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"A beautiful, big-hearted book with important lessons embedded in compelling stories of two irresistible girls. Expertly executed and movingly realized.” —New York Times Book Review
Cammie McGovern follows up her breakout young adult debut, Say What You Will, with this powerful and unforgettable novel about learning from your mistakes and learning to forgive.
Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing—until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.
Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people.
Soon Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing, if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?
Told in alternating points of view, A Step Toward Falling is a poignant, hopeful, and altogether stunning work that will appeal to fans of books by Jennifer Niven, Robyn Schneider, and Jandy Nelson.
About the Author
Cammie McGovern is the author of Say What You Will as well as the adult novels Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. Cammie is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and three children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm going to go ahead and let you know up front that this book needs a Trigger Warning for Rape. The story is told from the perspectives of Emily and Belinda. This gives a unique perspective of more than one side of the complicated situation they find themselves in. The characters are all so well-developed, believable, and relatable that it's hard to process that they're works of fiction and not living, breathing people who I know. The world of the story was built up just enough that I could drop myself into it without really taking much time to develop it formally. The places used are so common that my mind automatically filled in any details it wasn't given based on what was. The story itself was beautiful and painful all at once. Having survived assault, I wasn't quite ready for some of the parts of this book, but seeing the characters deal with the situations as best they could was helpful to me as well. Belinda is such a brave young woman in ways that I find myself wishing I was. This was an absolutely brilliant story about how our first impressions are often incorrect and we can never truly know anyone before taking the time to try understanding them. I wasn't sure quite what to expect from A Step Toward Falling because I realized I haven't really read many books with main characters who have disabilities. For that reason, I don't think I could have found a more perfect book than this one because, while the whole of the story is complex and has multiple talking points, one of the greatest points is that disabled people are people. Just like people who aren't disabled, disabled people worry and learn and love. While they might do those things differently and for different reasons than non-disabled people do, the point is that they do them. For this review and more, please visit my blog at vicariousbookworm.wordpress.com
This is McGovern’s second novel that I have fallen in love with. She has a wonderful way of making people with disabilities her protagonists without making the conflict of the novel center around their disability. Did Belinda’s disability play into how she recovered or reacted to her attack? Of course, but it wasn’t the only motive driving her actions or determining the next plot point. I loved the complexity of the feelings and people in this story. This is seen best through the inaction of Emily and Lucas, despite neither of them being “bad kids”. They froze, and despite their parents and peers telling them that it isn’t their fault or there is nothing they could have done, it’s not true. Despite their mistakes at the beginning of the novel however, Emily and Lucas show great maturity in accepting their punishment and doing everything they can to improve the lives of the people they are meant to be serving. I cannot recommend this book enough! Whether to learn more about people with developmental disabilities, or just to read a YA book with great themes, character growth, and a heartwarming message.
Posted on: Brandi Breathes Books Blog Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy) for free. I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read A Step Toward Falling because I was interested in the bullying of a girl with disabilities. I think that it is such an important subject, and even though Emily wasn't the one doing the bullying, the silence of Emily when she saw it is the big turning point of the story. She is sentenced with community service working with young adults with disabilities. The story is told in dual perspectives with Emily and Belinda, the said girl that was bullied. I am not sure that I have ever read such a perspective, but it felt well done. We can see the places where she is delayed or has problems and how the whole situation effected her. Emily is able to learn from the people in the relationship class that she is volunteering at. She also learns a lot about Lucas, the football player who also saw the situation and also did nothing as well as a returning volunteer. They both brought a lot to the story and saw things in completely different ways. In some ways Belinda is very mature, in others she is delayed. She is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, the long version, as well as a football player who did a dance for the disabled. She thinks that means they are boyfriend and girlfriend, but of course, he was only there because of community service, so that led to very awkward situations. Emily learned so much from the class she is helping with, but she does come to the conclusion that although she is helping in some ways the students in the class, but she is doing nothing that actually helps Belinda who for most of the story isn't even going back to school. She remembers more of the incident at the football game, although she doesn't understand what all it means. I liked it when she finally started to do things to make up for what she did, and try to help Belinda heal, and for others to see her, and others with disabilities in a different way. The ending was nice, and wrapped things up. There was character development and an important message. Bottom Line: A look into teens who didn't do anything when they saw a girl with disabilities being bullied, and their character growth facing the consequences.
I really enjoyed this story. It unfolds from the perspective of two characters: Emily and Belinda. Emily, a shy, nerdy, do-gooder, witnesses Belinda being sexually assaulted at a football game, and she panics and does nothing. Belinda, who has some developmental issues due to seizures at an early age, struggles to understand what happened to her and to understand why Emily and Lucas, a football player who also witness the attack, did nothing. I loved alternating points of view, so this book was right on the mark there. The voices of both characters were so great. I related to Emily a lot, since I was similar in high school. Emily and Lucas have to do community service as penance for their lack of action, but they both feel that helping other disabled young adults isn't really helping Belinda. Emily remembers that Belinda was a wonderful actress when they were younger, so they decide to put on a play, starring Belinda. Oh, how I loved this plot element. Belinda is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Colin Firth, which was so fun to read about. The way the play unfolds was so real. I won't say anymore. The parallel stories of Belinda and Emily navigating their way through high school and relationships was great. Cammie McGovern was able to make Belinda's story relate-able to everyone. This type of diverse book is so necessary in our society. I struggled with the horrible adults in this book. Emily's parents were so concerned with her future that they ignored her feelings about the event. And Belinda's grandmother was too controlling. I did admire Belinda's mother, although I would have liked to learn more of her story. I wondered whether she may have had a similar horror from her own high school past. The pacing of this story was great. Details about the past were revealed as necessary. I love when books jump right in and give you backstory as you read. There were a lot of side characters that did confuse me a little at times, but overall the character set was good. Both Belinda and Emily had friends who rounded out the story. I definitely recommend this book to fans of YA and fiction in general. http://www.momsradius.com/2015/11/book-review-step-toward-falling-ya.html
Whenever Cammie McGovern releases a book, I know I'm in for a treat because her books all grip me so much that I have to read them more or less continually because I simply need to know what happens next. The themes in this book were amazing as everything she's published. The topic of young people with disabilities particularly resonates with me because of a boy I knew in my childhood who was mainstreamed into our class. While it was easy to see the differences between him and the rest of us in the beginning, it didn't take me long to see a special abilities that beautiful heart, taking the first impressions quickly disappear in my mind. Causes for the disabled a very important to me because of this early exposure. I love the intertwining theme of first impressions through the discussion of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice in this novel. Like all people, each of the characters struggled with this and made valuable discoveries in getting to know one another as people. It was a perfect vehicle to make the point in a very natural way. I wish I could get this unlimited stars, and that might not even be enough.