Surprise, surprise! I’m reviewing a book that scared me because of its horrifying plausibility. I’m such a glutton for mental-punishment. This time the damage was caused by Megan Crewe’s chilling novel, The Way We Fall.
It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. And then you’re dead.
-description taken from author’s website
The Way We Fall is told from sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s point-of-veiw in epistolary form via journal entries to her former best friend, Leo. Kaelyn and Leo have had a falling out a few years prior and Leo has just left for dance school. Kaelyn regrets not patching things up with him and begins her journal with the intent of giving it to Leo when he returns home for his first visit, but before that can happen, the outbreak does. Kaelyn continues to journal, documenting the “fall.”
I will admit I had a hard time getting into the story with this format, I felt very distant from the story for some reason. I know this method is usually a very quick way to get readers ingrained in a story, but something just fell flat for me. I almost gave up, but I’m really glad I didn’t because about half-way through the story, it clicked for me. Kaelyn’s experiences and the way she openly documented them became something I cared about.
Kaelyn and her family (dad, mom, older brother, uncle, and young niece) live on a small island off the coast of mainland Canada, which allows for the outbreak to be controlled, even if the means at which it is seems extreme. The disease comes on very subtly, it’s symptoms very bland in their nature. An itch, how benign. We all get them and I guarantee by the end of the book you’ll be scratching like a fiend, I certainly was. The slow-moving paranoia that begins to grip the island and the actions of the “islanders” and the “mainlanders” as the disease begins to take lives will have you questioning your own morals and the lengths you would go to survive.
Crewe creates an intriguing cast of supporting characters that allows for Kaelyn to see the full spectrum of humanity. She is enough of an outsider in her community to be able to tell the story with a sense of detachment that it doesn’t get weighted down with maudlin sentimentality. Not that Kaelyn is unfeeling, quiet the opposite, but she leans toward a more scientific mind, thus allowing her to “report her findings” to Leo instead of losing herself in despair.
Now that I’ve probably bummed you out, let me say that this is a very lovely story, at its core, filled with hope. Confused? Well, through all of the horror and loss (and there is a lot of that) Kaelyn finds her strength and discovers who she is. She allows herself to become a protector and reaches out to others, forming a budding friendship and falling in love. The romance is really sweet and made me a little wistful for that first rush of love. Even under the extreme conditions Kaelyn and her love interest are faced with, love really does find a way. Too sappy of me? Eh, probably, but I really did get heartchokey with them a few times.
The Way We Fall is the first book in a trilogy, so you’re not going to have all the answers at the end, but you’ll be okay. It was a good place to stop and catch your breath, but know that there is still so much left of the story, because, holy moly, things are really, really bad on Kaelyn’s little island.