Today, I'm reviewing Rebecca Serle's The Edge of Falling. I was lucky enough to read this last summer, and loved it.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Simon Pulse (first published March 13th 2014)
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
The Edge of Falling is an intriguing piece of fiction – one part Gossip Girl, one part Great Gatsby, with a heart that is all Serle, this is a book that you won’t be able to stop reading.
Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.
1) I read Rebecca Serle’s debut novel When You Were Mine last year, and really liked it.
It wasn’t what I expected – for some strange reason, I went into it thinking it was going to be a historical YA, rather than a contemporary YA adaptation of Romeo and Juliet – but I still highly enjoyed it.
However, I wasn’t blown away. I had some minor issues with the initial writing and the characterizations, which I felt could have been improved on.
2) I read a book with a similar premise to The Edge of Falling this year, and thought it was a hot mess.
The bizarre plotting, strange characterizations, and lack of world building, ended up making me seriously wary about reading any future books featuring protagonists with deceased siblings.
So I basically went into The Edge of Falling with the expectation that my interest in the book could go either way.
I could like it because it was a Rebecca Serle book and I knew it had to be relatively good, or I could end up seriously disliking it, because it would end up being similar to the book that I read earlier this year.
What I didn’t expect was to have my mind absolutely blown by the quality of Serle’s writing.
While I generally expect writers to develop stronger skills between their debut and sophomore novel, Serle’s work in The Edge of Falling has exceeded all of my expectations. This is a book where the writing feels levels above the writing in When You Were Mine to the point where it sounded like a completely different writer, and I think that readers will be as impressed with her as I was.
Things that worked:
Serle was obviously a fan of the show – I used to see her tweet about it, when it was still on the air – but I would argue that this is more of a Gatsby-esque tribute, than something you would see the Gossip Girl gang get involved in.
That is to say, this is a book that actually examines the psychosis of what it means to be from a wealthy, elite Upper East Side family, and the expectations and pressures involved of having to live up to a family name.
The book also does an excellent job of actually disseminating how money is frequently used to sweep problems under the rug – specifically focusing on the the breakdown of one character in particular – and how that is not the solution to everything.
In many ways, you don’t really get to know any of the characters very well. Because you’re spending all of your time in Caggie’s head and focusing on her issues, a lot of what you do learn about the characters are gleaned from Caggie’s own impressions, and are not always reliable.
However, even when your understanding of them may not be the full picture, they’re written in a way that really helps to form a strong framework for how you view Caggie’s emotional problems. Serle does a good job of adding the small details which not only fill in the blanks on who these characters are, but their impact on Caggie’s life.
As for Caggie herself, she’s beautifully layered, and complicated. Her characterization actually reminded me a lot of the movie Memento. When we first meet her, she’s jumpy, emotionally damaged and in the aftermath of two massive losses. However, we don’t know why.
We just have a few key details about her, and the walls that she’s systematically built up in the face of her losses. Serle does an excellent job of gradually, and surely, peeling away at those walls throughout the text, until we have the full picture of how and why Caggie transformed from the old Caggie, to the person we meet at the start of the book.
(I realize that may not make sense – but trust me, you’ll get it when you read it.)
The emotional issues/the crux of the novel:
Serle does an excellent job of exploring how and why Caggie felt that recklessness was her only course of action, without dramatizing or trivializing any of her issues. I think that readers will not only find Caggie’s struggles compelling, but also very, very relatable.
Things that didn't work:
A caveat to the awesome folks at S&S though: If it hasn’t been considered already, I would suggest maybe adding resources for depression and suicide in the back of the book.
I think Serle has written a very powerful story that can reach out to young, teenaged readers who may have been in the same position as Caggie, and I think it will really benefit them to know that there are resources immediately available.