Emily just for their sweet, complicated interactions.
This book is all about not judging others for the way they look or act on the outside, but getting to know those around you on a deeper level. I felt like the only person who really accomplished this was Belinda. She learned more about herself through a horrible situation, and rather than hide herself away, she faced her fears and learned how to empathize with her friends. I kept wishing that Emily would have taken these lessons to heart, but she seemed too flighty for much change. Even Lucas was showing more self-awareness by the end of the novel, Emily seemed stuck – I just wish everyone would have rubbed off on her!
The plot was engaging, the dialogue was heartfelt, and the characters made you want to get to know them better. For that alone, I would recommend this book to others as a good contemporary with a deep message. The star of the show was, for me, Belinda and her story told in her own words. I felt that McGovern did a great job with making sure Belinda was a fully realized character in a story where she could have simply been a caricature.
This book deals with diversity in a conscious and thoughtful way, addressing some of the stigmas and assumptions of disabilities in an honest light. A Step Towards Falling gave me a lot to reflect on in terms of my high school experience and how, even now, I should get to know others before I make a final judgement about them or their abilities.
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