Freefallby Ariela Anhalt
Luke was not eager to accompany his best friend, Hayden, and the cocky new kid, Russell, up to the cliff that night. The plan was to watch Russell jump off the cliff into the lake--his initiation to the Briar Academy fencing team. But instead, after an angry confrontation with Hayden, Russell falls to his death.… See more details below
Luke was not eager to accompany his best friend, Hayden, and the cocky new kid, Russell, up to the cliff that night. The plan was to watch Russell jump off the cliff into the lake--his initiation to the Briar Academy fencing team. But instead, after an angry confrontation with Hayden, Russell falls to his death.
Now Hayden is in jail and the pressure is on Luke to report what he saw. But what did he see? An accident--or a murder? Luke has always followed Hayden's lead, but this is one decision he'll be forced to make on his own. And to do it, he must face the truth about his friendship with Hayden and his own painful past.
This suspenseful and scandalous tale of rivalry, peer pressure, and finding the courage to take responsibility will have an impact on readers long after the last page.
“Nineteen-year-old Anhalt displays some definite polish in her debut novel…Teens drawn to boarding-school-scandal dramas will find plenty to gasp about here.”--Booklist
"Anhalt seems to know the boarding-school world well, creating a rich setting for this drama of family demons, school friends and rivals, and an anguishing struggle of conscience. . . . An unusually rich and layered first novel."--Kirkus Reviews
"Teens will love this title because it is full of page-turning events and is difficult to put down."--VOYA, 5Q, 5P (highest rating)
"The high stakes, complex character development, and realistic dialogue and interactions will keep readers riveted—and likely have them imagining themselves in Luke’s position."--Publishers Weekly
"Teens will appreciate the action and the drama, without being overwhelmed by trendy names and labels as in other books set in boarding schools. . . . Anhalt, a college sophomore, shows great promise in this debut novel."--School Library Journal
"[There's] plenty of jealousy, drugs, and misplaced loyalty to keep the pot boiling."-Bulletin
Read an Excerpt
Luke Prescott stood at the top of the cliff, his toes
curled over the edge and pointing downward. Back straight
and shoulders relaxed, he let his eyes close peacefully. And
A rush of power surged over him. Luke never felt so much in
control as when there was none, when all that existed was Luke and
the air and the inevitable stop at the end. It was all up to him in
those moments. He had decided that he was going to jump and that
he was going to land in the water below, and there was absolutely
nothing and absolutely nobody that could stop him. He had all
He hit the water with a splash that, months before, had
knocked the breath out of him. Now he merely succumbed to the
water, letting it close over his head, a stream of bubbles pouring
from his mouth and nose as his feet hit the sandy bottom and
pushed him to the top. His head broke through the surface of the
water, and the solid pounding in his eardrums subsided. He floated
on his back, eyes still closed.
His peace was broken just as quickly as it had come over him.
“If you keep doing this, you’re gonna kill yourself.”
Luke turned sharply and choked as he accidentally inhaled
what seemed to him like the entire contents of Briar Lake. He
coughed, twisted himself around, and began to tread water. He
looked up to meet the intruder’s eyes and smiled. “Hayden. What
are you doing here?”
Hayden stood a few yards away on the bank. He was dressed in
his pajamas and a sweatshirt, and his feet were bare. At eighteen,
Hayden had the broad-shouldered body of a much older man and
the clever, round face of a boy. “I heard you leave,” Hayden said, giving
Luke a lopsided grin, his ice-blue eyes dancing beneath a mess
of dark hair. He reached out a hand to Luke, who paddled over to
the edge of the lake.
“I’m fine,” Luke said, though the question hadn’t been asked.
He let Hayden help him out of the water and then collapsed
onto the bank. Stretching out on his back, his wet shorts clinging to
his skin, Luke shut his eyes again. It wasn’t the same. He opened
“You should probably stop doing that,” Hayden said, nodding
toward the cliff. He shuffled his feet awkwardly in the dirt.
Luke grunted noncommittally. I’m not hurting anyone, he thought.
“I mean, it’s just kinda weird, Luke.”
“Yeah, well, I’m kinda weird,” Luke said, propping himself up
on his elbows.
“Trust me, dude, you’re more than kinda weird,” said Hayden,
squatting down next to Luke.
Hayden grinned. “You know, I almost broke my nose trying to
get here. Tripped over a log, fell flat on my face. Naturally, I blame
you for this.”
“Naturally,” Luke agreed.
“Yep. Totally your fault.”
“Couldn’t have just been me, you know,” Hayden said, leaning
conspiratorially toward Luke. “Because everyone knows I’m as
graceful as a fucking ballerina.”
“So don’t let it happen again.”
“Sorry, Hayden. I’ll try to do better next time.”
“Great. So no more jumping off cliffs in the middle of the
night?” Hayden’s tone was suddenly serious.
“Come on,” Luke said with a short laugh, giving his friend’s
shoulder a shove. Drop it, Hayden.
“Come on, what?” said Hayden. “It’s pointless. Why do you
keep doing it?”
Luke shrugged. “You wouldn’t get it.”
I don’t want to. “Just let it go,” said Luke, annoyance creeping
into his voice.
“Is this about—”
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Luke interrupted, louder
than he’d intended.
“Okay. I’m sorry.” Hayden looked embarrassed.
Luke sighed. “That has nothing to do with this. I just do this
to unwind, to relax.”
Hayden stared at him. “You know, I’ve done it, remember? I’ve
jumped. And I wouldn’t exactly call it relaxing.”
Luke remembered that night. It had been about a year ago. It
was the week before the first fencing meet of the season. He and
Hayden and about four other guys had just made varsity on the
Briar Academy fencing team. Briar Academy, one of the more elite
private schools in California, had many sports teams, but the fencers
were the only ones that ever really won anything. Making the team
was a pretty big deal.
That night the new varsity members and one of the team captains
had gone up to the cliff to jump off. It was a sort of initiation
process for the team, and the experience of the jump was treated almost
with reverence by the fencers. It wasn’t hazing; it was ceremony.
Luke dug his knuckles into the dirt. “I know you have.” He exhaled
loudly. “Look, I’m tired. Let’s head back.”
“All right, whatever.” Hayden raised his hands defensively.
“Have it your way.” They both rose up off the bank. “Keep doing it.
Break your fucking skull for all I care,” Hayden mumbled as Luke
padded off to retrieve his clothes from the end of the bank.
They had to sneak back into the dorm quietly so as not to wake
any of the resident teachers at the school, who did not particularly
like the idea of students wandering off in the middle of the night,
especially not off toward the lake. The wooded area around the lake
was not visible from the academy, so the students mainly snuck off
into the trees to smoke pot or hook up. The school itself was built
in a circle formation, with a large green and a commons area at the
center. Surrounding that were the dormitory buildings, and encircling
them were the academic buildings. The lake hugged the east
side of campus, and the woods stretched out from the north side.
Through the woods, a five-minute hike and a sharp right turn away,
was the cliff.
Luke and Hayden managed to get back into their room unnoticed.
Each of the four dormitories had a resident teacher, but luckily
the one in Luke’s dorm was a particularly sound sleeper. Not that
it really would have mattered if they’d been caught; Hayden could
talk his way out of anything. He’d smile, crack a joke, make the
teacher laugh, and soon he’d be off on his way with simply a warning.
If you got caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing,
Luke figured, Hayden was the guy you wanted with you.
Meet the Author
ARIELA ANHALT is a 19-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth College. Freefall is her first novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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There was a lot of information in this book. Free fall is a very interesting book and I considering whoever buys this book. I like the beginning of the book when it was talking about how one of Luke friends jumps off the edge of the cliff and he had broken his head and every bone in his body when he landed on the hard rock and broken his skull. But far as everything else I considering of getting this book it is really cool.
Basically, FREEFALL is about a high school boy named Luke. He's a fencer, not the best student, and is looking for a college that will accept him. A new boy shows up and isn't being very nice to Luke's best friend, Hayden. (He's a fencer too). But it turns out he's does fencing as well. At this school, there is an unofficial initiation ceremony. The new fencers have to jump of a cliff into the lake. Luke and Hayden take Russell to the cliff. When Russell chickens out, he and Hayden get in an argument and Hayden ends up pushing Russell OFF THE CLIFF! So now Luke has to figure out what to say at the impending court trial. What's the right thing to say? What about Hayden? Can Luke stay true to himself? It was an interesting read, sometimes it was hard to tell who was telling the story. Sometimes it sounded like the character was talking and sometimes it sounded like someone else was telling the story. I think it should have been in the point of view of the main character. All in all, I wasn't that fond of this book. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. It it would have been better if the main character wasn't such a whiner. Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer Flamingnet Book Reviews Teen books reviewed by teen reviewers
Luke and Hayden are students at an elite boarding school and members of a high-profile sports team. Hayden is a member of life's charmed club, those lucky individual who are attractive, wealthy, athletic and smart, and to whom everything comes easily: good grades, girls, friends, you name it, they have, or can get, it. Luke, on the other hand, while plenty talented, has to work for what he gets. When a team initiation goes horribly wrong, Luke finds himself with a monumental decision to make: support his friend Hayden which might mean to lie, or choose the alternative. Both obviously have far-reaching consequences. With her deft weaving of multiple threads of the story throughout the narrative, Ariela Anhalt displays her considerable skill as a story-teller and accomplished writer. Anhalt combines her familiarity with the prep school milieu-the people, the relationships, the pressures-with an insight into her characters' psyches that belies her youth. Luke is complicated, grappling with his own baggage and struggling toward self-knowledge, largely without benefit of adult guidance or counsel, except that which is motivated by self-interest. We know what he says and what he thinks about what he says, and have much to consider between the two. Freefall is everything you want in a novel: a good story that leaves you with a lot to think about. It should be required reading for high school students.
I am always impressed with new authors. The idea of all the hard work involved in writing a book, and then putting it out there for public criticism for the first time, must take an amazing amount of courage. It is especially impressive when I turn to the info on the back cover and see that the author is a 19-year-old sophomore in college. That's the case with a new release called FREEFALL. Just how tough are you? When life hits you with a father who commits suicide and a mother who can't seem to get past it, how do you handle the other tough stuff that comes along? Ask Luke Prescott. One might think that Luke has it all. He attends a fancy boarding school and has hopes of attending a nice college. Money isn't really an issue for him or for the friends who surround him at Briar Academy. He and his best friend and roommate, Hayden, are on the fencing team, enjoy the company of the occasional attractive female, and both get excellent grades. What could go wrong? Although Luke feels he knows Hayden pretty well, Hayden has been acting strange lately. When a new kid named Russell shows up and demonstrates his excellent fencing skills, Hayden doesn't seem able to cope. When Russell also moves in on Hayden's girlfriend, things come to a head. Unfortunately, Hayden's temper may have gotten the best of him during an initiation ritual that involves the new fencing team member and a jump from a nearby cliff. Luke finds himself faced with testifying either for or against Hayden at a trial accusing Hayden of killing Russell. He was there, but answering the question about what exactly happened is much harder than Luke ever imagined. Debut author Ariela Anhalt has crafted a sure winner. Readers will be drawn into the culture of Briar Academy with its cliques and rituals. Luke's family story adds depth and emotion that underline the complicated situation he faces at school. Anyone who gets involved in his story will no doubt find themselves measuring their own strength and convictions against those of Luke and several other characters. I look forward to seeing more from Ms. Anhalt in the future.