“Just because we can’t see the problem doesn’t mean we aren’t part of it.”
Title: A Step Toward Falling
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication:October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Publisher at ALA Annual
Summary from Goodreads:
Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.
Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to 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. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?
This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because this book was an emotional roller-coaster or particularly thought provoking, but because I feel the same way about this book that I did with A Thousand Nights. While A Step Toward Falling had a lot going for it – an intriguing premise, well-rounded characters, a controversial issue – nothing really happened. The book just trudged along. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting or mind blowing, I didn’t become emotionally invested in any characters, and I didn’t sympathize with anything going on. Sadly, A Step Toward Falling fell woefully short.
I think my biggest problem was the fact that I was expecting this to be emotional. The blurbs on the back of the book are all about how moving, heart wrenching, and engaging this book is – and, after reading it, I must say I believe all of those quoted to be on some sort of drug. This book was nothing like what they said it would be. I swear, they should change the title from A Step Toward Falling to A Plan for Falling Asleep or something equally ridiculous. This book literally drags you through the most monotonous, uneventful plot I have ever seen (required reading for class aside). There is literally nothing that happens – we just get a lot of exposition about making choices, learning to see people differently, and learning who your friends are. All in all, it was pretty lack luster.
Now, the characters weren’t horrible or anything – in fact, I actually kind of liked them. Well, I liked everyone but Emily and Belinda. Emily and Belinda were both whiny brats – you can hate me for saying that. I want you to know, I have nothing against people with disabilities. I have a very personal connection to what is going on in the story, more than one person in my family has struggled with mental illness. But, my point here is that both Belinda and Emily are basically whining throughout the entire book – Emily because her friends are doing stuff without her and Belinda because she is extremely bossy. Like I said, I have nothing against Belinda and what she went through – this is simply a matter of the nonexistent character development. If they had started off that way and then changed throughout the story, I would have both forgiven and commended them for it. But, instead, they seemed to get worse the more the story dragged on – and that, I am not okay with. The only person who really seemed to go on any sort of transformative journey was Lucas (who I think is awesome by the way). He starts off as the sort of typical jock football player, but by the end he is sort of the main driving force behind making Belinda happy again. He basically forsakes all of his “friends” when he realizes that they’re just a bunch of insensitive assholes – something Emily couldn’t even bring herself to do when her friends turned their backs on her more than once.
I think what this story was trying to do was very important, and there were some things in here that did actually speak to me – but those moments were few and far between and tended to be drowning beneath everything else. I’m not saying that I hate the book or anything, I’m just saying that I sort of think it was a waste of time. It could have been a lot better, it should have been a lot better. A Step Toward Falling just didn’t do it for me, and I sort of hate myself for it. I really wanted to like it, I forced myself to read the entire thing in the hopes that it would get better. I should have just cut my losses when I figured out how bored I was.
If I had to give this book a label – it would fall in the category of meh. It tried really hard to do something and failed on multiple fronts. I wanted more character development, more plot, and an actual ending (which there really wasn’t). I can appreciate the book’s intentions, but that’s about it. Don’t waste your time on this unless you have nothing better to do.