Published by Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse on March 1st 2016
Genres: Suspense, Thriller, Young Adult
Reading Challenges: 2016 50 Book Challenge
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
High school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense and volatile relationship—by the new boy in school.
Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.
But love has a way of changing things.
Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.
Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and … terrifying?
But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.
So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.
If she waits any longer, it may be too late.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: writing a YA thriller is exceptionally difficult. It’s hard to put teens in situations that are truly heart-pounding because they are almost always under the thumb of adults. But that hasn’t stopped YA authors from trying to write suburban noir (think Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, etc) for the 12-18 set. The Girl Who Fell caught my attention immediately because I knew it was attempting to do just that. Hell, it even has Girl in the title, clearly indicating what kind of female-center psychological thriller-ish content might be between pages.
The Girl Who Fell is essentially a story about an abusive and possessive boyfriend. We all the know the guy: exceptionally charming, good looking, and completely unhinged. The beginning of the story introduces us to Zephyr Doyle (*eye roll* at that name), a field hockey star with a life long dream of going to Boston College. But her father has recently walked out on her and her mother with no definite promise of return, so Zephyr has developed a strong distrust of relationships where both parties are not “all in.” This sets the stage perfectly for Alec to walk into her life, sweep her off her feet, and convince her to start devoting all of her time to him.
In the beginning, my first thought was, ‘This is Twilight!” Which was a GOOD SIGN. I though Parker might be making a nod to the abusive relationships portrayed in Twilight and similar novels by showing how these grand romantic gestures hide the much more sinister motivations of control and possession. However, that all fell flat when the novel just did not deliver on setting up a believable romance between Alec and Zephyr. It all moved way too fast! The love was too instalove-y and the abused happened so quickly that Zephyr just ended up looking like a blind idiot.
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to get into the territory of victim blaming here. Let me be clear that I believe this was all a problem with the writing, not Zephyr as a person (were she real). I believe that the intent was a slow progression from infatuation to run-for-your-life, but that it just was not possible to do this in a three hundred page novel. I’ve been in what I now see was an emotionally abusive relationship, and it took that boyfriend at least a year to start really laying the groundwork for his bullshit. It didn’t start two weeks into our relationship. I know it happens, sure, but I don’t think that’s the story Parker was trying to tell here. The entire relationship in the novel lasts a mere three months, which I just can’t believe was enough time for everything to develop the way that it did. To quote Anchorman, “Well, that escalated quickly!”
I mean, really, Zephyr should have said, “NOPE” and immediately walked away when Alec asked her to turn down her acceptance into Boston College to go with him to culinary school in Michigan. Who does that one month into a high school relationship?
Ultimately, I’m judging this book on it’s failure to execute what I believe it intends to be. This may not be fair, but no one said the opinion of the reading public had to be fair. There are oodles of reviews on Goodreads praising The Girl Who Fell for tackling this important subject, but I have to wonder how many of these are just glad/impressed the subject was tackled rather than taking the time to critically consider if it was tackled well. Just featuring a timely, important topic is not enough for me. It must be executed well. I mean, consider this sentence that shows an example of the writing:
“He moves his mouth against mine so gently his skin feels like faded cotton, warm and inviting. I fall into his kiss, my tongue in a liquid smooth search for his rhythm.”
On the surface this sounds beautiful and poetic, but it’s actually overdone and a bit nonsensical. Who wants to kiss cotton? Is his kiss cotton or his body? Why is his rhythm in his mouth? What exactly does that feel like? Exactly how long is this kiss in the middle of the school hallway? The whole book was riddled with this flowery prose that some might read as romantic, or even erotic, but I found to be quite forced and, at times, just plain weird.
FINAL GRADE: D
Another YA “thriller” that failed to meet my expectations due to unrealistic scenarios and poorly drawn characters. Seems like I should learn to skip these and just pick up adult thrillers in the future…at least in those no one has to explain why mom and dad are never around. Skip this and read You by Caroline Kepnes if you are looking for creepy boyfriends and page-turning thrills.