Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Note: I received a copy for review from the publisher
Genre: Young Adult
Publish Date: March 1, 2011

Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

I happen to enjoy dark stories and dark and dangerous characters, so when I read the synopsis for Falling Under, it sounded right up my alley even though I assumed it would end up being a rather watered down and less edgy story than what the blurb led me to believe. Well, I woulda lost that bet.

Where to begin? I'm still feeling a bit shaken and stirred after finishing this book just a couple hours ago, so you'll have to bear with me, while I attempt to put my thoughts into some sort of coherent pattern here.

Let's start with our leading lady, Theia. I have to confess that the book was a bit of a slow start for me and a lot of that had to do with the narration in Theia's head. She sounded so....not 17 (and I usually enjoy that fact in my leads) that it threw me off at first. To be completely fair, though, Theia is British, has had an extremely (understatement) sheltered upbringing and her father is both overbearing and completely cold and closed off emotionally so one can understand why Theia did not have the voice of a typical teenager. It took me a little while to warm up to Theia, but a few chapters in and I was feeling much more comfortable in her head and by the end...well, I really think she grew into a fascinating and layered character that I liked very much.

Haden (which I've now decided to name my next child) is a fabulously layered and interesting character. He's dark, dangerous, vulnerable, arrogant, self-deprecating and charming by turns. This is not a faux dark and dangerous leading man. He has dark cravings and though he fights them, they are also bound up with the good and pure feelings he has for Theia and the results of this twisted, but no less pure, love can be messy, ugly, and also brilliant and lovely. I can absolutely understand why Theia would put her soul on the line for him even though the "lonely male" card has been played over and over before, Haden really owned it in this story and made it work for himself. It's rather like taking in a wounded and half starved wolf. He may be grateful, but he may just eat you for your trouble. And you may still think it was worth it in the end...

The story itself had moments where the cliches ran thick and the imagery could be heavy handed, but it worked for the book. Many times the book even called itself on the comparisons that could be made. Even still, I enjoyed the lush and vivid setting that at times was beautiful and strange and at others was dark and beyond disturbing and often blended the beautiful and disturbing together. I felt swept up in the current of the tale and buffeted about like I was in a storm at sea. There were times where the story turned on it's head and I thought for sure I was not going to like the new developments and I thought to myself "Why?!" But then an insidious voice would whisper to me..."Why not?" and I was completely pulled under again.

Something that really worked for this story were the side characters. They were vital to the story itself and were not props. They were vivid and very much their own people but they came together in such a beautiful way. The characters are all bound together and fiercely loyal and I really felt there was a "no man left behind" unspoken motto for most of the book and I loved it. Another thing that I found worked well for the story were the moments of unexpected humor. There was definitely some "bad juju" ,as the characters called it, goin' down and yet in the midst of all the heavy someone would say or do something that made me unexpectedly laugh out loud. Those moments of humor and lightness really helped to balance the story out. Oh, and Madame Varnie is one of my favorite characters. Maybe ever.

Falling Under is definitely darker, edgier and frankly, more erotic than a lot of YA's that I read and it really worked for me. There was still a lovely bit of innocence and purity that ran through the story that really helped balance the book and the characters so that they were relatable and made you hope, even when things looked impossible, that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

The ending was very satisfying for me and really helped bring the characters to a more equal footing as well as showcasing a lot of growth for several of the people we come to really care about. We really get to see just how far Theia and Haden are willing to go for each other and how far their friends are willing to go, too.

I'm going to include one of my favorite passages and it really highlights, for me, Haden's struggle with the darkness in him. If you don't like spoilery stuff then don't read on:

"This isn't a crush; it's an obsession. You are never not in my thoughts. Your scent carries across a room and paralyzes me with longing. I don't want to hold your hand. Part of me wants to set you on fire and hold you while the flame consumes us both, to eat your heart so I know that only I possess it entirely. Are you scared now?"

Oh, Haden, you had me at setting me on fire and eating my heart. ::dreamy sigh::

My final grade: A

It's a bit of a slow start but once the story gets a hold on you, you need to know where it's going to take you next.

Author's Website


Gwen Hayes said...

I will be honest--Theia has been and still is a struggle for me to write. She's doesn't ever do what I expect.
I tried to get Haden interested in Amelia several times but no go. :)

The Queen B said...

Ahahaha! I love Amelia, I really do, but I like where she's going and *hopefully* with whom. :D
Theia was a bit slow for me to warm up to, but by the end I really liked her. The changes put them on more of an even footing, to my mind, and I liked that. Can't wait for more! :D

Unknown said...

Great review B! Sounds like a great book! =D

Emma said...

Oh, Haden, you had me at setting me on fire and eating my heart. ::dreamy sigh::
I am partial to Theia. This book is so full of win & there are so many quotables but one of my favs is, "I tumbled through darkness, awakening in my own bed with a stranger’s heart beating in my chest."

I hope there are more YAs like this one.

The Queen B said...

@Larissa Thanks, sweets! I liked the book a lot. :D

@Emma I liked that quote, too and I completely agree, there are so many good ones in this book. I want more dark and lush YAs like this, too.

Rebeka said...

After I read your review and that quote you gave us, I just had to read the book, needless to say i read it in one night :) and even after a month I still have flashes of parts of the book that I found very interesting.
So congrats to the author and I can't wait for the second one to come out. (hope it doesn't take too long for it to be published :D )

The Queen B said...

Glad you enjoyed!!

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