Friday, 16 October 2015
Review: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
Publication Date: October 6th, 2015
Source: Publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
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Sometimes one mistake can change everything.
Emily doesn’t know why she froze. Or why Lucas did too. Afterward, she thought of different ways to rationalize it. But the truth is, they could have helped Belinda, and they didn’t. It’s a mistake they’ll both have to live with.
Sometimes doing nothing is the only way to cope.
Belinda doesn’t want to talk about what happened. Because when she does, it feels like it’s happening all over again.
Sometimes good can come from bad.
Emily and Lucas’s punishment is community service at a center for people with disabilities. People like Belinda. Soon they 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. Like they could help not only those at the center but also each other.
But when Belinda returns to school, Emily and Lucas have to figure out if they can do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt most.
Alright, so there was so much positive feedback from McGovern's previous novel, Say What You Will, that I was desperate to give her upcoming novel(this one) a go. Diversity seems to be something McGovern is passionate about including in her stories, so that is already something that gets me excited. Always need more diverse characters in my life. Well unfortunately that's one of the few positive parts of A Step Toward Falling for me. What could have been a powerful story about two high school girls(actually just high schoolers) learning from adversity turned out to be a very dull and lackluster novel.
A Step Toward Falling is told in alternating POV's. There's Emily, a senior who thinks of herself as a nobody and is waiting for college where she can become a somebody. And Belinda, also a senior but in the special education class. During a football game Emily witnesses Belinda being harassed under the bleachers. Rather than help, Emily freezes up until she notices Lucas, a football player, coming out the change rooms and she figures he'll help Belinda. But he doesn't either. The after math is Emily and Lucas being held responsible for their lack of action to help Belinda. They are to volunteer at the center for people with disabilities. Specifically the dating and relationships class. Well Belinda is trying to forget that night well immersing herself in Pride and Prejudice.
Let's start with the few things I liked about A Step Toward Falling. Belinda being one of them. I would have preferred the whole book being in her POV. She is a much more complex and dynamic character then Emily. Because of Belinda's learning disability her Nan keeps her a bit more sheltered and spoiled then she should be. Which shows in Belinda's personality in how she thinks she's better than her classmates because she can read or type, etc... But this is where I think the book was well done, because of how Belinda started to understand how her words and actions hurt people. Even people she found annoying. Like Anthony(who is adorable by the way). He's in her class and in love with her. But Belinda's obsession with Colin Firth's Pride and Prejudice blurs reality for her sometimes; in what a girl and boy should be like in love and marriage. Anthony is so upbeat and positive that it starts to rub off on Belinda thus helping her forget when she's scared or not understanding about the night at the football game. Belinda's intelligence and inquisitiveness is able to keep her strong.
Emily on the other hand is a weak character. I don't blame her for freezing up when she came across Belinda; because that's a scary situation to walk across. BUT the fact that she did absolutely nothing is pretty unforgivable. Lucas as well for that matter. The two of them were extremely selfish in that moment. Emily is another Bella. She's a blank face who is literally surprised about everything. I should have counted the amount of times she was surprised or said that was surprising. I'm hazarding a guess and saying at least every other page. Her eyebrows must be stuck up at her hairline by now. Emily is also so literal about everything. Oh and get some new friends. Richard her "best friend" is a piece of work. Their friendship is convenient and nothing else. Even at the end of the book when... actually never mind that's a rant in of itself.
Lucas is no better. First he's the jock. Then he's the broody jock. Then he starts to have some sort of personality bleed through when he has a witty line or two. Lucas is just another convenience. The jock and the nerd form a bond over selfishness. Yawn.
Beware, ranting to commence.
I had a lot of problems with authority in this book. Firstly the teachers at the school. The biggest example being the drama teacher; every year Belinda auditions for the play and every year he says he wants to cast her but he can't because they don't have anyone to watch her. What? No! That is not positive portrayal of how the school system really works. Or Belinda's speech therapist would get frustrated with her love of P&P. Or she'd see a teacher roll their eyes. I understand frustration, and other emotions, but I'm reading this through Belinda, which means Belinda is the one seeing these adults who are supposed to be teaching her and helping her grow and succeed wear their negative emotions on their faces. This makes me angry.
Secondly, at the disability center in the class Emily and Lucas are volunteering in; Chad a college kid also shows up to volunteer. Right off he comes off as slimy. But the icing on the cake is when the teacher tells Emily that she had problems with Chad's attitude and behaviour last year and he would never be invited back; except his mom called and begged her to let him volunteer again. Are you kidding me? The people in the class already face difficulties and teasing outside the class. and this class is supposed to help them become more acceptably social. So you want to let someone that is awful and makes them uncomfortable hinder their progress? Fuck no. What Chad is a character progression device for Emily that majorly backfires towards my tolerance.
A Step Toward Falling is a well meaning book that tries way to hard. The writing is dull and mechanical. Most of the characters are one dimensional. There's all the show and very little tell. And the negative and intolerable way authority figures are shown around the vulnerable really just made this book not alright. When delivering a story with characters with disabilities, especially in YA, I need to see them surrounded by positive adults. I know you'll get the few that just don't understand. but that's not what I took from a lot of the situations played out. Especially with the lack of punishment after the reader is given the whole story of what happened at the football game. I'm horrified at what came of this book. The focus on Emily and Lucas's relationship(which I feared would happen) took precedence and once against showed selfishness when everyone involved is never held accountable.
Belinda and Anthony could not save this book for me.