Happy Thursday, guys!
Part of the reason why I enjoy blogging so much, is because I get to discover authors and subjects that I wouldn't have otherwise thought to seek out.
Such was the case with A Step Toward Falling. Gina at HarperCollins thoughtfully thought to send me a finished copy, and I've discovered not only a favorite new author, but a thoughtful approach to contemporary prejudices that are encouraging me to view the world in a entirely different way!
Published October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
As the two of them begin a community service program to atone for their failure to act in a situation involving a classmates, both quickly realize the power of viewing the world through new and informed eyes.
After the truth comes out, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are punished and made to do community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?
Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut Say What You Will with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes and learning to forgive.
McGovern introduces us to Emily, a intelligent but emotionally lacking high school student, who freezes when she sees fellow classmate Belinda being assaulted at a football game. As a result of her inaction, both Emily and fellow classmate Lucas - who also witnessed the assault and equally failed to act - are assigned to attend community service sessions at a class for developmentally challenged teens.
Though Emily and Lucas initially go through the expected stages of hesitation and adjustment to a new environment, McGovern is quick to show that both teens have the innate empathy and willingness to learn from the class.They're receptive to the idea that they have approached individuals like Belinda with unintentional prejudices before, and it's gratifying to see how Emily and Lucas begin to learn to appreciate the quirks and friendships offered by their classmates, but also equally champion on their behalf.
McGovern is especially adept in utilizing Emily and Lucas's time in the class and with each other, to open their eyes on just why they both failed to stand up for Belinda on that fateful night. But rather than turn it into an isolated learning moment, McGovern smartly shows Emily and Lucas's tacit recognition that it is in their power to turn their failures into something with long-standing and positive effects for Belinda and the community around them.
Emily's narration alternates with Belinda's throughout the book, and McGovern deserves kudos for writing Belinda as a character that's engaging and distinctive. Readers are given a sincere look at Belinda's cognitive disabilities, especially as she and her family grapples with post-traumatic stress in the wake of the assault. But her thoughts on friendship, love and Colin Firth (!) are a nice reminder that the sincere wants of teenage girls have no boundaries, and Belinda's journey is nicely paralleled with Emily's.
While the secondary romantic and friendship plotlines experienced by Emily and Belinda initially come off as standard contemporary YA fare, McGovern's sincere and thoughtful touch, means that each plotline only adds another layer to Emily and Belinda's respective characters. Especially touching are the plotlines involving Emily's friend Richard, and Belinda's recognition that there are friends who will genuinely appreciate her thoughtfulness.
About the author:
Cammie McGovern is the author of Say What You Will, as well as the adult novels Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. Cammie is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs. She lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband and three children.