The Upside of Falling
By: Alex Light
Expected Publication: February 18th 2020 by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.
Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.
Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?
When I started The Upside of Falling, things set off in a completely cliche direction. The bookworm and the quarterback fall in love. But it didn't take long to get hooked into the story and characters.
After Becca's parents divorced, she lost her belief in love. She still enjoys reading romance novels as it's okay for love to exist in fiction. It is fiction after all. But in real life...everyone leaves. And what's worse, Becca has no explanation for why her family fell apart. Her parents never argued. Just one day her Dad left and never came back. Yet she's been watching his house on occasion and knows he's living his life and moving on even though he's not a part of her life anymore. At the same time, Becca's ex-best friend just up and decided a couple of years ago that popularity was more important than Becca. And she never really got an explanation there either.
For Brett, his family has it all. His parents are in love. They're well off. He's captain and quarterback of the football team with intentions to play college ball. Yet even though we might each find ourselves on the hilltop, we will all at some time find ourselves in the valley. And Brett's world is starting to implode.
There were many mirroring situations. Becca's parents' relationship was a mirror of Brett's. And Becca's ability to reconcile with Jenny was a mirror of her inability to reconcile with her father.
On a personal level, reading about the challenges that Brett's parents go through was really difficult and emotional for me. I've discussed before that my family has been touched by infidelity, and so reading through this brought back a lot of old memories and emotions that I truly prefer not to relive. I did feel like there were some pieces of their story that didn't make sense to me. But these things revolved around information that Brett didn't have and therefore the reader also wouldn't have. Those pieces weren't part of the purpose of this book, but I couldn't help but latch onto them.
On the other hand, I was impressed with how well of a job The Upside of Falling did in showing the negative effects of divorce on a child. In today's society, divorce is rampant. And because of that, it is often played off like it's normal and that children are unaffected by, or even happy with, their parents' divorce. But Becca's spent six years struggling with her feelings and questions she doesn't (and never will) have an answer for. Brett feels like his entire world is falling apart and school just isn't quite important in the wake of his family problems.
I also wanted to briefly discuss how frequently books attack sympathy. I feel like I need to do a Mountains Out of Molehills post about this. But briefly, I'll just say that sympathy is not a negative thing. Someone telling you that they're sorry that you're going through a difficult time is not wrong. It's not bad. It's not pity. No, it might not be that person's fault that you're experiencing a difficult situation, but that doesn't mean that they can't be genuinely sad that you're dealing with something difficult. We need more sympathy and empathy and caring among each other, and I really wish authors would stop perpetuating negative thoughts surrounding someone offering sympathy to another human being.
I also struggled with Becca's reaction to her books at the end of the story. She does realize that she'd overreacted. But it almost felt like an attack against book readers which isn't really the right message to send considering your target market (other readers).
There was also another Mountains Out of Molehills moment when Jenny mentions that the entire school assumes she's straight. She goes on to say that she's not sure. But aside from this being completely unnecessary to include given that it furthers the story in no way whatsoever, why would the characters not assume that Jenny was straight given that she's dated guys extensively according to previous information given in the book.
The Upside of Falling ended up being better than I expected it to be. I teared up one time and had to put it down long enough to pull myself together a little. I wish I'd have known that cheating would be a prominent conflict point so I could have prepared myself accordingly--although I likely wouldn't have picked this up had I known this ahead of time. I did have a few Mountains Out of Molehills issues. But overall, I loved the story between Brett and Becca. I'm a sucker for fake relationships that turn real. The Upside of Falling gets 4 Stars. Have you read The Upside of Falling? What did you think? Let me know!