A Step Toward Falling – Cammie McGovern – HarperTeen – Published 6 October 2015
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?
A Step Toward Falling is a book that is beautifully written and has a wonderful message of friendship and love, of fear and bravery, and of learning to reach out and stand up. This is a book that is well worth reading.
Lucas and Emily. One a successful football player and part of the popular social group at school, the other an academic activist. Now they are connected by one night where they both failed to act when Belinda, a fellow student with developmental disabilities, was being attacked. As Belinda deals with the aftermath of the attack she must decide what direction she wants her life to take, while Emily and Lucas must each deal with their guilt while undertaking community service at a relationship skills class hosted at the local centre for people with disabilities.
When I first read an excerpt of A Step Toward Falling I made the mistake of assuming the dual points of view would be from Emily and Lucas and the book would focus on their journey of meeting and working with each other. I was wrong. This book is so much more than that. The dual points of view are actually told by Emily and Belinda. While this book is about Emily and Lucas’ journey, it is equally, if not more so, about Belinda. It is about falling in love, but it encompasses two love stories not one, and it is also about friendship and learning more about caring for the individuals around you.
Belinda was my favourite character. She is so strong and brave. She has been hurt, but is pretty smart about what she needs to do to move forward and about learning from something bad that ends up bring a lot of good for people. Emily on the other hand kind of drove me nuts. Now, no character in this book is perfect, they all have flaws and quite a bit to learn about being nicer to people, but Emily really takes the cake. She isn’t mean on purpose, she just sometimes seems oblivious to how what she says hurts others. I thought she was especially obliviously rude to Lucas. But this book is about becoming aware and Emily does learn to reflect on what she says and assumes – I just found that Belinda is far more aware of this and reads as a much nicer character as a result.
Lucas makes a nice contrast to Emily. As the story is not presented from his view point, we never really get much of an insight into his life, just fragments as he talks with Emily. There was a lot more I wanted to know about Lucas, about his home life, his goals for after school and his relationship with his father. Unfortunately we don’t get to see much of this, but there are a lot of different stories in this book; Belinda and her mother and grandmother, the respective friendship and class groups at school, and of course the Life Skills class group at which Emily and Lucas volunteer. I have to say I learnt a lot about communication and expectations from reading about their interactions, and I loved all the different characters and personalities that emerged as a result.
At first the story really jumps all over the place time wise, moving from Emily’s first day at the centre, to just after the attack, to before, to during and back again. As the story continues though, this straightens out, with just a few jumps back to clarify the details of that night. As the story progressed I also became more connected with the characters.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved that it was Belinda’s story and that she got to tell it. This is a book that is perfect for changing world views, or maybe just changing how you see and treat the people around you.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abuse, bullying, equality, friendship, disabilities, romance, relationships and dating.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Occasional coarse language, f***, s***. Sexual references, characters discuss sexual situations, and a sexual assault is described in some detail.
Published: 6 October 2015 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 368 pages.