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.
If the summary makes you think this is a Twilight rip off, don’t be fooled. There are some similarities – dark, brooding, enigmatic, not-quite-human guy; gullible, shy and sheltered girl, meet, fall in love; he warns her off and she ignores him, bad things ensue. Ok, so that sounds exactly like Twilight, but I promise you it’s not a Meyer clone, whether you want it to be or not. Gwen Haynes seems to recognize this and even throws in a joke when the big reveal of who/what is Haden (think Hades and you won’t be overly surprised that he’s the bad boy). Theia, our lead female, makes a crack about whether he’s going to start sparkling in the sun. Somehow this instantly breaks the tension I was feeling about this being a copycat book.
It also has a far more original plot than its counterpart. Theia, a British transplant in California is stiflingly sheltered by her uptight and rigid father. He controls every aspect of her life from the way she wears her hair to how her room is decorated, and if he suspects she has even one “wild” thought he instantly shuts her down. Theia tries desperately to fit into his mold, but something wild and untamed lives inside her, desperate to break free. When one night a burning man falls from the sky into her yard, he provides the impetus for her to break out of her gilded cage.
From thereon after, Theia is plagued with overly realistic macabre dreams that take place in a land made out of dancing skeletons and Tim Burton’s imagination, but it is there she seemingly first meets Haden. He is a dazzling boy in a top hat and tails, who makes her heart skip a beat but refuses to touch her. Upon waking each day she finds proof that her dreams are real as she always holds a memento from the previous evening. Then one day, Haden shows up in her high school, and all signs of shy and reserved Theia disappear.
Haden and Theia’s waking and dreaming relationship continues to evolve with each one taking turns pushing and pulling the other, unable to stay away, but both knowing they should. Eventually we finally learn what Haden is, why they cannot be together, and it’s not your usual “I’m a vampire/zombie/werewolf/angel/Democrat/vegetarian/jock” and you’re a “succulent bloodbag/overly brainy/a cat/an atheist/ Republican/ cannibal/nerd” or any other star-crossed unattainable love scenario you can think of. Haden does ultimately have a heart of gold, but he is also legitimately a bad dude and his Mommy Dearest is psychotic, which makes him an interesting character. Theia at times can fall a bit flat, but as the book progresses she finds a core of strength inside her, and when push comes to shove, and the proverbial excrement hits hell’s own fan, she doesn’t back down.
What I loved the most about Falling Under, was its end. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it gets very plot-y in the last third of the book. In honesty I was surprised that section wasn’t pulled out and made into the sequel, because it felt as if it could have been a whole other book. The niceties are gone, the sweet romance is doomed, and things all the sudden get very real. Hayes takes the characters to an unexpected (but fantastic) place and instead of having Theia and Haden be such different people who cannot be together, or has one of them give up everything, they both sacrifice. She also doesn’t put them on an unattainable platform of perfection in which everything will come up roses. They both give up everything and Theia steps down a few notches and Haden steps up to meet in the imperfect middle. It was a great end, and an even better set-up for what I hope will be a sequel.
If you’d like to try-before-you-buy, read an excerpt of the book on Gwen Hayes website. If you’ve already read it, make sure to tweet her @gwenhayes and tell her you loved it.