Today, I'm reviewing Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts. I was lucky enough to read an E-ARC of this awhile back, and I'm so glad it's finally out!
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
YA authors are able to show how traumatic and bizarre it can be to be a teenager living with the knowledge that they're never going to be able to have a normal life, in ways that I feel like books with older characters may not necessarily be able to accomplish.
So when I heard about Tumble & Fall back in the beginning of the year, I knew that this was something I had to read. I was fascinated by the idea of reading about teenagers dealing with the idea that they can't control the asteroid about to hit, and wanted to see how Coutts would pull it off.
Fortunately for me, Macmillian kindly granted me permission to an ARC, and I delved right in!
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.
Alexandra Coutts's TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world.
Things that worked:
I think this is the first time that I've read an ARC where protagonists are literally waiting for something terrible to happen to them.
The majority of YA apocalyptic books I've read in the past have almost always had the world-altering event take place before the book opens, or it's so quick, it's almost a blip on the radar.
So the fact that Coutts chose to literally have the life-impacting event be a continuously waiting event, was intriguing and awesomely conceived. I would honestly say that I think readers should pick up the book for this very reason alone.
* The writing
I know that some reviewers may disagree with me,
but I think that Coutts writes in a beautifully understated sort of way. She gets into the heads of her characters in a way where the reader will literally feel like they're living every breath, walking every step, and making every move right alongside Sienna, Zan and Caden. Coutts's writing absolutely immersed me into this beautifully bleak world that the characters are living in, and I believe that her writing is another reason to absolutely pick up this book.
* The pacing
While the alternating perspectives didn't completely work for me - more on this later - I thought Coutts did do a good job of pacing those perspectives so that the story moved along, just at the right time.
* The characterizations
The three main characters all brought their own stories to the table, and Coutts captured each of their personalities beautifully.
(Or what we saw of these personalities, at any rate - again, more on this later.)
I think that Coutts absolutely nailed how all three characters, with their distinctive personalities, would react differently in the face of a world-ending disaster, and made the readers see and understand their motivations, actions and decisions, even if didn't agree with them.
Coutts also did a spectacular job of showing how teenagers will remain teenagers, even in the face of something like this tragedy, and I think that this is something that teen readers will absolutely relate to.
* The cover
The Macmillian team absolutely hit the ball out of the park with the cover for T&F, and I think that this is definitely a cover that will make readers stop and take notice, whether online or in the stores.
Things that didn't work:
While I definitely understood what Coutts was trying to achieve with having multiple perspectives - if you're going to show a disaster, it should theoretically be compelling to see it unfold from different angles - it made it harder to get to know any of the three main characters, what made them tick, and ultimately, what it was to care for them.
I do have to agree with some of the other reviews I've read - I think that if the three main characters had intersected more, I probably would have enjoyed the multiple perspectives more.
* The lack of urgency
Maybe it's because I'm from L.A., where people will cheerfully riot after our basketball team wins, but I was a little surprised by the lack of urgency in the plotting.
Characters seemed a little too okay with the fact that the world was probably going to end, and they were going to die. I wanted more urgency, more people panicking, thinking and doing crazy things.
Essentially, I was hoping for something along the lines of the urgency that I read in Life As We Knew It - with people going crazy in grocery stores, doing crazy things in the name of religion, etc.
However, this is completely a personal preference. I think Coutts does a good job of showing how people can lose themselves/go inside themselves in the face of a catastrophe. Ultimately, I think it's going to be down to personal preference, when it comes to how you view the storyline.
I would especially recommend this book for fans of Life As We Knew It, and possibly for fans who like thoughtful, quiet disaster movies - e.g. Melancholia.