Release date: March 1, 2016
In this dark kissing book, high school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense 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.
The Girl who Fell has been one of the best character-driven contemporary books I have read in recent times. A girl who was always in control being led down the wrong way into an abusive relationship is the basic story, yes, but the author goes down deep into both the abused and abuser, showing how a simple infatuation develops into something toxic. The book starts off with a scary horror movie-esque scene, which basically tells you what their ill-fated romance is going to end up as, but as I said, the story is more in the telling of how it happens. It shows the small manipulations that go unnoticed, something that isn’t even recognized as abuse early on.
Zephyr is in her last year of school, ready to leave her boring town and is very much looking forward to attending her dream college. But she also has abandonment issues lurking in her heart, from her father suddenly leaving her family and the overall fear of changes in the future. Enter Alec, who soothes her every worry, who empathizes with her, who seems shy and vulnerable. Even though she has guarded her heart all these years, she finds herself falling for him, getting guided by his warped love until she doesn’t realize that she starts relying on him. She’s being stupid, yes, but you also see why she is being stupid. She is so thoroughly manipulated that she doesn’t see him manipulating her subtly, alienating her from others, making her do things she is not comfortable doing; she doesn’t even see how his possessiveness and insecurity looks dangerous. I think it’s an important thing that the author showed that abuse isn’t limited to physical one; there are layers of emotional abuse that go unnoticed.
The writing was very much, to say, on point. Honestly, that climax? I felt like I was there in that house with her, feeling her fear, her desperation; basically it is a hard scene to read, so I feel it prudent to include trigger warnings for this case. The other secondary characters are also well-written; for a change we have an involved best friend, rather than a conveniently absent one. Alec himself was a puzzle until the epilogue, where I fully understood his nature. Gregg, however, was a shitty friend to her, no contest; even if his feelings were hurt, he alienates her at a vulnerable time. Overall, I think it was a brilliantly written book, and I look forward to more works from the author.
Received a free galley from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings: physical and emotional abuse, brutality.