Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M Parker

The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M Parker
Release Date - March 01, 2016
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 368 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
High school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense and volatile relationship—by the new boy in school.

His obsession.
Her fall.

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.
Love is capable of many things. It can be patient, kind and unconditional. It is also used by people as a weapon. It can hurt. The Girl Who Fell looks at what love actually is and, more importantly, what it is not. This is not a romance novel, even if some of the elements in it may seem familiar.

This novel shines a bright light on behaviour that is often romanticized or overlooked, especially in various forms of entertainment. Stalking, obsessive behaviour, alienating from family and friends, and using guilt to manipulate the situation are just some of the examples found within these pages. The subtle ways in which someone controls and manipulates another were especially highlighted. The unnerving thing is plenty of what happens in this novel has been presented as romantic at some point. The slow escalation, particularly in the first half, is something this novel does incredibly well. At first everything seems great, but there are uncomfortable moments that build on top of each other until the red flags are too loud to ignore.

Alec makes Zephyr feel unworthy just by using his words. He makes her feel like his demands for her to not see her friends, and for her to give up dreams she has had for years, are reasonable. He uses coercion and guilt to make feel that she would lose him if she doesn't comply. It's used to dictate their relationship in so many ways. He makes her feel unworthy. Unworthy of him and his love. The novel's subtlety adeptly crafts a narrative where you see how Zephyr would be vulnerable to this sort of relationship. The most striking moments are ones where Zephyr says no and Alec not only doesn't respect her voice, he flat out rejects it. He silences her voice, and makes it feel like her idea. This novel makes it clear to all readers that love shouldn't come with conditions. It's price shouldn't be your voice and your dreams. That this kind of relationship isn't love. Zephyr's journey allows the reader to see these actions in a very different perspective.

The later pacing, and escalation of Alec's abusive behaviour, in the back part of the novel is what didn't work for me. I appreciated the more subtle beginning simply because of it's importance. Plenty of people don't even register Alec's actions as abusive or problematic until it becomes more obvious, but Alec is flashing warning signs all over the place in the beginning. The later part of the novel, for me, felt too rapid and rushed. I cannot say it's  impossible for someone to escalate this way because I am sure this depicts someone's experience, but the first half gets those warning signs so right that I wanted more from the ending. I think experiencing that progression in this instance was needed. I wanted to be sucker-punched and that just never happened.

A novel that shines by highlighting that not all abuse is physical. It showcases a more subtle abusive relationship, and it's one that people may not even see as problematic at first. While the back half of the novel did not feel as strong to me, I do feel this is an important and necessary read, particularly for teenagers. It is a novel that will facilitate conversation, and that in itself makes it worthy of the read.

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