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The Edge Of Falling
My name is Mcalister Caulfield, I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and this is my story.
Up here, power reigns supreme. Popularity is determined by it. Entrée to clubs and schools and organization boards is determined by it. Even friendship, if you’re most of the girls in my soon-to-be-senior class. Power—and of course it doesn’t hurt to have model looks, either.
I don’t, as my mother puts it, “care enough.” I’ve always been naturally thin, so I have that going for me. But I’m short, too short, and my blond hair doesn’t exactly cascade down my back. It’s curly at best, frizzy at worst, and rarely thick enough to wear down. While most girls in my junior class spend their Saturdays getting blowouts, I’ve always opted for the park and a book. That makes me sound clichéd already, but I can promise you this story is more complicated than that. I wish it were just about a poor little rich girl with literary ambitions, but that’s not at all the whole truth.
Here’s what the gossip papers have been chatting about all summer: In the spring I saved a girl’s life. She was hanging by a thread on the terrace of a New York apartment building, and I pulled her to safety.
The headline from the Post read: A NEW HERO—LITERARY GOD’S NAMESAKE SAVES A LIFE.
This wasn’t the first time people associated me with that character. Is it true? Was my family somehow the inspiration for his story? That would be impossible to tell. And I wouldn’t, anyway. Tell, I mean. This is my story. Not his.
Anyway, this girl, the one I supposedly saved—I wasn’t friends with her. In fact, I was only at this apartment in the first place because my mom had pressured me into going out that night. Abigail Adams, my classmate and our neighbor, was having a party. My mom said I should go.
My mother didn’t used to be like this. Before Hayley, she would have understood why I didn’t want to go to Abigail Adams’s. She might have even agreed. But it’s like something broke in her, snapped. The thing that made her who she was just stopped functioning. She became generic. She became like every other mother on the Upper East Side of New York City.
When my mother tells the story of what happened last May, she says I ran out the door that night like I was on a mission, like I already knew there was some girl hanging over concrete on that terrace. This could not be further from the truth. I dragged my feet to that party. I dragged my feet one door to the left.
I didn’t save her either, but we’ll get to that.
Everyone calls me Caggie, by the way, so you should feel free too. My dad came up with the nickname. I’ve had it since I was a baby. My grandfather ended up marrying a girl from New York named Julie and having two children: my father and uncle. My uncle lives in California and has since before I was born. He’s never been married, and he has this gigantic house in Malibu that he’s never properly decorated except for the artwork on the wall. No couches, but he has a Renoir painting.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked if I could move in with him.
Then there’s my father: married to a fellow Yale grad at twenty-three, an Upper East Side penthouse, a son and a daughter, the same skin-and-bone arms that were bestowed upon him at birth. There used to be more things too, like a Hamptons house and Hayley, but not anymore. Not since January.
“Darling, come here a moment.” My mother speaks incredibly quietly for someone who wants your attention as quickly as she does.
“Mm-hmm.” I wander into the kitchen and find her all elbows on the counter, flipping through a catalog. She has on a turtleneck, which is only important to note because it’s sleeveless. Which is, quite possibly, the most ridiculous garment a person could own. Particularly in the dead of summer. Are you beginning to get a clear picture of my mother here?
She doesn’t look up right away when I come in. She’s always doing stuff like this: calling you to her and then ignoring you once you get there.
“What’s up, Mom?” I ask, hopping up onto a counter stool.
She sighs and slowly turns the page of the catalog she’s holding. Then she slides her glasses off her face and folds them down. You could fly to London in the time it takes my mother to begin a conversation.
“I’m considering going to Barneys this afternoon,” she says. “Would you like to join me?”
My mother is always considering things, never doing them. She’s been this way forever. I have absolutely no idea how she ended up married to my father. She rarely answers a question decisively one way or the other. Do you have to say “I do” in a church? Do they take “I’ll consider it”?
“Not really,” I say. “I have homework.”
“It’s summer, darling.”
I shrug and play with the end of my T-shirt. “They gave us a reading list.”
My mother squints at me. “School starts tomorrow, Mcalister. Don’t you think it’s a little late to be beginning that?”
“Just finishing up,” I say.
My mother knows this isn’t true, but she’s not going to push it. Just like I’m not going to push her on where Dad has been all summer. I know he doesn’t want to be here. I know he doesn’t want to be with us—well, with me. But how could we possibly talk about that? There are certain things better left undiscussed, now.
“Is Trevor back?” she asks me.
The question startles me, and I place my hands flat on the marble counter. It’s freezing. This house is always freezing. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe.”
My mother bobs her head, but she doesn’t look up. “So that’s that, then?”
I don’t answer. No way am I spending the last day of summer talking about Trevor Hanes.
“No to Barneys,” I say.
She goes back to flipping through her catalog, and I hop down from the counter and over to the refrigerator. There is nothing in there except for butter and bottled water, though. Our housekeeper usually does the shopping over the weekend, and whenever Peter is home, food is scarce. The thought enters my mind that maybe he’s back.
Peter is my brother, and he left last year for college. We’re pretty close. Or we were before January. He spent this summer at the beach house with his friend. None of my family besides Peter has been back there, and I have no idea why he’d want to go. If I’m honest with myself, it’s been upsetting me. Going to the ocean, cooking in the kitchen, reading in the living room. Splashing around in that pool like nothing happened. An image of Peter lounging on a deck chair flashes in my mind, and my chest fills with rage. I can see the stone tile surrounding the pool, the monogrammed Ralph Lauren towels folded up in rolls. The crisp water bottles with their tops snapped off sweating on the wooden side tables. A lot of details.
That’s the thing about these memories: They won’t fade.
“Is Peter staying here before he goes back to school?” I ask my mom, still staring at the bottled water and butter.
“Think so. His things are here.”
“And the fridge is empty,” I mutter.
I hear the catalog fold closed behind me and imagine my mother straightening out, rolling her neck from side to side, the bangles on her arm clanking together. “You sure you don’t want to come?” she says.
“Suit yourself.” My mother is also the kind of woman who says “suit yourself” in a way that makes it very clear that that is the exact opposite of what she means.
She slides out of the room, her stilettos clicking on the ceramic tile. They sound loud, jarring. They echo.
I remember when it wasn’t like this. When you couldn’t hear heels in this house. When conversation didn’t sound like staccato notes on a piano. But that was a while ago now. When there were more people here besides mom and me. When there were still things to talk about that required more than a few words.
As soon as she’s gone, I close the fridge and look at the clock: eleven thirty a.m. For some reason, the time reminds me of Trevor. Not that everything doesn’t remind me of Trevor lately. Eleven thirty was the time we used to go to brunch on Sundays. He’d show up and ring the doorbell, even though I had said a million times to just come in. “My parents don’t care,” I used to tell him.
“But I do,” he’d say.
He was like that, formal in ways that I didn’t think mattered. My parents loved that about him, though. My dad once told me that Trevor was the kind of guy who made it okay not to worry.
He was wrong, though. There was plenty to worry about with Trevor.
After what happened that night at Abigail’s in May, I lost Trevor, but I got something too. Something I never really wanted. Recognition. The kind that belongs on a milk carton. I became someone people looked up to. Someone they wanted to be around, hang out with, talk about. I became the most popular girl in our junior class. Because if there’s one thing my school, Kensington, loves more than money, it’s the feeling of being close to greatness. Like I said: power. They wanted to be close to me. Everyone but Trevor, that is. After last May, Trevor couldn’t have gotten far enough away.
My cell phone starts buzzing on the counter; the ringtone is the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings. It’s supposed to be ironic, but no one really gets it.
CLAIRE HOWARD, the screen reads.
Claire is the one person in the universe whose behavior around me hasn’t changed this year. I was popular once before, for a heartbeat, when Claire went to Kensington, but then she moved downtown with her parents the summer after sophomore year and that went out the window. She switched schools, which is basically unheard of—no one leaves Kensington. But Claire is nothing if not one of a kind.
Claire is the daughter of Edward Howard, the rock-and-roll photographer. She lives in this gigantic loft in Tribeca with no doors and wears leather year-round. She’s always in the front row at fashion shows. She’s crazy tall, about five ten to my five two, and she’s got these long blond locks that look fake. They are. When you first see Claire, you imagine she’s the definition of stuck-up, an Abigail Adams type. But she’s the most genuine person I know. She’s the kind of girl who would give a homeless guy her purse on the way home from school and not even take anything out first.
She’s also a model. She was in the Marc Jacobs show last year. Vogue called her “amorphous.” We had to google the definition. That article ran the same week the Post declared me a hero. “At least we know what that means,” Claire said.
“Hey, crazy,” Claire chimes.
She’s always calling me crazy, even though that is about the furthest thing from the truth. She’s the crazy one. She once spent the night on the balcony of James Franco’s Parisian hotel room. She tricked the front desk into giving out his room number. He didn’t even come home, but she waited there for him all night. I have no idea what she would have done had he shown up. I’m not sure she did either, but that’s the difference between Claire and me. Unknown possibilities excite her.
“Speaking,” I say.
“Are you moping at home?” she asks. I imagine her hands stuck on her hips. Raised eyebrows.
“Good morning to you, too.”
“It’s eleven thirty a.m.” The phone gets distant, like she’s suddenly far away, and I know she’s just put me on speaker. Claire is the queen of multitasking. I think it comes from her dad. I did not inherit that particular trait from my parents. My mother can barely drink water and eat food in the same meal.
“And why do you have to assume I’m moping?” I push on. “I could be having an incredibly productive morning.”
“Because I know you,” she says, ignoring the last part. “You’re probably in the kitchen, still in your pajamas, bemoaning the fact that no one understands you.”
“That’s pretty specific,” I say, gazing down at my Paul Frank monkey pj’s. Claire bought them for me for my birthday last year. She wrote “crazy pants” on the label.
“Am I wrong?”
“No,” I say, picking up the catalog my mom has abandoned. Saks fall line.
“So what are you up to today?” she asks.
“The usual,” I say, studying some patent-leather boots. “Going to Barneys with my mom, meeting up with Abigail for lunch.”
“Come on,” I say. “What do you think I’m doing?”
“I think you’re going to spend the day locked in your room.”
Claire sighs, and I hear the phone click off speaker. Her voice is clear when it comes through again. “I’m worried about you,” she says. “You’ve barely left your house since June.”
“Yeah, well . . .”
“Don’t ‘yeah, well’ me. You had celebrity status for like a millisecond and you didn’t even take advantage of it. You know what I would do to be in the Post?”
“But you were in Vogue,” I point out. “Isn’t that better?”
She huffs, an I can’t believe I have to explain this to you noise. “Vogue is no Page Six.”
“I’m blessed,” I deadpan.
“Come downtown,” she says. “We can have lunch here. I won’t even make you go outside.”
“That’s a lie.”
“Well, we can hang out on the terrace.”
“I’ll think about it.”
She makes a kissing noise, her signature sign-off, and hangs up.
The truth is I’d like to go down to Claire’s. Her mom is cool—part old Hollywood, part bohemian hippie—and there are always prints of some new band or famous celebrity lying around on a coffee table. Sometimes her dad pulls us into his studio and asks our opinion on things. The man has photographed the cover of Vogue and Rolling Stone more times than Annie Leibovitz, and he still wants to know what we think. Their family is like that. They rely on each other. And since I’ve known Claire for so long, I’ve become family too.
I haven’t really been spending too much time with Claire this summer, though. For one, she was in Europe all of June and half of July, but for another, I really hate lying to her. Not that we talk about that night or anything, but she doesn’t know what really happened. It just seemed easier not to tell her, and then it seemed easier to keep not telling her. That’s the problem with lying: It’s just so damn easy to do.
I head upstairs and decide to change. Our townhouse is three stories, with the kitchen and living room on the first floor, Peter’s and my bedrooms on the second, and my parents’ room and a gym on the third. My dad’s study is off the kitchen. “The worst place to work,” he always says. “Food is too distracting.” Not that he’s ever here. He manages a hedge fund, and he travels a lot, but I know this summer hasn’t just been about work. He doesn’t want to be around what happened. I’ve heard that some people manage their grief by compartmentalizing and staying busy. I think my dad has been on a plane every other day since January.
If he’s back, Peter isn’t currently home. I peek into his room, then head into mine. I pull out some jean shorts and a white gauze top. It’s about one hundred degrees outside, and it’s crucial to wear as little clothing as possible. I grab my hairbrush from where it’s resting on the dresser, careful to keep my eyes trained off the picture of Trevor and me. It’s one of us from the winter formal two years ago. He has his arms around me and my head is leaning back on his chest. I think about how it felt that night. How he took me out to the terrace of the Gansevoort, overlooking the Hudson River, placed both hands on the sides of my face, and kissed me.
That was before so many things, though. Before everything, really. Now I don’t even know if he’s ever going to talk to me again.
I decide to head outside. I shout good-bye to my mom, but the insulation in our house is so impossibly good that she doesn’t hear me.
The heat when I get outside is suffocating. It hits you like a fan straight to the face. I turn down Sixty-Fifth, toward Madison. Abigail’s building is one over from mine, closer to Park, so this is generally my route of choice.
I have this game I’ve played since I was first allowed to wander New York alone—which, incidentally, was young. Probably too young, but that’s one of those strange things about growing up here: Your parents tend to forget it’s a city and not just your hometown. I tried to enforce some rules with Hayley, but Hayley wasn’t one of those kids you had to really fence in. She was smart. She knew the entire alphabet before she was two years old, and she had memorized the Manhattan grid by three years later. She was the kind of kid who had the potential to grow up too fast, because despite her soft brown hair and nose freckles, when she opened her mouth, she could hold her own. People would talk to her like an adult. They treated her like one.
Anyway, the game goes like this: Every time I get to an intersection, I cross whatever street has a walk sign. I only generally play when I have a few free hours, because there are times I end up very far from where I started. I’ve lived here my whole life, but even I am surprised by where the game sometimes takes me. That’s the thing about New York: You can own it, it can belong to you, and you’ll still never completely know it.
I’ve never met a single other person who likes to play besides Trevor, and that could have just been because once upon a time he liked doing things I liked doing.
The light changes at Sixty-Fifth and Fifth and I head downtown, then cross over to Central Park. If you asked me point-blank whether I like living on the Upper East Side, I’d probably tell you no, but the truth is I really enjoy being this close to the park. I love the anonymity of the park, the fact that, even after spending my entire life on this block of Manhattan, I can still get lost in there. Maybe it’s why I play this walking game in the first place: to keep some of that spontaneity new New Yorkers are always going on about. People who come to New York from somewhere else love to say things like “in the time it takes you to cross the street, anything could happen.” The thing people forget, though, is that that’s true about every town. Not just New York.
The light changes at Forty-Seventh Street and I head farther west, over to Sixth Avenue. I catch a light breeze that fails to pull my top off my back. It’s stuck straight on now, and I can feel the beads of sweat gathering at the back of my neck, threatening to drop. You wait all winter for summer in New York, and then it comes and that’s miserable too. In the city, anyway. At the beach the summer is exactly as it should be.
My brain goes on autopilot when I play, and without even realizing it I’m down in the Twenties and crossing over to the Hudson River. There is a nice breeze off the water, I’ll admit it, and I close my eyes, briefly, and take it in. School starts tomorrow. School with the return of Abigail and Constance and not Claire. I wish she still went there. Last year was miserable without her.
I quit playing the game as soon as I hit the Hudson—it’s too hot not to stay on the water—and decide that I’ll drop in on Claire after all. I was probably always planning on it, but that’s the thing about the walking game: You can’t really plan on anything.
Claire lives on the top floor of 166 Duane Street, one of Tribeca’s chicest buildings, and the doorman lets me up immediately. His name is Jeff Bridges, like the movie star, and he kind of looks like him too. Speaking of movie stars, Claire’s building is crawling with them. SPK used to have a place here, before she split from her husband. I’d see her on the elevator with her kids. She’s smaller in real life. Most movie stars are, I’ve noticed.
I take the elevator to the penthouse and twist my ponytail up into a bun as the doors open. No matter how air-conditioned their place is, it’s always just a little bit too warm in there in the summer and just a little bit too cold in the winter. It’s the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the place. They mirror whatever weather is outside.
I figure Claire is probably upstairs on the deck sunbathing, but I call out for her anyway. You never know.
I’m surprised when she answers me. “Kitchen!” she yells.
The Howards’ house is pretty much the opposite of ours. While my mother redecorates every eighteen months on the dot, the aesthetic usually vacillates between Italian villa and Parisian glamour. It’s not exactly minimal, if you know what I mean.
Claire’s apartments have always been totally modern—sleek, sharp lines. They redecorate, but when they do it’s always subtle, the kind of thing you don’t notice until months later, when you’re admiring a lamp or picture or whatever and you realize it wasn’t always there. The loft has barely any doors, and it’s all white, interspersed very sparingly with color—shots of fuchsia and green and midnight blue. And of course there are massive photographs everywhere. Their entire apartment looks a little bit like an art gallery, right down to the fact that there is barely even anywhere to sit.
I make my way into the kitchen—a massive stainless-steel industrial affair—and find her standing in front of the refrigerator in a see-through gray sundress that is probably actually lingerie.
“I thought you weren’t coming over,” she says, spinning around and giving me a wide smile.
I smile back. “No you didn’t.”
Claire is so beautiful that it could literally take your breath away. I mean that. When she walked in the Karen Millen show last fall, I think more than a few people had to remember to exhale. She’s all legs and arms and hair—the kind that glides down her back. Fake, yes. But still beautiful. When we’re out together, even if it’s just on the street or something, nearly every person we pass turns around and looks at her. They think she’s famous, possibly that she’s even someone else, that they’ve seen her on TV or in movies. She once did a guest stint on The Vampire Diaries, but that’s all she’s done besides modeling so far. She says she’s too all over the place to commit to a career, but I think she secretly wants to be an actress, and I could totally see her in California. Maybe she doesn’t think she could cut it; I’m not sure. It’s hard to think of Claire having any insecurities.
I shrug. “I felt like walking.”
“You walked here?” Despite her five-ten frame Claire never wears anything but heels. Walking more than a block without a driver following her is pretty much her definition of hell.
“You know I do that,” I say, lifting some more strands of damp hair off my neck and securing them back in my bun.
“It’s like a hundred degrees out, though,” she says.
“Not like,” I say. “Actually.”
She opens the fridge, takes out an Evian water, and slides it across the counter to me. I twist off the top and down half the bottle in one swig.
“Where are your parents?” I ask, wiping the back of my hand across my mouth.
“Europe,” she says. “Maybe Italy?” She starts munching on a green apple, then holds it out to me. I shake my head.
“You weren’t invited?” I ask.
It’s very unusual for Claire’s parents to travel without her. When she was away June and July, she was with them. They’ve never cared about pulling her out of school. She once went to school in Prague for a whole month. Her father travels all the time for shoots, but if her mom goes, generally Claire does too.
“Of course I was invited,” she says, setting the apple down. “I just didn’t want to go.” She looks at me, her eyebrows raised.
“Still?” I ask.
Claire nods, her eyes wide.
Claire has been hooking up with the front man of Death for Grass, an up-and-coming indie rock band. She’s been seeing him since the Fourth of July, which in Claire time is like decades, and I figured this week they would be calling it quits. Claire isn’t exactly known for her long-term relationships. She’s got a six-week attention span, even when traveling. You could set your watch to it, and right now, the timer is about to go off.
“Yep, still,” she says. “He’s incredible. He made me a picnic last night.”
“Where?” I ask.
“Prospect Park,” she says, her eyes glazing over.
“You went to Brooklyn?”
She snaps back to attention. “I think I’m in love,” she says.
I feel my stomach clench and release. Claire says this a lot, and most of the time she just forgets after a bit, like the emotion was a symptom of a passing cold or something. But once, one glaring time, it totally shook up her universe. And, by extension, mine. David Crew, sophomore year. They dated from September through February, and when they broke up, it was hellish. She dropped ten pounds in two weeks. Claire doesn’t have ten pounds to lose.
I take another sip of water. “That sounds serious.”
She comes closer, in a rush, and leans over the marble counter toward me. “He’s just remarkable. You know what he said to me? He said he wanted to tell me things he has only ever written down.”
“I’m not sure that’s an improvement from his initial opener,” I say. “When he was quoting Coldplay lyrics to you?”
She raises her eyebrows at me and then nods in understanding. Claire and I have this thing we do when she’s on first dates. She leaves her phone on, and I listen on the other end. It’s supposed to be so that if he’s boring, or she’s having a terrible time, I can come down and interrupt it. I’ve only ever done it once, though. A guy suggested they karaoke, and if there is one thing Claire really, really hates, it’s singing onstage. I crashed and told him her cat was in the hospital. Claire doesn’t have a cat, but it got her out of there.
Most of the time, if he doesn’t sound like a serial killer, I let her suffer her way through.
“What does that even mean, though?” I say, squinting at her.
She rolls her eyes. “Like he wants to tell me things he’s only put in songs or in poems but he’s never spoken out loud.”
“Okay . . .”
“Stop being so cynical.”
“I’m just surprised,” I say. “You’re talking a little out of character.” Claire usually sees dating as a pastime, not something to get invested in. Love to her is like a holiday—fun while it lasts. It took her like a year to understand why I’d make Trevor my boyfriend. She loves love, but commitment? Not really. Like I said, she can barely commit to spending the entire evening with one dude.
Claire tucks some hair behind her ear. “I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s like everything I believed about relationships before this was completely false. Like I was just operating from this place that didn’t know yet. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes,” I say, keeping my eyes down. I bite my lip, but the words come out anyway: “That’s how I felt with Trevor.”
Claire’s voice gets quiet. “Right. Have you heard from him yet?”
I shake my head.
“I’m sure you will. I think he just thought you needed some space.” She plays with a hangnail, her eyes fixed on her fingertips.
She keeps saying that: “He thought you needed space.” But he could have asked me. He could have done anything except just leave. I don’t know how to say that to Claire, though. Because she doesn’t have all the information. There are some things you cannot share with friends. Even best ones. Some secrets that are kinder just to keep.
“Should we go up to the roof ?”
Claire squeals. “Really?” She pulls down the strap of her sundress to show me her bare shoulder. “Do you see this?”
“See what?” I ask, leaning forward.
“Exactly,” she says, shaking her head. “No tan line. Travesty.”
“We can rectify,” I say. “Do you have a sun hat?”
I’ve forgotten mine, and I’m sure I’ve already gotten singed on the way down. No matter what I do, how much sunscreen I wear, my skin always opts to burn, not tan.
“Sure,” she says.
I follow her out of the kitchen and into her room, where she has full-length mirrors on one side and windows on the other. It’s impossible to avoid seeing yourself in here, and when I look, I see that I’m right: My cheeks are the color of tomatoes. She tosses me a floppy straw hat with a huge brim and puts on a bathing suit top. “Want one?” she asks, holding up a blue polka-dot piece of nylon.
“No, thanks. I think I’ve gotten enough color today.”
She purses her lips in the mirror, like she’s blowing it a kiss, and then we’re walking back out through the living room and over to the kitchen. There is a spiral staircase that leads directly from the apartment to the Howards’ own private roof deck.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” she says, pausing on the railing. “I got some inside info.”
She looks down at me and smiles. “Kristen is coming back to the city.”
It takes me a moment to register what she’s said, but when I do, it doesn’t matter that the apartment is ten degrees too warm. Inside, I feel frozen.
“Where did you hear that?” I ask, trying to keep my voice level.
Claire shrugs and continues to climb. “Can’t remember. Around? Pretty cool, right? Guess she’s doing better.”
I swallow. Hard. “Yeah, guess so.”
Claire stops again and peers at me. “How come you don’t seem happy? That means she’s okay, you know. You did a good thing.” She jabs me in the ribs, but I barely feel it. All I can feel is that cold seeping out into my veins, like my heart has sprung a leak.
I follow her all the way up the stairs. Claire’s rooftop is impressive. I’m reminded every time I’m up here. You can see over the whole Hudson, and they have lounge chairs and outdoor furniture set up, a big barbecue in the corner. A bar and a bunch of potted trees—something that sort of looks like a palm but isn’t.
We’ve had a few really good parties up here. And by parties I mean me, Claire, Trevor, Peter, and Claire’s friends, most of them older models or photographers or DJs, sitting around drinking champagne and watching the sun set—or come up.
We set up our towels on two matching recliners, and Claire grabs Evian waters from the outdoor refrigerator. The sun is beating down hard, but I can’t feel it. Even as my back begins to sweat, the beads gathering on my collarbone, my hairline, the bridge of my nose, I still feel cold.
You did a good thing.
If I could go back to that night in May, I’d do things very differently. I’d never end up on that rooftop with Kristen. I’d never save her. I wouldn’t have to.
But even stories with the biggest impact, perhaps particularly these, don’t have the power to be rewritten. If if if if . . . would everything be different? It doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done.
Let’s keep going.
Posted May 7, 2014
Grief is not an easy emotion to deal with. Grief combined with guilt is even worse. Caggie's seemingly perfect life turned completely upside down when her younger sister, Hayley, drowns in the pool of her family's beach house. Four months later she is hailed a hero after she saves a fellow classmate from jumping off the roof a high rise apartment building.
Caggie begins telling us the story in late August/early September, right before her new school years starts. I love the narration style Rebecca chose. Not only is it first person, but Caggie is talking to us, the reader. Normally I don't care for when the MC makes us a character, but in The Edge of Falling, it works. By talking to us directly, Caggie makes the story more personal. She delves into details she doesn't tell her best friend, Claire; her brother, Peter; or her ex-boyfriend, Trevor. She also doesn't tell us everything at once. We get mini flashbacks into Hayley's life, her family before and after Hayley's tragic death, and what really happened on the roof with Kristen.
It's not until Caggie meets Astor that she begins to feel "normal" again. He doesn't pressure her to talk about Hayley, understanding the pain and grief of losing a loved one, and she feels herself slowly pulling away from her all encompassing grief, while at the same time pulling even further from her family and friends.
Caggie is likable character and I fell bad for her. Her sister's death is an accident, but she cannot help but feel guilty as she was supposed to be watching her. I personally find it hard to judge characters in situations I've never been in myself. I do not know how I would act so I can't say if I would or wouldn't do the same thing. I don't agree with her decisions - pushing her family/friends away, forgoing things that made me happy, turning off my emotions - but I don't know if I can necessarily fault her either.
The Edge of Falling is a beautifully told story, both in plot and writing. You'll definitely feel numerous emotions throughout (love, grief, pain, hope, understanding, acceptance) and you'll connect with Caggie as she attempts to heal and learn to once again live her life.
Posted May 3, 2014
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss.)
17-year-old Mcalister (Caggie) is dealing the best she can after her sister’s death, and it doesn’t help that people think she’s a hero for saving a classmate – Kristen, from committing suicide by jumping off a roof. If people knew what really happened, they’d know that she’s nothing of the kind.
School isn’t going all that well for Caggie, nothing is, apart from the arrival of new student Astor, who Caggie begins to feel something for.
What really happened on the roof though? What happened to Hayley? And can Caggie find a way to move on with her life?
I found this book quite boring for the first 70% of the story, it was only after this that we really got to see what Caggie was really going through.
Caggie seemed to be grieving in this book. The way she behaved, and her views on life, her thoughts about what did and didn’t matter, all pointed to the fact that she was grieving for her sister, but it was all very subtle. Caggie drifted through life, and didn’t even really admit to herself just how bad she was really feeling inside.
It wasn’t until the 70% mark that we really began to get clear ideas of what was really going on in Caggie’s head, and started to understand her mental turmoil, and it was only at this point that I was really able to connect with her.
The storyline in this was okay, but I felt that the first ¾ of the book was pretty dull. It just dragged for me. Things happened that didn’t interest me, too much was left in the dark, and I just got bored. For me there just wasn’t enough to keep the mystery in the story, and at times I wondered whether I could even be bothered to finish it.
I thought that the revelation about what happened to Hayley, and what happened with Caggie and Kristen on the roof came a bit too late in the story, and once we knew more about what had happened the story was more interesting.
I really felt for Caggie when her depression was discussed, and it would have been nicer to have seen this side of her and her suffering earlier in the book. I totally loved the brutal honesty and pain in the line ‘How do you deal with missing someone forever?’ and thought that it was poignant and really summed up Caggie’s pain.
The ending was okay, and I liked that we got a bit of a ray of light at the end, and hope that things would maybe get better for Caggie and her family. This was quite a difficult book to rate though, as I felt that it only really got good after the 70% mark, which was a bit of a shame.
Overall; an okay story, with painful and poignant emotions towards the end.
6.75 out of 10
Posted April 9, 2014
I wanted to read The Edge of Falling because I love a good contemporary and this has all of the ingredients Guilt over being on watch when her sister drowned, the saving of a suicide that's not all it seems, and a mysterious boy with a past that sounds dark. So, I was glad to grab it when it was available for review on Edelweiss.
I got right into the story, liking Caggie's voice and learning about the important things in her life. But can we talk about the nickname? Points for originality, but man, it rubbed me the wrong way. I just didn't like it maybe because I've never heard in real life or maybe because it is something I would never want to be called. But anyways, name rant over.
I really wanted to get to the bottom of the dynamics with her and Trevor. He seemed to still care so much and try to talk to her, so I suspected early on that it was because she had pushed him away while grieving for her sister, and that was something that he couldn't handle. Not that a teenage boy would necessarily know how to help or be there anyways, just not enough life experience I guess. I liked her memories of them dating and was rooting for him with the information I had, provided there wasn't some big twist where he was a jerk or did something with big consequences.
I didn't care much for Laila, Caggie's best friend. It seemed that Caggie never portrayed her in the best light and I didn't feel that sense of bonding and love that I usually get from best friends in high school.
I thought that this story would be more about the events of her sister drowning, and what happened on the roof, but there was a lot of mundane drama that sandwiched the events that got my attention in the synopsis, and it felt like, especially at first, it was a deli ultra thin slice of meat we were given about the traumatic events, and the emotions.
I connected with her some, but mostly Caggie was really detached. And trust me I get that in grieving or with depression that numbness and detachment are part of it, to keep us alive and going. But when I am reading, I need to be let under the surface a little more to connect before the character goes all detached.
What I did love was how Caggie came to life when her brother Peter was there. She laughed, teased and opened up, feeling like it was okay to feel how she does, and hope of working things out. But that was only a tiny slice again, and while I loved what I saw, I wanted more of the brother and sister dynamics.
The ending was more where it finally picked up, I understood Caggie more and the pieces came together.
Bottom Line: Great premise just a little short on execution on top of detached protagonist.
Posted March 18, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***
The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.
What I Liked:
I've been reading a lot of contemporary novels lately - a lot more than I'm used to reading. Actually, that's not completely true. I've read a few contemporary novels, and I have quite a bit to read coming up soon. It just feels like a lot of contemporary novels, when I so used to reading anything but contemporary (not that there is anything wrong with contemporary). I enjoyed Serle's debut novel (which was contemporary), so naturally, I was super pumped to read this one.
This book was a pretty good read. It definitely was not what I thought it would be. Caggie is dealing with a lot of heavy stuff right now - her sister died, when she (Caggie) was supposed to be watching her, and then Caggie saves a classmate from falling off a balcony, at a peer's party. Except that Caggie isn't a hero - because SHE was the one that went to that balcony, to jump, to kill herself, and Kristen was trying to save her. Not the other way around (though the other way around was what happened).
This book is definitely one of those "tough-issue" books, and we all know my experiences with those. I usually have polar extremes when it comes to those kinds of books - I either love it, or loathe it. My most recent "tough-issue" read (before this one) was Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens, and I was sooo not a fan (which is unfortunate, because the author is so amazing and nice!).
I'm not really sure how I feel about the characters. I sort of understood Caggie, except I don't necessarily agree with her choices, from beginning to end. I was suspicious about Claire, Abigail, Astor, and Peter. The only characters that I actually had genuinely friendly feelings toward were Trevor and Kristen - and that's because they seemed to be the only honest, caring characters of the book.
I like the feel of this story. It was subtly about Caggie's healing process, but also, the healing of other characters. Caggie's sister's death affected many people. Caggie "saving" Kristen affected many people as well. So, this book was as much about Peter, Trevor, Kristen, Claire, etc., as it was about Caggie.
Astor is an interesting character. I'm not sure I like him very much, but I don't blame him for what happened - not really. Sort of, but not really. Like, some things were definitely his fault, and at times, he was definitely acting crazy, but he needed to experience healing just as much as Caggie did.
All of the characters experience some sort of growth, as the story progresses. The story primarily focused on Caggie's decline in school and her whirlwind relationship with Astor. For the most part, I liked the story. I liked the unconventionality of the romance - I personally saw it coming, but most people probably wouldn't. I enjoyed this book for the most part, and I'm glad I read it.
What I Did Not Like:
As I mentioned above, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Caggie. I don't think we clicked, but I could see her side of things MUCH easier than I could with most heroines of "tough-issue" books. I feel like her emotion shutdown and the way she expressed her grief was more subtle and more complex than other heroines of "tough-issue" books, which I would much rather read. At the same time, Caggie's decisions were probably just as screwed up, at the end of the way. Some of the things she did, especially when it came to Astor, were too much. Like, there were red flags going up in my head throughout the book, in many regards.
Most of the characters rubbed me the wrong way. I'm glad that they all went through their processes of grief, and most of them grew and developed throughout the story, but I didn't like most of them, for the most part. I liked Trevor a lot, and I liked Kristen, but otherwise, meh.
I wasn't very passionate about this book, and I didn't absolutely love it. I know it doesn't seem like I have a ton of reasons for rating this book as low as I did, but I just didn't love it. Nor did I really like it. I enjoyed it, I'm happy to have had the opportunity to read it, but I probably wouldn't buy it, or read it again.
Would I Recommend It:
I'd say maybe. This isn't like, a number one, absolutely loved, must have, must buy/borrow, will cry over, will change lives kind of book. It's a good read, but don't break your neck trying to get to the bookstore or library for this one. It's not the best contemporary novel out there, but if you already have it, or really wanted to read it before, then go for it. Do it. Otherwise, skip it.
3 stars. Maybe it was a feeling of apathy that held me back? I don't know. But I wasn't wild about this book. However, I enjoyed it, and I am happy that I read, finished, and reviewed it.