Book Review: The Girl Who Fell by S.M. Parker
Come back later today for a guest post from S.M. Parker, author of The Girl Who Fell.
Zephyr Doyle 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.
Two things I would wish for readers of this book: don’t read the blurb and skip the initial chapter, which shows us a scene from near the end of the story. I know—neither wish is realistically going to come true, but skipping those two items allows for a much slower reveal and unraveling of who Alec really is. I was on high “I HATE YOU” alert from the second he appeared in Zephyr’s classroom, thanks to knowing ahead of time what a monster he turns out to be. That quibble aside, this book was a phenomenally powerful read.
Zephyr’s life is in transition. It’s senior year and while she’s excited to leave Sudbury, New Hampshire for college—hopefully Boston College—she’s also a little nervous and adrift. Her dad bailed on her 18th birthday, moving out and leaving behind an extremely hurt and rejected kid. It seems like everyone is figuring out their futures, but Zephyr’s plagued by doubts and insecurities. When her best friend, Gregg, kisses her, their friendship becomes yet another thing that feels uncertain. They’ve been close friends forever and are planning to go to college together. Zephyr’s upset that he put them in that situation (with the kiss) and her rejection and reaction sting Gregg. Enter Alec, the new guy, transplanted to the public school from a private boarding school. He instantly makes it clear that he’s into Zephyr. She can’t believe that this cute, considerate, doting guy is into her. Their relationship becomes intense really quickly.
Because the blurb and first chapter set us up to have our radars on alert for troublesome behavior from Alec, it’s easy to see all of the worrying signs of what becomes an abusive relationship. Before long, Alec doesn’t want her to hang out with Gregg (he’s threatened), wants her to ditch important events, is calling her obsessively, gets bent out of shape about EVERYTHING, and wants her to completely change her future plans for him. Zephyr goes along with all of this because she thinks it’s love. She’s lost and hurting and craves Alec’s attention and, at times, affection. She often understands that things he’s asking her or ways he’s behaving aren’t right, but she erases those thoughts every time by remembering they’re in love and how planning a future.
The story plays out how you think it will: Alec’s increasingly controlling and abusive. Parker doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing what a terrifying and violent creep Alec is. This book wasn’t easy to read. As an adult, as a woman, as a parent, I kept wanting to jump into the book and help Zephyr. Her other best friend, Lizzie, repeatedly tells her that this isn’t what love looks like, that she’s letting herself get too involved in Alec’s wishes, that there are too many red flags. Zephyr does tell her mom some of the scary things about Alec, eventually, but she also keeps many important details back. We are right there, as readers, for every second of violence, control, and isolation that Alec orchestrates. It’s a well-written and truly terrifying story. Parker builds the tension throughout the whole book, making Alec more of a monster in every chapter. It’s hard to watch Zephyr not see him for who he truly is and really hard to watch her stay him with him, give him second chances, and keep his abuse a secret. This suspenseful and upsetting look at an abusive relationship will appeal to readers who like dark stories of relationships gone bad.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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