Gr 9 Up—Rae's life may not be easy, but she has close friends, a job she loves, and some savings to help her escape someday. Sure, she has to deal with her distant mother and verbally abusive stepfather, but she's able to separate herself from the reality she shares with her friends. Then she meets Nathan, whose affection quickly turns stifling and even frightening. At just about the same time, her stepdad loses his job, starts stealing her paychecks, and begins a downward spiral. Rae's narrative is punctuated by entries in her poetry journal. Alongside the story of Rae's increasingly troubled home and rapidly derailing love life runs a narrative in which her English teacher appeals to students to submit poetry for the school newspaper. Rae asks to submit poems anonymously and starts a "poetry revolution," with anonymous selections pouring out of the woodwork. It is only toward the end of the story that she begins to see the value of being forthright about the uglier parts of her life. Rae is a well-drawn, strong-willed heroine, and her blossoming relationship with a homeschooled neighbor adds a sweetness and depth to the story. Some other characters (her friends, her mother) feel a little thinner. The biggest disappointment is the book's cover, which shows a passionate, rain-drenched kiss between what one can only assume is Rae and Nathan. It feels misleading as that relationship does not define the story. Still, readers looking for a quick read about a strong teen who finds her voice will not be disappointed.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
"Obsession, neglect, abuse, friendship, and love abound in Schroeder's new novel. Readers looking for a realistic teen read saturated in emotion will love Falling For You."
Rae lives life around the edges; avoiding the spotlight, hiding the extent of her financial situation and family drama from her friends and teachers. She dreams, though--dreams of being able to move out, of being happy, of being loved unconditionally. When a new guy, Nathan, arrives at school and notices Rae, some of those dreams seem to be within reach, but elation quickly turns to fear as Rae realizes that Nathan has a dark side. Tragedy lands Rae in the ICU floating between life and death, and in that place, she must find the courage to fight for the life she deserves. Obsession, neglect, abuse, friendship, and love abound in Schroeder's new novel. Each chapter starts with a poem from Rae's poetry journal and the structure of the book leads readers through the six months leading up to the hospital. The poetry aspect of this novel gives readers a chance to peek into the depths of Rae's soul and adds dimension to her character. Schroeder has done a wonderful job of creating teenage characters from a variety of backgrounds and using those backstories to influence their actions. This novel is ripe for use in a classroom or a book club; discussion points include: healthy relationships, poetry as expression, relationship boundaries, and more. Readers looking for a realistic teen read saturated in emotion will love Falling For You. Ages 15 to 18.
Abuse victim Rae, now on the brink of death, recounts the events that led her to such circumstances. Trying to fit in, Rae never lets on that money is tight, that her stepfather is cruel and narcissistic, and that her mother turns a blind eye to his atrocities. When handsome Nathan Sharp arrives at her school, she accepts his offer of a date. Immediately, it is clear that Nathan isn't quite right, with his extreme neediness and intensely possessive behavior. Rae is achingly slow to pick up on these blatant red flags, but that seems understandable, taking into account her home life. There, her stepfather's abuse escalates as he loses his job and begins to dabble in shady enterprises. Through all of this darkness, Rae finds solace in writing poetry, which she shares anonymously in the school paper, and comfort with Leo, the shy, kind boy who works at the coffee shop. Important issues are examined, but the plot threads are many, and some seemingly important ones fizzle out dully, and the resolution of Nathan and Rae's relationship is far too tidy. Many of the elements of contemporary realistic fiction are present and accounted for—poetry, abuse, love triangles—however, this ends up reading like a not-as-romantic version of Gayle Forman's If I Stay (2009). (Fiction. 13 & up)