Falling Boy
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Falling Boy

4.0 1
by Alison McGhee

"Did you really rescue your mother from a fate worse than death on a cliff overlooking the sea?"

After a mysterious accident left him paralyzed, sixteen-year-old Joseph finds himself living with his father in Minneapolis and working hot summer days in a bakery. What happened to the life he used to live? How did he come to be here? Although they approach the


"Did you really rescue your mother from a fate worse than death on a cliff overlooking the sea?"

After a mysterious accident left him paralyzed, sixteen-year-old Joseph finds himself living with his father in Minneapolis and working hot summer days in a bakery. What happened to the life he used to live? How did he come to be here? Although they approach the mystery in different ways, two people in Joseph's new life—seventeen-year-old Zap, who also works in the bakery, and Enzo, a fierce and funny nine-year-old girl—both want to find out.

"Are you really a superhero?" whispers Enzo, who secretly longs for her world to be transformed. "Please be a superhero."

Stoically quiet, Joseph has never thought of himself as a superhero, especially now that he is in a wheelchair and can't feel his legs. But others disagree. Who is the hero? Who is the enemy? Is redemption possible, and if so, where is it to be found? In Alison McGhee's strange and powerful Falling Boy, a small band of tough kids turn the myth of the superhero inside out as they face down the shadows of childhood.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Shadow Baby:

"Suspenseful and moving."—The New York Times Book Review

"This is one of those novels in which the quality of the writing lulls a reader . . . the way beauty does in real life."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Praise for Rainlight:

"Gracefully poignant, exquisitely precise, Rainlight is an astonishingly beautiful rendering of the delicate dance between grief and healing."—Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, authors of The Nanny Diaries

"Unfold[s] as delicately as rice paper . . . Illustrates, simply and searingly, the complex emotional connections everyone feels but few can articulate."—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Publishers Weekly
A late adolescence of fierce, sweet turmoil provides the inspiration for McGhee (Shadow Baby), who also writes YA novels. His legs recently paralyzed in an accident, 16-year-old, wheelchair-bound Joseph works in a Minneapolis bakery with Zap, a boy of 17, and is pelted with questions by Enzo, a girl of nine whom no one seems to be looking after. After the accident, Joseph left upstate New York and his troubled mother to live with a father he barely knows. Enzo, who desperately wants Joseph to be a superhero hurt performing a feat of derring-do, persists in trying to unravel the accident's mystery. Mai, a lovely teenage girl with a growing crush on Joseph, and her younger brother, Cha (who is locked in an interior world of his own, add to the mix. McGhee renders their insular world delicately, but the narrative gets saturated with that world's atmosphere, and the characters often come across as too young for their years. Readers willing to suspend some disbelief will be charmed by McGhee's tender and affecting coming-of-age tale. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Jenny Ingram
Sixteen-year-old Joseph is wheelchair bound and has a summer job in a bakery in downtown Minneapolis. Daily, he and Zap, also sixteen, staff the counter and interact with the regular customers, including a precocious eight-year-old girl called Enzo, a teenaged girl with her silent brother in tow, and a kilt-wearing man who eats only hard-cooked eggs. The boys demonstrate great acceptance for their eccentric clientele, and through their encounters with them, the story of how Joseph came to be in a wheelchair is revealed, and the reader gains insight into the changes in Joseph's life as a paraplegic. The story is subtle and revealed one piece at a time. McGhee's characters are complex and full of surprises, and she is accepting of their idiosyncrasies. Descriptions replace names for adults, whose roles are not significant-the world of the bakery belongs to teenagers and children, like the world of the "Peanuts" gang. Well-placed flashbacks are used as tools to tell the story of Joseph's accident, and only at the end is the entire picture complete. If McGhee is teaching a lesson with this book, she does it gently and provides much material for discussion, either in the classroom or in an informal setting.
VOYA - Rebecca Moreland
Falling Boy takes a unique approach to answering the question, "What makes a superhero?" Is it the costume, the extraordinary power, or the unassuming way that he holds the world together? This offhand look at the quiet trials of childhood resonates with those who have missed a home they once knew or have formed a strong bond with other children during their adolescence. McGhee, instead of clearly laying out the meanings of the book, makes good use of repeated images and metaphors.
Kirkus Reviews
A wheelchair-bound teenager learns to survive the damage he's suffered, emotional as well as physical, in this slight but highly wrought story from McGhee (Was It Beautiful?, 2003, etc.). While his father sleeps or drinks, 16-year-old paraplegic Joseph spends his days working at a bakery/cafe with 17-year-old Zap, the owner's son. Zap's Pied Piper charisma works on all the customers but Enzo, a nine-year-old girl who appears to have nothing to do all day but hang out at the bakery and bicker with Zap, to whom she directs an intense sibling love-hate. Zap, who gives nicknames to everyone, calls Joseph "Flying Joseph" and tells Enzo that Joseph is a hero. Enzo, who calls herself Mighty Thor, desperately wants Joseph to be more, a superhero with superhuman healing powers. Joseph denies any heroism in himself. He also refuses to discuss how he ended up in a wheelchair and why he has left his mother in Utica, N.Y., to live in Minneapolis with his father, a functional alcoholic who works nights as the oven man at the bakery. The story of Joseph's accident gradually takes shape. When his father left a year earlier, Joseph had to take care of his increasingly unbalanced mother. He had no room for friends or a life of his own. In a moment of derangement, his mother broke his spine by inadvertently knocking him from the top steps of a sliding board into a cement wading pool filled only with fresh snow. In the romanticized, claustrophobic world of Joseph, Zap and Enzo, adults are generally absent and/or untrustworthy, so children must look after each other. The jarring contradiction is that Joseph's great sorrow is the loss of his mother, who now resides in a mental hospital. McGhee is a giftedwriter, but clever word play and a plethora of pointed metaphors are not enough to bring her fictional world to life. Agent: Douglas Stewart/Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
790L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Alison McGhee is the author of Rainlight, Was It Beautiful?, and the NBC Today show's Today's Book Club pick Shadow Baby. She also writes books for young adults and children. Her short fiction and poetry have been published widely in literary magazines.

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Falling Boy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Irishzig14 More than 1 year ago
When I first choose this book it was for the cover and what the flap of the book had to say, "are you really a superhero?" definitely intrigued me. I'll admit that I found some characters irritating at first and was annoyed with what seemed like a lack of story however, by the end of the book I realized I was just reading too much into everything, I was being Enzo (one of the characters). This story is simply real; keep your feet on the ground because this one could really happen and that's what I ended up liking most about it.